1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. A note about the current Ukraine situation: Discussion of it is still prohibited as per Rule 8
    Dismiss Notice
  7. The rules regarding NSFW links have been updated. See here for details.
    Dismiss Notice

Phase (Worm/Moon Knight)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by ellf, May 12, 2022.

Loading...
  1. Threadmarks: Wax 1.1
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    Wax 1.1



    You know that feeling you get sometimes, when you're halfway between being awake and being asleep? You feel trapped in your own body, unable to move, unable to do anything but breathe as you watch the world around you. You start to see strange things out of the corner of your eye, feel the pressure pushing down on your chest. It's not a comfortable feeling, and I feel it way too often. During those times, the times where I linger between the light and the dark, the awake and the asleep, I see things. Strange things.

    Monstrous things.

    Shadows surrounded by bandages reach at me, claw at me, and I can do nothing but watch. I know it's not real. Sleep paralysis happens to everyone, and it can cause hallucinations in the dark. The monsters I see aren't real, they're not, and they can't do anything to me. It's funny that I imagine these fake monsters, supernatural creatures that want my soul, when there are many very real monsters that live within my hometown. From the Nazi wannabes of the Empire 88 to the Asian diaspora gang, the Azn Bad Boyz, to the various independent villains that make their home in this city… yes, there were plenty of monsters to be scared of without adding to the mix.

    No matter what I saw during my sleep paralysis, it wasn't real. It couldn't be.

    I shook free the cobwebs as I finally managed to get out of bed that morning. Dad's latest check had come early, and I needed to make sure to visit the bank after school, then probably go get some groceries for dinner. God, what had my life become? I got dressed in a pair of jeans and a hoodie, glancing in my room's mirror as I walked out. I must have brushed my hair on autopilot before I got dressed. I really was tired this morning.

    When I got downstairs, I put the kettle on the stove and got out one of my teabags. I grabbed the last pouch of Pop-Tarts and started preparing for the school day. I opened the letter from Dad that I knew would have the check and pulled the cashier's check out, tucking it in the last page of a book I'd found on Dad's shelf regarding Egyptology. I didn't know anything about hieroglyphs, but at least the pictures in it were kind of cool. I glanced at the letter.

    Taylor,

    This check should cover the groceries you need and the bills that aren't on autopayment. Remember to pay the water bill on the 15th. If you go out, don't forget to bring your pepper spray, and you know what to avoid.

    I love you, my Morning Sun,

    Dad.

    The postmarks at a glance, didn't have any indication as to where Dad had sent it from, but there were four of them there. Different ones! However, there wasn't a return address; I grit my teeth. It wasn't fair. Dad did this too often, gone when he should have been here. I thought he'd have changed when Mom died two years ago, but no, he was only gone even more often now, claiming that it was for the betterment of the Dockworkers Association.

    I crumpled up his letter and threw it in the trash just in time for my water to finish boiling. After I poured the water for my tea, my eyes drifted back to the four postmarks. I really didn't recognize any of them, but one of them wasn't even in English lettering. That looked a little like Cyrillic. Was Dad in some sort of Eastern European country? Russia? What would he be doing there?

    I went to the phone and called the number Dad had left. Like always, it went straight to voicemail. I was half-tempted to just hang up and leave it, but I'd made a promise. Not like Dad kept his, but I could keep mine.

    "Dad, it's me," I said. "Got the check… It's addressed to me. Don't worry, I have it in a safe place. When are you coming home? Nobody's asked anything yet, but…"

    It wasn't like anyone cared. Emma'd given up on me for her new friends. And they… Well, at least they weren't actively doing anything to me anymore. Just pretending I didn't exist. I wasn't sure which I liked less. Yes, I was able to get things done now, but… I still didn't have any friends at school. I still got the feeling that Emma and Sophia pressured the others to keep them away from me. Sometimes it felt like they were speaking about me behind my back.

    They probably were.

    I sighed and decided to finish up my voicemail. "Please, just come home soon, Dad. It's not the same around here without you. Without Mom. Thanks for the money. Bye."

    I hung the phone up and drank my tea. Three months now. Dad had been gone for three months, and he'd left without even saying goodbye. At least when he'd been here… he was here, even if he was still mourning Mom for some of it. I just…

    I shook my head and finished packing for the school day. I promised Dad I'd go, after all. Briefly, I wondered why I even bothered. It wasn't like the teachers would even care that I wasn't there. Nobody did. They hadn't cared when Emma and Sophia led the bullying campaign. Why would I expect any of them to care about a student like me, anyway? My grades had fallen completely since leaving middle school, and I wasn't even sure I cared about that. I felt I should have, but… there were times…

    That said, I did promise Dad that I'd try. I'd go to school. I slung my backpack over my back and made my way to the bus stop while eating my Pop-Tarts. Today was one of those extra-curricular days that Brockton schools were famous for, anyway. I'd be able to get off early for the bank without having to sit through Quinlan's terrible attempts at teaching math. I only regretted that I'd end up missing my art class, but I doubted the art teacher would care much.

    The school day was a blur marked with something that felt like it might have been a barb from Emma, but really, I was pretty sure she just ignored me like always. Nothing she said really stood out. None of them said anything important, after all. I was sure I noted down whatever the homework was for Gladly's class and Mrs. Knott's.

    I found myself getting off the bus at the bank, not even remembering the point I got on. I'd been lost in thought about… something, couldn't even say what. A glimpse of blonde hair behind me snapped me out of it. Glory Girl had flown by the bus.

    God, she had gotten lucky to get some amazing powers like that. Our city's own Alexandria-lite. Really though, almost any powers would be amazing to have. Sure, there might be some bad powers out there, but I really wouldn't know specifics. It wasn't like I had them. I didn't have anything, really. No mother, absent father. Some family friends checked in on me from time to time, but it really wasn't the same.

    Brockton Bay Central Bank was honestly, like any bank that I'd ever been to in the past. The tellers were behind a counter up front, with a line denoted with a rope marquee leading up to them. There were offices off to the side where the primary bankers would be, and I assumed the vault was in the back along with whatever safety deposit boxes were back there. Ultimately, they weren't what mattered for me today, anyway. I just needed to grab a deposit form and fill it out, so that I could use it with the check Dad had sent.

    Idly, I did that and glanced around the bank. This time of day, the lines weren't too long. It was mostly adults standing in line, but I noticed a few other teenagers. A mousy brunette was getting in line ahead of me, and she looked maybe a few months older than me. Ahead of her was an older man in a suit, and I really didn't care to look ahead of him. I finished filling out my slip and stepped in line behind the brunette.

    She seemed to be focused on her errand, just as I was with mine. There really wasn't a point in talking to people in the line, after all. Even if the girl looked a little stressed. I caught a glimpse of some white cloth peeking out of her bag, but the girl just shoved it back in before I could get a closer look at it. It really didn't matter, but it was probably one of the more interesting things to happen today.

    "You know who she is, right?" a whispered voice came from behind me. I glanced back to see a green-eyed blonde girl with a wide smile. She nodded to the girl in front of me, and I followed her gaze back to the brunette.

    I shook my head. She'd kept her voice down, presumably so that the girl in front of me didn't hear, but I didn't want to say anything. My eyes were focused up ahead though.

    "Really?" asked the girl. "I'd have thought it would be obvious. You've probably seen her before, right?"

    Had I really? I thought it over. The girl behind me seemed confident that I would know who the brunette was, but really, she seemed like the familiar one. Maybe I'd seen her on the bus? She hadn't followed me off, to my knowledge, but I barely remembered being on the bus at all. Maybe it had taken her some time to get to the bank.

    "Not me," said the girl behind me, and I almost felt her nodding toward the girl in front of me again. "It's obvious who she is."

    "Leave me alone," I hissed out in a low whisper, turning back toward her. I didn't know what the blonde wanted. "I don't care who sh—"

    "Shush," said the girl, holding up her hand. She pointed to just behind the counter of the bank, and I followed her finger. Standing behind one of the tellers was a guy built like a football player dressed in bulky, angular black armor. He had a square mask on.

    The cape flicked something at extremely high speed at one of the fluorescent lights above our heads, and it shattered.

    "Everybody down!" called another voice, a man wearing a black costume with a red mask and a top hat who had appeared in the place of one of the marquee pylons. His mask had a mouth hole in it and sticking out was a cigarette. "Nobody needs to get hurt here… Face down, please."

    The blonde already was going to the ground, and she gestured for me to do the same. I followed her lead, but I adjusted my glasses a little bit, trying to get a good look around at what else was going on.

    A woman dressed in black body armor emblazoned with red suns stepped out of the back alongside what looked like an actual griffin. Given that she rested her hand on the thing, that probably was just a cape projection of sorts.

    "This, right here, is a robbery," said the man in the top hat. "If everyone cooperates, you all will get out of here with a simple story to tell whoever you want. If people try to play the hero, Ballistic?"

    The guy behind the bank counter flicked another… something, and yet another fluorescent bulb burst. Some of the shattered glass fell down, near me, and I flinched away. The glass seemed to almost fall through the blonde near me, but that was impossible, right? I had to be seeing things. The glass couldn't have done that.

    "Now, I am Trickster, this is Sundancer, and Genesis," Trickster said, gesturing at the girl and the griffin respectively. "We would very much like to have all of you returned safely to your homes. So, if you allow us to do our work in peace, we will do that."

    "The Protectorate will stop you," said a black-haired security guard. Suddenly, he was by Trickster, the potted plant that he'd been standing by taking the man's place.

    "What was that?" asked Trickster. Then the security guard was in the place of one of the Tellers that had been peeking over the counter, and she was now next to Trickster. He grabbed her by the back of the uniform.

    "Ballistic, feel free to deal with him," Trickster said.

    "Trickster," said the girl… Sundancer. "We don't need—"

    I didn't pay attention to them talking, I just looked at the security guard. If only I'd had powers, I'd be able to do something here.

    "I really hope she's texting her sister," muttered the blonde near me.

    "Shhh!" I hissed to the blonde. "Don't draw att—"

    Suddenly, I was falling through the air, two feet to the ground. My chin bounced hard off the linoleum floor, and I let out an involuntary cry of pain. I rolled to my side and looked up. Ballistic stood there, next to the security guard. God, he really was built like a football player, and he was reaching in his pocket for one of those… whatever he'd used on the lightbulbs. A rock, maybe? Steel ball? I couldn't make it out.

    My heart pounded in my ears as I looked up at the cape. He could easily just take me out if he chose, kill me. Would it really matter to anyone if he did? Mom was dead; Dad was gone, and the only people who seemed to care at all that I was alive were Kurt and Lacey when they checked in on me. It wasn't that I wanted to die, but all I could think of at the moment was how the world wouldn't even miss me if I was gone. Then my eyes shifted to the security guard, in a similar position to me. He'd dropped his gun, or maybe Trickster'd taken it somehow. He was in just as much trouble as I was. Maybe…

    Maybe I could do something. Anything. I didn't want to die. I didn't want the security guard to die. My heart continued pounding louder and louder. My chin throbbed where I'd hit the ground, and I balled my hands into fists. I had no clue how long response time would be for the authorities, or anything. I didn't know what to do, but I just felt like I needed to do something. It wasn't likely that I could stop the robbery, take down Ballistic, but maybe I could do something to distract him?

    I grit my teeth, the throbbing in my chin getting a little worse, and I closed my eyes, forcing myself to breathe slowly in and out. Maybe I could summon the strength. To do something. And like I said, while I didn't want to die, it wasn't likely that anyone would actually care if I did. Dad probably wouldn't even find out for a few weeks when Kurt and Lacey told him. I took another breath, focusing on what I was going to do. I really had zero clue about it at all. I just—

    I opened my eyes.

    What? My kitchen?

    I was on my feet, standing in front of my stove. A pot of pasta boiled in front of me, starting to boil over, and I swiftly went over to it, using the noodle spoon to stir it. I lifted a noodle out with the scoop and frowned at the elbow-shaped macaroni. A glance to the side showed the box that the macaroni had come in along with the seasoning pouch. When had I purchased the box macaroni? Normally it wasn't something I'd prefer to make, but there it was cooking on the stove. Obviously I'd started it.

    Had I even been to the bank today? If so, had the bank been robbed while I was there, or was that just something my mind had made up to spice up the day? Was it possible that I was still at the bank, somehow hallucinating this whole thing with the macaroni in the first place?

    I only knew one way to test that.

    I pinched myself.

    Wincing at the pain, I determined that no, I was not hallucinating the whole situation here. I was really in my kitchen, smelling the macaroni as it boiled. Mac and cheese was almost a comfort food, even if it wasn't one that I liked often. I remembered that a friend my mom told me was imaginary had liked it when I was a kid. Sarah had liked it, but she'd never really been real in the first place.

    The loss of a few hours of time wasn't really anything new to me. I'd kind of coasted through school, and it was entirely possible that I just coasted through the bank as well, followed by a bit of grocery shopping. As I rubbed my jaw, the one major indicator that the robbery happened, I was surprised to find a lack of pain. Given how hard I would have hit the ground there, that was surprising. I should have been hurting quite a bit. Yet I wasn't. Maybe I'd imagined the whole thing.

    Even the girl who had talked with me… Sad, wasn't it? Me imagining a girl that'd talk to me because nobody else would. Whoever that girl was in front of me in line… I didn't know. It didn't matter. I finished making the macaroni and cheese, and I sat down at the table to eat my simple dinner.

    Mac and cheese definitely wasn't something I'd buy normally, but apparently, I had. In a way, I suppose it was something nostalgic. Mom had made it for me and some friends when we were little, while Dad was away on one of his business trips. Sarah really enjoyed it, but Emma hadn't. Sarah's bowl had always been empty when we were finished. Even mine hadn't been so completely licked clean as hers had.

    I shook my head and glanced at the notebook I'd left out on the table. Next to the notebook was Dad's note that came with his check, rather than whatever homework I'd had for the day. On the page that was open, there were several handwritten notes, talking about… something. Dad's location, maybe? The notes separated out the four different postmarks, and there even seemed to be a translation of the Cyrillic one. Georgia? The country, not the state. There were some notes about the country there, and the number that Dad had me calling.

    Lightning struck outside, and I looked toward the window. A strange figure loomed there in the flash, tall, and the head didn't quite look human. I blinked, and the figure was gone in the next flash of lightning. What was going on here?

    I looked back at the bottom of my notebook. Highlighted with a starred outline was the following words: "You are not alone, Taylor."

    Had I really written that?
     
  2. Secret20

    Secret20 Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2019
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hmmmm interesting taylor as moon knight hhehehehehe. :sneaky: :
     
  3. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,706
    Likes Received:
    13,967
    Nor are you, watched as fuck.
     
    TheLazyPrince148 and Jaime01 like this.
  4. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2016
    Messages:
    12,116
    Likes Received:
    23,580
    What is moon knight? Just remembering a DS game called Lunar Knight but I don't think that is it
     
    Aravis likes this.
  5. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,706
    Likes Received:
    13,967
    Moon Knight is a crazypants super powered 'person'. In marvel comics, whether he's actually powered by the egyptian moon god is completely left up to interpretation. He might just be entirely delusional. In the MCU TV show Moon Knight, he's a guy powered (definitely) by the egyptian god of the moon.

    There are six episodes so far, I absolutely recommend it.

     
    Last edited: May 12, 2022
  6. R.A.G.

    R.A.G. Well worn.

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2013
    Messages:
    5,728
    Likes Received:
    18,683
    I'm guessing Danny also died in the crash.
    "What if Batman had DID and was connected to an eldritch moon god instead of just obssessed with bats"

    Moon Knight in a nutshell.
     
  7. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,706
    Likes Received:
    13,967
    Had did?

    EDIT: Oh, Dissasociative Identity Disorder. Sometimes best to write the whole acronym.
     
    Iamnotalolicoon and Shinichi07 like this.
  8. Threadmarks: Wax 1.s (Sabah)
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    Wax 1.s (Sabah)



    It was three and a half hours into her shift, and all Sabah could think was, Fifteen minutes is entirely too short for lunch. Her employers at the Dollhouse Boutique kept her on for her fashion knowledge, but their policies were archaic, to say the least. She kept working there for three primary reasons. One, the clothing that they sold was top of the line, and given her own aspirations, being around this type of clothing would end up helping inspire her own line of clothing one day. The second reason was the pay. Despite the archaic policies, her employers respected her knowledge, and they paid her accordingly. She made enough money with this work to support herself in this city. The third was… well, to be perfectly honest, the eye candy. Sabah hid it from most of the customers well enough, but she did appreciate some of the clientele that tended to shop there. Even if they were overly entitled rich white folks who might be well at home in the Empire. Okay, those probably weren’t worth appreciating the looks of. She did though. The women, mostly. She supposed the occasional man looked okay, but mostly the women.

    There were way too many Nazis and Nazi-wannabes in Brockton Bay for her liking, but she just couldn’t bring herself to leave.

    Today had been especially trying. The owners had decided on this new Egyptian-themed line and had each of the employees wearing it. Sure, the silks looked good on her, mostly, emphasizing appropriate parts and de-emphasizing others, but she wasn’t there to be objectified. Sometimes she felt she wasn’t worth objectifying, but she dismissed those thoughts. She was there to make sales, after all, and that primarily was what they used her for.

    She made sure to start folding back up one of the tables that some customer or another had decided that they didn’t want clothing from as the bell rang, indicating a customer entering. Sabah looked up and saw Mary and Jeshua skittering their way toward the back, and she internally blanched. They usually tried to get the good customers.

    It was a small group of three. Wait. Four. The older woman with the group was holding a small baby girl. She was a brown-haired mousy woman that was quite short, and she was maybe in her early thirties. She escorted a husky blond boy and a girl with long blonde hair that had a haughty sneer on her face. The boy looked a little put upon, and while their clothing screamed of the upper crust of Brockton Bay, she already knew that at least two of them were going to be problem customers.

    The blonde’s sneer seemed to grow wider as she approached her. “Well, I see that the Boutique’s got some color going to it.” She looked at the nametag on Sabah’s lapel and her upper lip curled. Great. She was one of those. “I’m not sure that you can help me, but I’m willing to let you try.”

    “Now Tammi, that’s not the right way to treat the help,” said the older woman. She came closer and she gave what Sabah felt was a slightly condescending smile to her. “I’m sorry for Tammi, but if you are capable of helping us, we would be grateful.”

    Sabah took a breath and counted to ten. There was no reason to alienate customers just because they were rude. Then she plastered her best customer service smile on and she nodded to them. “Welcome to the Dollhouse Boutique, ladies, and gentleman. How can I help you?”

    “The mope and I are going to a dance at his dad’s work,” Tammi said. “And Kayden insisted that she come along to pay for the dress with his dad’s money.”

    “’m not a mope,” said the boy.

    “Well, we have a variety of fashions here,” Sabah said. “Do you know what sort of dress you’re looking for?”

    “Certainly nothing like that,” Kayden said, looking Sabah over. “I don’t know why they would let you dress up like that and work here.”

    “I thought you said that what I said was no way to talk to the help,” said Tammi. “Even if she looks like she’s trying to be Cleopatra. I’ve got news for you. She was white and you aren’t.”

    “She was Macedonian,” Sabah said, correcting Tammi. “And this outfit is from our Egypt-inspired line. Which is the theme for this week. Last week was a different one. Maybe if you told me the kind of event you were planning on wearing the dress at, I could help you select it.”

    The boy spoke up. “It’s a fundraiser at Medhall. Dad insisted I bring a date.”

    “You’re lucky to be bringing me, Theo,” said Tammi. “With the sluts that go to your school, who knows who you could have ended up with?”

    “A Medhall fundraiser?” Sabah asked. She didn’t desperately need the commission on this, but it wouldn’t hurt. Even if the two ladies here were trying, she’d be able to spend their money on any number of things. New clothes, good food, vid—no, fashion magazines. Yes, that was the ticket. She’d deal with them for some new magazines, at least. Maybe some good cloth too, and some nice bowls. “I’m sure we can find something for that. Do you know your sizes, miss?”

    “Of course, I do!” Tammi exclaimed. “I’m not stupid.”

    “Theo, why don’t you hold your little sister while Tammi and I work on getting her a dress?” Kayden asked, passing the boy the baby she held in her hands.

    Theo nodded, quietly replying, “Sure…” He stared a little at Sabah as he made his way to the side, carrying the little girl.

    Sabah gestured for the women to follow her, and she led the way to the Dollhouse Boutique’s high fashion section. “Here we have the types of dresses that are typically worn to fundraisers. Personally, I would recommend, with your complexion, wearing some darker colors to contrast with your hair and eyes. Of course, given that you are a pale blonde, we could go with some pastels.”

    Tammi narrowed her eyes. “I want to go with a red dress. I’m going to stand out at Theo’s side.”

    “Perhaps you should consider going with a dusty pink instead,” Sabah said. She really was considering just grabbing the girl and shaking her. Or punching her. Well, no, she would never punch a customer or shake one, but there were limits.

    “She said she wanted red,” Kayden said. “I want one for me too, in a vibrant gold. Shimmery, if you can do that.”

    Sabah swallowed down a retort that she knew would be inappropriate. “Right. A shimmery gold cocktail dress. And a red one. Do the two of you have material preferences, or would you be willing to take suggestions?”

    “I don’t know why we should take suggestions from you,” Tammi said. “You clearly don’t know what you’re doing. Why did they even hire someone like you?’

    “They must be needing to meet a quota,” Kayden said. She shook her head. “What sort of material would you suggest?”

    “For the red dress, I would suggest a chiffon or a marble velvet,” Sabah said, once more ignoring the urge to commit violence on these ignorant women. “Both fabrics would help create a good look on you, miss.” Even with her wearing a color that was so far out of her complexion that it would make her skin look orange.

    “Hmm,” Kayden said. “Maybe you do know something after all. I think that she would look good in that style there.” Kayden pointed to one of the mannequins.

    The mannequin on the side had a cocktail dress that, sized properly for Tammi, would still be age-appropriate for the girl to wear at a public event. The skirt wasn’t too short, stopping at maybe mid-thigh, and there would be room for adjustment if she wanted it longer. Of course, with Tammi choosing to wear red, she’d stand out, just not in the way that anyone really would have wanted.

    “I want chiffon,” Tammi said. “I heard that’s a nice fabric.”

    “It is,” Sabah said, and she brought out some fabric samples. “You said you wanted red. Here are the reds that we have the ability to provide the dress in for chiffon. I suggest one of these darker ones.”

    “You would,” Tammi said. “No, this brighter, bolder red is better. I want Theo to say wow when he sees me in it.”

    “You really like him?” Kayden asked.

    Tammi shook her head. “No, but he’s my uncle’s boss’s kid, and… well, you know how Mr. Anders is.”

    “All too well,” Kayden said, and she let her gaze come back to Sabah. “Now, miss… Sabah, is it?”

    “Sabah, actually,” she said. Clearly, the woman hadn’t intentionally pronounced it wrong, but she hadn’t really tried to pronounce it right either. She must have been thinking too much about her ex-husband that was apparently the boss of Tammi’s uncle. Combined with the Medhall connection, that meant that could only be one person: Max Anders. Which meant that they had some serious money to throw around.

    She started trying to figure out what she could say to encourage them to part with that money. If only some of what she thought of wouldn’t make her feel dirty for saying it. Rich people. Entitled rich people at that.

    “Don’t correct me,” Kayden said. “Sabah, what sort of fabric were you thinking for my outfit?”

    “That depends,” Sabah said. “Are you looking to stand out and make Theo’s father jealous? Or are you just hoping to be one of the crowd in the party? I know you said that you wanted some shimmer gold, which would work wonders with your complexion, but this is the difference between silk satin and a sequined fabric for you. One will look more self-assured, and the other will definitely draw the eye of everyone at this gala.”

    “I’m the one that’s supposed to be drawing eyes,” Tammi said.

    “You will,” Kayden assured, but she looked at Sabah curiously. Perhaps she was considering what Sabah had suggested. “Assuming that I wanted to draw some attention away from Max’s… twins, what else would you suggest?”

    Sabah smiled wickedly, and she started to describe everything that would help Kayden with her goals. Dresses, makeup, and even down to shoes, stockings and jewelry were among the things Sabah described. She was lucky that Kayden seemed somewhat amenable to the color choices she recommended, unlike her younger counterpart, even if the woman looked like she really would rather not be dealing with her. Kayden seemed like the type of person who was trying not to appear racist, but certain aspects of her gaze, her phrasings, and even her own choices all seemed to subtly dig at the fact that Sabah wasn’t of Kayden’s race.

    Tammi’s snide commentary didn’t help there.

    Their poor male companion, Theo, holding his baby sister, seemed embarrassed by these actions, but really, none of it was anything Sabah hadn’t heard before. Brockton Bay was easily the Nazi capital of the Northeast, after all. She’d long since learned to ignore these barbs, even if it would be somewhat satisfying to just grab the blonde and slam her face against a display over and over again until she learned that she was not the right kind of blonde to be wearing the shade of red she wanted.

    Still, it was a sale, and the commission that she would end up making on this was a good one. Two custom-made dresses, and then a potential tuxedo rental as well, meant that she would be walking home with another couple hundred dollars on top of her hourly pay.

    “I suppose you could put this back before you measure Theo,” Kayden said, gesturing to the fabric swatches that Sabah had taken out. Of course, Sabah nodded and got ready to grab them.

    “Wait!” Tammi said, and she quickly came over to them again and ran her fingers on each one. She frowned as she passed over the chiffon and then smiled on the silk satin. She tapped that one. “This, in the red we discussed, for certain. Make sure you note it down after you put them back.”

    “I will, absolutely,” Sabah said, and she started gathering the swatches together. She placed them up on the shelf behind the counter.

    “Um,” Kayden said. “I hate to tell you how to do your job, but I think I saw you get those swatches from the third shelf from the top.”

    “It’s okay,” Sabah said, holding up her hands. Why were her coworkers still hiding in the back? Did they know these two specifically? The fact that they hadn’t had more customers in for her coworkers to help was a little less bizarre, as people only really came in the Boutique if they both could afford it and absolutely needed it. It wasn’t strange to only have a few customers at a time. “They can be put back up after I finish helping you out.”

    “I really think you should put them back,” Tammi said, gesturing toward the ladder against the shelf. “Go on, Miss Cleopatra-wannabe.”

    Sabah grit her teeth behind her lips as she turned to grab the ladder. “Fine. I’ve got it.”

    “You don’t need to take that tone,” Kayden said. “Just do your job properly.”

    Sabah focused on the job at hand, and she took the swatches off the lower shelf she put them on. Climbing the ladder, she placed them on the shelf Kayden had indicated, making sure they were secure before climbing down again.

    The moment her foot touched the bottom rung, one of the swatches fell off the shelf, clattering to the ground behind the counter.

    “Oh, dear,” Kayden said. “That should really stay up there, shouldn’t it? Isn’t it your job to make it secure?”

    Sabah frowned. Had she failed to put it back properly? No, she had to have, but it still fell. She scooped the swatch up to place it there again. After placing it up there, she gave a quick glance to her customers. Tammi looked like she was hiding a smirk, and the look on Kayden’s face was knowing as she looked over at the girl. There was something off there.

    When Sabah climbed down, she noted Tammi make a slight twitch of her fingers. Less than a second later, a different swatch tumbled to the ground with a loud clatter as the wooden binder hit. While the twitch of her hand could have meant anything, Sabah had suspicions.

    Both Tammi and Kayden had certain attitudes toward her from the start, and it wasn’t unheard of for certain members of Brockton’s hometown white supremacist gang to come down to the boardwalk to mess with minorities. However, that Tammi was being so brazen about what she was doing suggested that either she didn’t think she would get caught, given the level of what she was doing, or she didn’t care because of who she was doing it to.

    Power display combined with her age meant Tammi likely was Rune. What that meant about Kayden, Sabah was uncertain, but she had guesses. One of them might have even been right. The one thing she did know was that she did not want to get them angry enough to come back in costume. This job was good for her. They worked around her school hours, and she was able to make enough money to help supplement her other financial aid.

    “I’ll get this back up,” Sabah said.

    “No, you don’t bother,” Kayden said. “You clearly can’t do it right, after all. Maybe you should go get one of your coworkers. They can check us out as well.”

    “I’m perfectly capable,” Sabah said.

    “Clearly you aren’t,” Kayden said. “If you can’t do something simple like put a swatch back. Go get one of your coworkers, and please make sure they’re more… capable.”

    Sabah frowned. Did she really need this job? Was it worth putting up with people like this? Normally, yes, but that didn’t change the desire she had to just show them how wrong they were to treat her or her coworkers like this. Now Kayden hadn’t indicated that the coworker she grabbed had to be white, but unfortunately, none of the other non-white workers were on today. Saturday afternoon shifts only had three people on, after all.

    “Okay,” Sabah said. “I’ll go get someone else.”

    She went into the back room where she saw, immediately inside the door, Mary folding clothes. The redhead gave Sabah a smile, and she gave a quick glance at the nametag on her lapel.

    “What’s going on?” Mary asked. “And you know you didn’t have to grab that nametag. There were others out there…”

    “It’s my name,” Sabah said.

    “Who wants the customers to know their name?” Mary asked, gesturing to her nametag that said “Denise” on it. “Speaking of, what has you back here?”

    “Couple of maybe Empire rich people,” Sabah said. “They want someone ‘competent’ to help them. You know what that means.”

    “You shouldn’t be taking that sort of thing,” Mary said. “What do they have?”

    Sabah listed off the styles and colors, along with what she’d suggested for each of them over what they had chosen instead.

    “Don’t worry Sabah,” Mary said. “I won’t steal all of your commission, but since you’re making me go out there… 80/20?”

    “Larger amount for me?” Sabah asked, mostly to confirm. While she’d teed the Empire patrons up, Mary could finish the sale much better than she could. She’d been tempted to argue for a greater portion, for a few seconds anyway. 90/10 did sound a little fairer, but Mary could have just taken the entire thing. She was offering a good enough split.

    “Yes, of course,” Mary answered. “Though if I can convince them to listen to your suggestions, I want 25.”

    “Done,” Sabah said. She trusted Mary to close the deal, and she wouldn’t have to deal with the snobbish white people again. Well, these snobbish white people anyway. It was both a blessing and a curse at times to work here.

    As she watched Mary go into the main room of the shop, Sabah caught one last smirking glimpse from Tammi. She knew that the Empire occasionally sent people into the store for whatever reason, but she never expected to run into one of their capes out of costume using their power to mess with people. God, why did a racist bitch like Tammi deserve any kind of superpower? She didn’t, really, but Sabah had looked into it once. People became capes through some sort of significant event, traumatic or uplifting, and Sabah had had neither. Her life had been pretty normal so far. People like Sabah just didn’t get powers.

    But wouldn’t it have been neat if she did?
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
  9. ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    Also, wow. Somehow I didn't notice that there were responses here. I missed it.

    I will say that Danny is definitely probably alive. Things will be shown over time. I've currently got 26k of story written, and starting next Tuesday, I'll be releasing one chapter a week.
     
  10. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,706
    Likes Received:
    13,967
    I love, absolutely love, that you didn't make Kayden likeable.
     
  11. ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    Whoops. Had the wrong version of the chapter up. Fixed now.
     
  12. Threadmarks: Wax 1.2
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    [H1]Wax 1.2[/H1]


    The weekend passed without significant fanfare. Nothing important happened at all, and I spent the time I had at home either working on my homework or mulling over the note I'd found. I'd written things before without remembering why or when, but the specific words that were there… I wasn't sure. It could have been reassurance, a warning, or anything in between. I spent maybe a little too much time on it, and reminiscing about parts of my past.

    But today was a school day. Yay. I did have some parts of an art project to turn in, a set of papier mâché pieces that I was proud of the work I'd done. I based them off of drawings I'd seen in Dad's Egyptology book, and they turned out pretty well. According to the notes I had, they fit the assignment. After verifying they were set in their bags, I continued getting ready for school.

    That morning, I made sure that my hair was brushed completely out as I looked myself in the mirror. I frowned for a second at my face. Something seemed a little off about my reflection. It wasn't the clothes; I'd chosen to wear a gray hoodie and jeans that morning, and I just wore the new-looking boots that had been sitting in my closet forever. It was my hair. Wearing it loose today just felt off. I couldn't put my finger on the why it felt so off, but it did. So, I tied it back with one of the few dark hair ties that I owned, and I did a second tie lower on the tail to keep it together. I didn't want my hair just spreading everywhere.

    God, if I spent this much time caring about my classes as I did my hair, I might have had better grades despite what had happened at the start of the year. Of course, my grades were far from failing now, but that didn't mean I cared. Well, maybe for a couple of them I did. I spent some good time on these ushabti, after all. Well, technically they weren't true ushabti. True ushabti were done in the style of a pharaoh's servants so that they might serve him in the afterlife. Mine were done in a similar style to those ushabti, but in a bout of inspiration, I had done them in the shape of some Egyptian gods. I hoped that Mrs. Norris, the art teacher, would end up liking them.

    With my art project the way it was, I couldn't take the bus. Luckily, I didn't have to this morning. Every Monday morning since Dad had gone on his trip, his coworkers at the docks, Kurt and Lacey, would come over to give me a ride to school. This morning would be no different, and predictably, at quarter till eight, I heard knocking on the front door.

    As I walked over to the front door, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. For the briefest of seconds, my reflection's lips tugged themselves into a smile before I continued on to the door. Upon opening it, I was greeted by Lacey's warm smile. She was shorter than me, but far burlier. Her dark hair, like mine, was pulled into a ponytail, but she wore jeans and a denim jacket over a black T-shirt with a Dockworker's insignia on it.

    "Taylor, glad you're up," Lacey said. "Means Kurt and I don't have to get the battering ram."

    "That joke gets worse every time you tell it," I said. A few snappier responses flitted through my mind faster than I could grasp onto them, but a much more laconic one felt more appropriate anyway. "I'm up, and I'm here."

    "You ready to go?" she asked.

    "I may need a little help with the art project," I said, and I stepped aside so she could come in the house. After she followed me in, I led her to where I'd set up the bags. "If you could just grab one of those bags there, I'd feel a lot better. They might be a little fragile."

    As she picked up one of the bags, she gave a look inside. The look on her face was remarkably satisfying to me. "Oh, these are cute. They look a little like something out of a museum. What'd you make them out of?"

    "They're just papier mâché, really," I said. "I couldn't get clay for them, and it's not like we have a kiln."

    "They look really good, Taylor. What are they?" She then pulled out one of them that had a falcon head. "Wait, this one… is it supposed to be with the bird head?"

    "That's supposed to be Horus," I said. "God of the sky in Egyptian mythology. I have Ammit, Anubis, Khonshu, and Khepri as well."

    "They're well made," Lacey said. "Did you reference some of your mother's books?"

    "Some of hers, some of Dad's," I said. "They both were into it."

    "Odd thing for Danny," Lacey said. "But maybe your mom got him into it." She gave me a consoling look. I wondered if maybe I'd been looking a little sad, given we were talking about her. "Your mom was good people. She was always willing to help out me and Kurt when we needed it."

    I swallowed and tried to put on a smile. Something easier said than done, given the churning feelings within me. Mom… I'm not sure she would have understood… I don't know what she'd understand. I knew she'd run with Lustrum for a bit, at least until a little before she met Dad. Maybe… I really don't know. Lustrum stood against the Empire and the Marche, and Mom definitely hated both for equally good reasons.

    "Sorry for bringing her up," Lacey said. "You ready to go to school?"

    "Not really," I said honestly. "But I can go."

    At least at school, I could focus on other things. Or not focus, depending on the class.

    "You're not feeling sick, are you?" Lacey asked. "You're dressed a little…"

    "What?" I asked. I glanced past her toward the mirror in the hallway. Yes, sometimes I was a little self-conscious about my looks, but the hoodie and jeans looked fine on me. My hair was okay in a ponytail. It felt right today, for some reason, anyway. Briefly, I saw myself smirk in the mirror, but I quickly glanced back to Lacey. "We can go."

    "If you're sure," she said. "I suppose you do want to get this art project turned in."

    "Yeah," I said, and the two of us walked out of the house. I locked up and followed her to the old beat-up pickup truck that her husband sat in. Kurt was a muscular dark-haired man that was a little taller than my father. His skin was a little lighter than mine yet he looked a lot more like he worked outside than I did. Some people tanned well, I guess, especially as a dockworker.

    He gave me a smile. "Took you a little bit. Looking good this morning, Taylor. How you feeling?"

    I gave a noncommittal shrug and climbed into the back seat of the truck's cab. My eyes flitted to the mirror once I was inside, and I met his brown ones with mine. "Got Dad's check deposited Friday."

    "Hope you weren't caught up in that robbery," Kurt said as he reversed out of the driveway. "Heard it was the Travelers. Lucky the Wards were able to show up and stop them."

    "Who?" I asked. So… the bank thing had happened, but what happened while I was there? I rubbed my jaw slightly at a phantom pain that wasn't actually there.

    "Some villain group that came here from Boston, I think," Lacey said. "They're maybe college-aged? I don't really follow cape news that much other than trying to figure where the Empire's hitting next."

    "You aren't having any issues with them at Winslow, are you?" Kurt asked. "I know that they and the ABB both recruit from there, and I've seen some kids wearing the colors."

    I shrugged. "They haven't bothered me much."

    "I'd hate for something to happen to you while your dad's away," Kurt said. "But I'll let him know you weren't caught in that robbery when I speak to him."

    I blinked and gave him a quick look. He'd spoken to Dad? I hadn't even spoken to my father in over a month. Judging from the way he phrased that, he maybe even had a planned call with him. Why was Dad more willing to speak with Kurt than me? Had I done something wrong? No… but maybe this could be an opportunity to figure out what was going on. I just needed to ask the right questions. "When are you going to speak with him?"

    "He's supposed to call into an Association meeting on Friday. Something about a new contract that he's going to have for us," Kurt said. He turned onto the street that led to Winslow. "Has he not been speaking with you?"

    "I call the number he left," I said, shaking my head. "He hasn't answered. I assumed it was because of the time difference." There were approximately nine hours difference between Brockton Bay and Georgia, but that assumed that was where he was. I had no clue what he would even be doing.

    "He's supposed to be on his way to Canada," Kurt said. "He said he had a meeting with some higher-up in some company that I can't remember the name of, joked about maybe needing to break a few legs to get things done."

    Lacey let out a loud guffaw. "Come on, Kurt. You know that Danny's not big into breaking legs. Faces, occasionally if someone pisses him off, but legs?"

    "I said joking, Lace," Kurt said. "You know Danny. He does like to make jokes about things like that every so often. It's not like he'll really go and do something like that."

    "I don't know. You remember how he looked after that news report that Fleur's murderer got released…" Lacey shook her head. "It was like he was a different person entirely."

    I vaguely remembered something like that. It wasn't long after Mom's funeral that the guy got out of jail, but…I think he'd been found dead a few days later. I doubted that Lacey thought Dad actually did something like that to him, but the timing and phrasing…

    "You and I both know that Danny probably just had a drink that night," Kurt said. "It was probably Lung or something that killed that kid. Lord knows I didn't lose any sleep over the loss of another Nazi wannabe. You shouldn't either, Taylor. We all know what they'd want to do to you."

    I shook my head. "Fucking Nazis."

    "Exactly," Kurt said as he pulled into Winslow's car drop off. "Keep your head up and an eye out for them here. Never know if one of them's going to do something that you can't deal with."

    I nodded. It was the easiest way to deal with this sort of thing, anyway. "Got it. Thank you for the ride and have a good day at work."

    "We'll try," Lacey said. Once I was out of the truck, she helped me get my bags in such a way that I could keep the art project stable.

    After having my locker broken into early last year and having Mom's flute stolen, I had taken to carrying all my books and things with me. So, when I went into the school, my first destination was anywhere but my locker. In this case, given that I had my art project, and art wasn't until after lunch, I made my way to the classroom, holding the bags in hand. Mrs. Norris and I had come to an agreement after my last art project got ruined due to a… school day "accident," that I could just bring it by her classroom in the morning.

    I couldn't remember exactly how I'd managed be so convincing when I talked to her after that so-called accident, but it had worked. I must have said something special, but I suppose it was possible my father spoke to her as well. It didn't matter anyway. The results were that I could turn my stuff in here.

    I stepped into the art classroom and placed my bags in the cabinet that the teacher had set aside for me for days like this, and then I left. I hoped that the current trend with my… I guess they would be former bullies, would continue as I stepped back out of the art classroom.

    Once out of the classroom, I nearly bumped into Emma and her clique. She looked nice today, her red hair pulled back into a braid, as she wore a flattering emerald green blouse and blue capri combo that went well with the black boots she had on. Honestly, the only thing that ruined how she looked was the ever so slight sneer she had when she looked over me. Sophia stood next to her, wearing her track gear, like she just came from practice. She gave me a once-over and a simple nod of acknowledgement. I really didn't get her.

    Last year around this time, she was all for the physical violence as a part of her bullying campaign against me, but that changed just before the end of the year. She'd lightened up significantly, and now she barely acknowledged my existence, just giving me that nod with what looked like a slight bit of challenge in her eyes.

    "Let's go somewhere else," Emma said to her group, almost intentionally not looking at me. I could tell she wanted to do something, but from the way Sophia placed an arm on her shoulder, she was following her friend's lead. "We don't want to start our day off with the stench of loser on us. You can make sure you get to class on time, Mads."

    The smaller girl with them nodded, and she gave me her own somewhat wary look. "Yeah. Let's go hang out somewhere else until first bell."

    The three of them walked off, followed by some of their hangers-on, and I really wasn't sure what was going on there. Things just made very little sense.

    "Tch. Is that the best you got? Losers!" A masculine voice rang out beside me.

    I turned toward the source, but he stepped around me. All I caught a glimpse of was his dark curly hair, similar to my own. "What the heck are you doing?"

    "Come on, they can't just ignore you like that." I turned to look for him. "Even if you are a dork, you're not worth ignoring."

    "Will you just stay still?" I asked. I really couldn't find out where he was. Somehow, he was staying either behind me or right out of my sight. I caught a glimpse of him for a second time in the reflection off one of the windows.

    He smirked at me and waved. When I turned to where the reflection was coming from, he was gone. Was I just imagining him being here?

    "Can't just sit still for you, dork," he said, and then when I looked over toward where his voice was coming from, I noted a blond boy dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, Greg Veder, coming my way, escorted by the long-haired stoner-looking kid that I knew as Sparky. "Oh. Well, they're here."

    Greg grinned when he saw me. "Taylor! How's it going today? What did you end up doing Friday after the early release? You heard about the bank robbery and the Wards fight, right? I thought I saw your hair in one of the videos. Were you there? It looked scary. You're not a cape, right?"

    I held up a hand for a second. "Not a cape, Greg. Not that I'd tell you if I was. But I'm not."

    Greg deflated for a second, but then he perked up again. "But you were at the bank, right? Sparky, you saw the video too, that was definitely Taylor there, wasn't it?"

    I shook my head. I didn't remember enough to be having this conversation. When in doubt, I needed to lie. "It wasn't me in the video." Also, who the heck was taking video there? "What happened?"

    "Well, the video only shows this dark-haired girl punching out one of the robbers before Glory Girl and Kid Win got in the bank. Then it focuses on them," Greg said. "It was just like that one level from Seize and Project, but with worse focus and a grainy camera."

    "Oh, that sounds interesting," I said, noncommittally encouraging him more toward the video game path. I really didn't want to be dealing with this right now, and as my mouth moved again, I said, "How else was it different?"

    Greg started to talk some more, but I just couldn't bring myself to care or pay attention to anything he was saying. I closed my eyes, and I heard the other guy's voice again. "Sure, dork. See you later."

    Greg's voice faded away, and for the briefest of seconds, I felt a little strange. I felt my head in the clouds, kind of nodding along with what Greg was saying, as if what was said was unimportant. To be fair, it was Greg, so it probably was. It was just so boring that I couldn't help but zone out. My body moved almost on autopilot through the rest of the school day, saying appropriate things, turning in my art project, and then I walked… somewhere.

    I yawned, blinking my eyes open, and I glanced around. Where… was I? It felt familiar here, but I couldn't… quite place it. Wait. It was dark outside. When had it gotten so late? It couldn't have been that long since the school day ended, could it? My eyes came into focus, looking at a DVD loading screen for one of the Star Wars prequels, but that actor playing Obi-Wan wasn't the one I'd seen before. I'd spoken with someone about maybe watching the Aleph imports… had that been today? With…

    My hand rested on something silky that smelled kind of nice… A girl was leaning on my chest, under my shoulder. God, she was gorgeous, with her high cheekbones and shapely form. Her strapless green top and denim shorts really accentuated that. She was a girl I'd eaten lunch with before at Winslow… Talked with her about Star Wars, and we… lived relatively close to each other. God, how could I have blanked on that? Her name… what was her name again? I couldn't remember.

    "Uh…" I frowned, trying to remember.

    Her eyes opened, and she looked up at me with an impish grin. "Guess we fell asleep, didn't we?"

    "I guess?" I said questioningly. I couldn't really place her name, and it wasn't like I'd planned on cuddling up with a girl while watching a movie. Given the TV, we were certainly at her place, not mine, and I must have come up. Maybe the guy from earlier introduced us? God, why couldn't I remember her name? This was embarrassing.

    "Huh. That's… different." Her grin softened into a normal smile. "You'd be Taylor, right?"

    "Yeah…" I wondered why she was trying to confirm that. Wasn't she just snuggled up to me? Of course, I couldn't really remember her name. "I'm sorry… I don't usually do this… I'm usually much better with names."

    She laughed. "Oh, no. Waking up next to a cute girl and you've already forgotten my name? How horrible."

    I frowned.

    She just smiled and shook her head. "I'm Aisha Laborn, Taylor. Good to finally meet you."

    "What do you mean finally meet?" I asked. "Clearly, we know each other, I just forgot your name. Which I'm sorry about, by the way."

    "It's fine, really," Aisha said. "He said that might be the case. Not that he really knows a whole lot about what's going on."

    "He? What he?" I asked.

    "Alec," Aisha said. "Give me a sec."

    She squeezed me in a hug and then pulled away from my embrace… It felt so good to be hugged like that. I hadn't known how much I missed it. She gave me another impish smirk before sauntering over to the coffee table, drawing my eye. Okay. Perhaps I wasn't as straight as I once thought, or this girl was just… It didn't matter. "You're… how old are you, exactly?" In some ways, she looked like she could be a senior, but something about her looked a little younger.

    "Fourteen. I'm a Freshman at Winslow. You knew that, didn't you?" Aisha asked.

    I… felt like I did. Probably. "Maybe. We haven't… done… stuff, have we?"

    Aisha laughed again as she picked something off the coffee table. "Define stuff. If you mean… well, more than this? We haven't, no. I wouldn't take advantage of you, ever."

    "But Alec…" I frowned. It felt interesting to put a name to the voice from earlier. That was almost certainly who he was.

    "What Alec and I do is between me and him, mostly," Aisha said. "Beyond that, you'll have to ask him."

    "I don't even know Alec," I said. For a brief second I felt like I was lying.

    Aisha handed me an envelope addressed to "Stop being a dork."

    "He knows you," Aisha said. "And he thought you might show up here at some point. Turns out he was right."

    I opened the envelope, and I pulled out the letter inside. On it was an address and a note that simply read "We should talk" in handwriting eerily similar to my own. According to Aisha, this was from Alec. I'd definitely heard the name before, but I couldn't place it.

    "I know where that place is," Aisha said, looking over my shoulder. "I can show it to you, if you need directions."

    "I can probably find it on my own," I said.

    "I'd feel better if you didn't go alone," Aisha said. "You might have to cut through Empire territory, and those dickwads aren't exactly kind to people like us."

    I grimaced. I did want to avoid the Empire, but it felt wrong, possibly putting her in danger too. "You don't really need to come, Aisha. If Alec wants to talk…"

    "Like I said, I've been there a couple times," Aisha said. "And I'm sure that you'll get to talk to him."

    I sighed. I probably couldn't force her to stay away. Grimacing, I stood up and adjusted my clothing some. My hoodie had been unzipped revealing the blue men's dress shirt I'd put on that morning underneath it. And… was I wearing a binder? When had I put that on? What exactly was going on here, and who was this Alec anyway? How did I know him?

    "You're not alone, Taylor." Somehow, Aisha had echoed the earlier words. It was a little eerie.
     
  13. R.A.G.

    R.A.G. Well worn.

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2013
    Messages:
    5,728
    Likes Received:
    18,683
    Is... is Danny fused with Heartbreaker somehow?
     
    Jaime01 likes this.
  14. ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    The answer to your question is no.
     
    Jaime01 and R.A.G. like this.
  15. R.A.G.

    R.A.G. Well worn.

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2013
    Messages:
    5,728
    Likes Received:
    18,683
    Oh good, that would have been tough to understand. Still somehow have Alec riding around Taylor's body and/or in her head somehow.

    Possibility one is that Alec is made up wholesale by Taylor's subconscious?
    Or, if Alec did exist here, Possibility two is that they fused somehow? The way that it happens with some triggers sometimes. Normally it's twins, but sometimes shit happens, idk.
    Possibility three, is Alec straight up mcdied, but he had a Butcher-like power.
     
  16. ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    This is a Moon Knight crossover.
     
  17. Threadmarks: Wax 1.3
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    [H1]Wax 1.3[/H1]


    It was comforting to have Aisha walking by my side, even if I barely knew her. It was kind of funny, in a way, that she was familiar, like a friend, but I hadn't even really known her name before she told me it. She knew me though. Through this Alec guy. Weird. He must have taken her to wherever we were going, yet even as she led the way, I felt like I'd walked this path before, a number of times. Perhaps I had, and I just couldn't quite place the time when. Thinking about this sort of thing set my nerves on end. The familiarity, Aisha, Alec, and the notes over the past few days. Heck, the bank robbery had actually been real, but I couldn't even remember what had happened after I'd ended up next to Ballistic.

    At least with Aisha, I could… well, sort of remember getting to her place and putting on the movie. It was kind of boring though. Something about sand getting everywhere. No wonder I didn't really pay attention. I should have been paying more attention to the girl I was watching it with, given how close we were when I woke up.

    "What you thinking about, Taylor?" Aisha asked, prodding me in the arm. The familiarity of the movement astounded me.

    "Just the trip over," I said. "I swear I've been this way before."

    "Maybe you have," Aisha said. "You probably have passed this place at least a few times, if you did any sort of exercise."

    I shook my head. Well, I had been working out in the mornings, jogging really, but I got so into the zone with those sessions that I wasn't entirely sure I would have known everywhere I jogged by anyway. Still, Aisha definitely knew something. What it was, I wasn't sure though. If she'd been to our destination, she probably knew why Alec was choosing to have me go there.

    The one thing I wondered about was why I was going now rather than waiting for morning or after school tomorrow. Well, I was wondering that as I was partway there, anyway. I just had felt the strong urge to get going, and I knew that I'd end up continuing to feel that until I just went. Still, it was a school night, and Aisha was coming with me.

    "You sure you won't be missed?" I asked, glancing over to Aisha as we passed between some marked gang areas. Empire colors were on one side, and on the other were tags for another gang I didn't really recognize, painted over the Empire's offensive imagery. "I mean, it's a school night and you're not home."

    "I doubt Mom will even notice I'm not there when she gets home," Aisha said. "The only person who might would be Brian, but he's out doing God-knows-what with his bullshit job. I just hope he doesn't come back—" She silenced herself after a few seconds and looked at me.

    Briefly, I had the mental image of an older black teenager that had some amazing muscles and a nice smile. His hair was in cornrows, but the image I really had was of him in a leather jacket and pants with a crossbow bolt sticking out his gut. He'd been on a couch much like the one we watched the movie on, and…

    "I'm sure he'll be fine," I said, cutting off that train of thought. Though, I wasn't entirely sure where my confidence came from. "Your brother's a smart guy who can take care of himself."

    I wasn't even sure I'd met the guy, but I was pretty sure I could pick Brian Laborn out of a crowd if I needed to.

    "Yeah, and I can always call his cell to let him know where we are," Aisha said. "You can help me with my homework."

    "Maybe," I said. "What about your Dad?"

    "Tay, my Dad lives in Clarendon's district. You think I'd fit in at that hoity toity preppy bullshit school?" Aisha asked. She then smirked. "He won't know I'm gone, just like yours won't know about you."

    "You know about Dad?" I asked.

    "Alec's mentioned him, once or twice, when we've talked," Aisha said. "Seems like a good guy, when he's around."

    Why would Alec be mentioning my father? It didn't make sense.

    "Before you ask, I can't tell you," Aisha said. "Made a promise to let Alec explain things when they did finally come up."

    We made our way a little further down the street, still talking a bit. She told me a little more about herself while being coy on why Alec knew what he did. She did, however, want to know more about me. Alec, who knew more about me than he should have, had told her things, but she wanted to hear about them directly from me.

    Then we finally made it to the address. It was a standalone building in the heart of the Docks that looked long-since abandoned. The building looked dilapidated, with peeling paint and boarded up windows, but the doors were closed tight. A sense of familiarity washed over me as I walked up to the side door, Aisha at my side, and I carefully slid my hand along the doorframe. After a second, my fingers found a catch, which I pushed in at the same time as turning the door handle, and the door opened.

    Immediately upon entering, Aisha and I were greeted by two rapid barks. A male rottweiler with a docked tail rushed up alongside a terrier of some sort that had only one ear and eye. Both rushed up to each of us, sniffing and barking.

    I glanced over to Aisha warily before looking back at the dogs. I really wasn't good with dogs, but here they were. Aisha didn't seem surprised that they were here, as I was. I wanted to ask her what to do here, but then I had a flash of inspiration. I gave a sharp whistle, and both stopped in place. "Down!" I'd instinctively pitched my voice differently, kind of like I'd seen a trainer do on TV. The sharp tone felt right when dealing with them.

    The dogs went back down on all fours. They seemed very familiar with me, and I… knew them somehow. I couldn't quite place what their names were, but they were

    The rottweiler looked at me eagerly, his stub of a tail wagging behind him, and I internally winced. I knew docking tails was done to dogs like that, but it wasn't right. "Brutus, heel."

    Wait. Why had I called him Brutus? I mean, his name obviously was Brutus, I knew that… no, not really. He kind of just looked like one. And the little female terrier… maybe Angelica? Yeah, that felt right. She looked like that, anyway.

    Might as well try something. "Angelica! Sit!"

    The one-eyed terrier sat down in front of me, and I reached down to scratch her behind her good ear. I wasn't entirely sure that she was following because I used the name I thought she had or if it was because I was looking at her.

    "Good girl," I said. They were such well-behaved dogs. Why wouldn't they be? I'd spent good time training them… but when had I done that? It didn't matter right now though. They needed to be fed.

    Aisha reached over to pet the rottweiler I'd dubbed Brutus, and I nodded.

    "They need some food," I said, looking to Aisha. Maybe she'd know where the food was. Then again, the moment I'd mentioned it, both dogs started wagging their tails faster. "I thought Alec was going to be here."

    "Oh, he probably will be," Aisha said, looking at me a little strangely. "You know where the food is, right?"

    Even as I shook my head, I felt urging to walk into a room two doors down. Both dogs were at my side, walking with me, and Aisha followed along. She had a mysterious smile on her face as we made it into the next room over. The first thing I was greeted with in the room was the smell of some sort of flea shampoo. The room had a large porcelain tub in it on the side, along with a sink set atop a row of unpainted wooden cabinets that ran along the wall. Hanging above the sink was a mirror, and I caught a glimpse of myself in it. With my hoodie open and my hair tied back as I wore the binder, I really did look a little on the masculine side. That wasn't entirely a bad thing, as sometimes I knew I felt a bit like that, but it wasn't me, not really. For the briefest of seconds, as I looked at my reflection, I swore it was someone else staring out back at me.

    I shook my head and glanced toward the food and water bowls on the floor. "Aisha, fill the water, I'll deal with the food."

    "Got it, Taylor," Aisha said with a smile as she picked up the water bowls and went to the sink.

    I ran a hand along the row of cabinets until I came to the one on the far left. That felt right. I opened the cabinet, revealing two bags of kibble. One of the bags clearly was marked for large dogs, while the other was for medium or smaller ones. I took both bags over to the bowls, each of which were labeled with names… "Brutus" and "Angelica…"

    I knew their names? How did I know their names? I mean, why wouldn't I know the names of my dogs that clearly, I'd spent time training? But how come I couldn't remember getting them? And why did I keep them here of all places?

    They needed feeding. That was more important.

    I put just enough food for a single serving in the appropriate bowls, and I gave another sharp whistle. "Dinner! Come!"

    Both dogs scampered over, and Aisha placed the water bowls down next to them. She helped me put the kibble away in the cabinet. "I can't get over how well you have them trained."

    "I uh…" I looked to Aisha. "How much have you been here? And with me?"

    "Shit. Taylor still?" Aisha asked.

    "What do you mean still?" I asked.

    She shook her head, raising her hands. "Sorry, thought you were someone else for a second. I promised Alec that I wouldn't tell."

    "What exactly is there to tell?" I asked. "Who did you think I was?"

    Aisha pursed her lips. "Rachel. She trained the dogs."

    For a moment, I stared at the girl. Alec. Rachel. I hadn't met either of them, not myself, yet both seemed involved with me somehow. Then I glanced down at the dogs, and I let out a sigh, realizing something. "Could you deal with the pads? Or whatever… if they've been in here all day, they needed to go somewhere."

    "I can, yes," Aisha said. "What are you going to do?"

    I shrugged. "Alec's supposed to meet me here, apparently. I guess I need to explore and find out where."

    Aisha nodded. "There's a room with a cot across the hall. You might find him there."

    I smiled, and the two of us separated. I went into the room she spoke of, which apparently had been an office at one point in time, back when this place had been an active kennel. A cot was set up where the old desk would have been, and I suddenly found myself extremely tired. I sat down on the cot, reaching up under my shirt to undo the binder. I laid it down on the cot, and who should come into the room? Brutus and Angelica came to join me. The terrier plopped herself down on my lap, and then Brutus, understanding how large he was, simply laid his head next to her. I pet them both, and I laid back. The cot was surprisingly comfortable.

    I yawned, closing my eyes. I didn't realize how tired I was. Maybe Alec would wake me, or I suppose Aisha could, when he got there. I felt myself drifting off to sleep, feeling as safe here as I did in my house

    I found myself opening my eyes underneath the metal girders of what seemed like a roof's framework. I was lying down on a nice white couch that, as I looked around, was set at a right angle to another red couch. Next to the couch was a coffee table and across from the couch I was on was a very large television that had a video of what looked like Brutus's sleeping mug on it. He looked really cute there. I looked further around, and I saw some more tables, rugs, and shelves against the walls. Some of the shelves had books I'd read before on them. Others… I wasn't entirely sure, it was a little fuzzy.

    There were some rooms lined up as well along the wall. Each one was marked with some sort of art. A pawprint for one, an eye for another, a crown for another, and then there were a couple that seemed a little on the fuzzy side.

    "Hello?" I called out, looking around, standing up. "I thought I was asleep…"

    "You are," said the guy's voice from earlier that morning. I turned around behind me, and sitting on the couch was… well, me, but not really me. He was kind of me as… a guy. His hair was pulled back into the ponytail I wore, was a little curlier than my own, and he wore a pair of slacks and a ruffled shirt. He gave me a smile that looked a little more natural on that wide mouth. "Hi, dork."

    "Don't call her a dork," said a feminine voice, the one I'd heard at the bank. She was sitting on the other couch, her legs crossed. She looked a lot like me too, but she had blonde hair and green eyes. She even had some freckles, along with a somewhat smug looking smile. She wore the nice blouse and capri pants Emma had been wearing. "It's been a while, Taylor."

    "Wait… Sarah?" I asked. I recognized her. I hadn't seen her in… a long time.

    "Lisa now," she said. As if she weren't my old imaginary friend newly appearing again.

    "And… Alec…"

    "Yep," he said.

    "Which would make Rachel…" I frowned, looking around, and another girl who looked like me, albeit somewhat stockier, wearing jeans and a torn t-shirt. Her nails were a little on the dirty side.

    "Taylor," she said in greeting.

    "What is this?" I asked.

    "Our head," Lisa said. "Well, you might say it's your head, but it's our head. We're all here. You're just the one still named Taylor."

    "The name Mom and Dad gave me," I said.

    "Ah, yes, Dad. Daniel Hebert… Did you know that his birth certificate's fake?" Lisa asked. "It's a very good fake, but it's fake."

    "I don't understand what's going on," I said. "Am I going crazy?"

    "Not any more than anyone else," Alec said. "Sure, most people are alone in their heads, and you aren't, but that doesn't mean you're crazy dork. What's crazy is how bad you suck at noticing us. I mean come on, I got us dressed this morning. We looked good, but would you have worn that?"

    "The hoodie, maybe," I said.

    "Yeah, but the other shit?" Alec grinned. "You didn't even really notice until later at Aisha's."

    "So, what is this? Multiple Personality Disorder?" I asked. "Each of you are… a different…"

    "I believe the more PC term is dissociative identity disorder, but that doesn't really describe us," Lisa said. "Not fully, anyway, Taylor. You might have some dissociative issues, but I don't really think that's the issue. There's others like us. Plural. Many people, one head."

    I'd heard of powers that could… do something like this. But the only time I knew about encountering anyone with powers was the bank… and none of them seemed like they could do something like this.

    "Oh, this is from long before, Taylor," Lisa said. "Remember when we were a kid? You and I…"

    Sarah. Well, Lisa now. I'd sworn she was just an imaginary friend.

    "You disappeared on me," I said, without really meaning to. This was an old wound that I didn't even realize I had. "You were there, and then… you stopped. We stopped talking… why did you leave?"

    "I never really left, Taylor," Lisa said. "The woman we called Mom was much happier when we were playing with Emma, not each other. With Dad gone half the time I didn't want to just completely alienate you from either of them…"

    "She was a good person," I said.

    "Never said she wasn't," Lisa said. "Just not comfortable with us. She loved you, and…" She shook her head.

    "So, this is…what sort of powers could do this?" I asked.

    "This isn't from powers, dork," Alec said. "We're just like this. We're here in our head, all of us. And I don't really like the disorder term. I don't really feel disordered."

    "Alec, you're very disordered," Lisa said immediately. "Disorder's basically your thing, and that's one thing Aisha likes about you."

    "So… you're all, what? Parts of me? Basically me?"

    "Fuck no," Rachel said, shaking her head. Her eyes had a harder take to them than my own, and she didn't wear glasses. "You're you. I'm me. Lisa's Lisa, and Alec's a shit."

    "Hey!" Alec yelled. "I'm the shit, thank you very much."

    "He likes to talk shit," Lisa said. "But he's a good guy."

    I held up a hand, giving each of them a level look. I really wasn't sure what to make of all of this. They did all look like me, at least in some way. I didn't really know how this sort of thing worked. "So… the whole wanting to talk… why now?"

    "We can't just stay completely separate anymore," Alec said. "You need to know about us, the way we know about each other. We had something pretty good working before, with me getting to hang with Aisha, Rachel with the dogs and the exercise, and Lisa doing her studying thing."

    "My dogs," Rachel said. Then she met my eye. "Our dogs. Can't be alone all day."

    "The bank robbery, and Dad being gone were a bit of a wake-up call," Lisa said. "Keeping you in the dark isn't a good idea, and I'm not sure it ever was."

    "About Dad…" I frowned. "You said his birth certificate was fake. How could you even know that?"

    "I've been trying to figure out where he goes," Lisa said. "Where he's getting the money, and what he's doing. I haven't puzzled it all out, but I did figure out that Daniel Hebert didn't always exist. I mean, legally, yes, he does now, but…"

    "Merde," Alec said. "Let's not focus on Dad while we're having our first talk with Taylor."

    "But…" I frowned. Wait, had that been French. I mean, it was a curse word in French, but that didn't mean he spoke it. I gave Alec a questioning look. "Why are you cursing in French?"

    "Because I'm Quebecois, of course," Alec said. "Et toi, ma chère, tu n'es qu'une Américaine."

    Rachel stepped over to Alec and slugged him in the shoulder. After he yelped, she looked back at me. "See? A shit."

    Lisa snorted. "We do need to talk about Dad at some point, though. I don't like that he's running off and leaving us alone, even if we can take care of ourselves."

    I nodded with a sigh, looking at three… people? Imaginary friends? Lisa had been Sarah who had been imaginary, hadn't she? Or at least a creation of my mind, anyway. But they all were… here. They all were something to me. Alec could speak French, and I barely remembered the lessons I'd taken when I was little. Rachel… was good with dogs, and she maybe did more… Lisa was… smart. If she was like I remembered her to be, she was the best at playing hide and seek. She always knew where to look for me and Emma. Which… come to think of the former part, might have just been cheating if she was a part of my head. Or I wasn't really hiding. This hurt to think about. This was too much. Just… a lot.

    Rachel walked back over to my side and placed a hand on my shoulder, giving it an encouraging squeeze. "Lots of words. Lots to think on. They talk to each other." She smiled at me. "We're here for you, and each other."

    Briefly, I smiled at her. She didn't really seem like she spoke up a lot herself, more handling things with her body language. She seemed strong too, at least from her grip, but this was, theoretically, my mind… our mind… whatever. She still looked physically strong. "So, what do you want from me?"

    "Stop ignoring us, dork," Alec said. "Acknowledge us. It's safer for all of us if you do. Plus, there's weirder things out there."

    "Weirder than you?" I asked. Was I really so desperate for anyone to acknowledge me that I just… created my own friends? Were they even real? I had enough trouble being my own person, and now I was going to be four? That couldn't be right.

    "Trust me, kiddo," Lisa said. "We're very real, and we're here for all of us. That woman that we called Mom did have one quote I liked from her. 'There's more on Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' We're in a city where there's a guy that can turn into something like a dragon. There's a fucking Nazi supernova cape and you got teleported in the bank by another one. If it weren't for Rachel…"

    "Oh, that was great," Alec said. "Pow, right in the kisser. Lisa's right. Fuck the Nazis. They'd go after us anyway, best we get prepared for them."

    Rachel nodded in agreement. Frankly, I couldn't help but agree with that sentiment. The issue was that this wasn't powers-related here. I didn't know how they could help against the Nazis. I mean, I guess, if… somehow, they had helped against the bank robbers… But why would anyone stand with me like that? Why would they?

    Still, I needed to ask a question that had a more tangible answer. Maybe, even if they weren't really real, they could have an answer. Something to help me ground myself a little bit. This just… I wasn't able to control it. How did I know I wasn't crazy? Coming up with them?

    "Where did the dogs come from?" I asked.

    Rachel glanced to Lisa, who sighed. "Rachel found the both of them one night when she was exercising. She rescued them… by putting us in some danger."

    Rachel crossed her arms and gestured to the screen with Brutus and Angelica snuggling up to us. I got the gist of what she wanted to emphasize, but I worried about what Lisa was talking about with the danger.

    "We're safe now, and so are the dogs," Lisa said.

    "Why not bring them home?" I asked.

    "You weren't ready," Rachel said. "Are now though."

    The dogs were something tangible that I felt I could do. Something real. The others… they were there, but I wasn't sure what to say about them. Lisa… Sarah… she'd been my friend when I was little, one I was convinced was all in my imagination. Mom had said that Sarah was imaginary. That I needed to play with real friends.

    Of course, given I was asleep, wasn't this place pretty much my imagination? Wouldn't all of them be a part of that imagination? Did that mean they weren't real? They were… They seemed real. But there were a number of things that seemed real. The things I saw when I had sleep paralysis did too. I knew the mind could play tricks. But… if they were real… If there really were three other people in my head, what did that mean? It couldn't be real. This place really was all in my head, wasn't it?

    A knocking came from one of the doors down the hall, and all four of us glanced at each other. Alec and Lisa's faces depicted some worry, but Rachel's was a mask of determination. She'd moved between me and the door, really placing herself between each of us and the door.

    "What's that?" I asked. And why did it appear when I was thinking about this all being in my head?

    "Not normal," Lisa said. She sounded worried. "Alec, you should get it."

    "No way," Alec said. "Maybe Taylor should. It's her first time here."

    The knocking repeated, more insistent this time, and the door loomed larger, closer to us. The drawing that had been stuck on the door was one of a rising sun, and as the knocking got louder, the drawing fell to the ground. As the paper fell, the door behind it shifted from a wooden one to one of stone, engraved with various hieroglyphs.

    "What the Hell?" I asked. Why would I think that up? Why would any of them think that up?

    "I'll go," Rachel said. "Stay."

    She walked up to the door, even as the knocking grew louder. When she got close, she tapped the door frame, and then she reached for where the handle would have been, turning it. The door rose slowly, revealing what appeared to be a man dressed in the garb of Ancient Egypt. He wore a white cloth around his waist, and his neck was adorned with some sort of golden neckpiece. I'd have to look at Dad or Mom's book to be sure. What got weird… was his head. Instead of that of a human, his head was that of a beetle, a scarab to be precise.

    Great. Now I was imagining Egyptian gods in my head. I supposed it was no weirder than imagining my imaginary friend back and two more. Except they were… maybe more than that… but the gods weren't real. I knew that.

    "Greetings, Taylor Hebert, Lisa Wilbourn, Rachel Lindt, and Alec Herbert," said the Egyptian god, Khepri.

    "Herbert?" I hissed out to him. Both Rachel and Lisa seemed torn between giving him funny looks and looking back at the literal god in the… whatever this place was. In my head. Our head. Why had he used different last names for everyone?

    "What, you'd rather me use Hebert?" Alec asked. "I could! But I won't!"

    "Shush, moron." Lisa glared at Alec. She turned her attention to Khepri. "Uh. Hello, sir. How are you?"

    "Quite well, Lisa," said Khepri. "Thank you for allowing me into your mindspace."

    "Just opened the door," Rachel said.

    "Khepri," I said, standing. "What would bring the god of the morning here of all places? As far as I know, you aren't exactly worshipped anymore."

    If this was my imagination, I must have had something very strange for dinner. That could have explained some of the things with the others too, but it couldn't explain Aisha knowing Alec. I had to lean on the fact that they were… at least partially real. But did that mean Khepri was?

    "Not per usual, no," said Khepri. "But this world is troubled, and though many of my fellows have chosen not to interfere, the god that is partly my opposite has. It has been a long time since I have had an avatar."

    "When you say troubled…" Lisa trailed off. "What do you mean?"

    "I believe that you would call them capes," Khepri said. "Their power sources are not of this world, and they upset the balance. However, unless they commit evil, they should not be punished. None should be for simply existing."

    "When you say avatar, you mean… proxy for you on Earth, correct?" I asked, thinking back to notes I saw in Dad's book written by someone named Abdullah El-Faouly. Maybe I was imagining things based on that book. "How do we know you're real?"

    "I can prove that when we are no longer in your mind space, Taylor," Khepri said. "Of all the humans on Earth, you, all of you, are the most compatible with what I want from an avatar."

    I wasn't sure why he would want that, but at the same time, I wasn't sure it was the best idea.

    "What would you want us to do?" Lisa asked.

    "Be my representative. Shine a light on those who would harm innocents. Protect people, and fight those who need fighting."

    At the word fight, I tensed, and I shook my head. No. I wasn't willing to do this. Not after the first bombshell dropped on me tonight. Lisa met my gaze, and she nodded. Alec nodded as well.

    "Our answer is no, sir," Lisa said.

    "Yeah, we can't do it," Alec said.

    "Not today," I agreed. Rachel simply mustered her agreement nonverbally.

    "Very well. I will not force your choice," Khepri said. "However, the offer will remain open until a new avatar is found. Keep yourselves safe, children."

    He then walked back through the door he came in, and it disappeared.

    "What. The. Fuck?" Alec asked.

    "It's… he's…" I rubbed my head, sitting down on the couch, rocking back on it. Oh God, what the fuck? "It's not real. None of it is. He isn't. He can't be…."

    He wasn't real. None of this was. I just needed to wake up, and I'd… maybe be at home. I had to be there. It wasn't… I'd already been thinking about them not being real, and these

    "You're not real," I muttered out, looking at the door, then the others. "I'm… I have to be… this isn't really happening…"

    "Taylor…" Lisa came over and wrapped her arms around me. "No matter how real you think I am, I'm not going away. I told you before… We all did…"

    "You're not alone," Alec said. "You've got us, dork. Gods or no gods."

    "Always," Rachel affirmed.

    I closed my eyes. Even if they weren't real… maybe it would be good to have friends again. I hoped they wouldn't betray me. God, what if they were real? What did that make me?
     
  18. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,706
    Likes Received:
    13,967
    So, Danny is Moon Night, and Taylor is going to be Sun Day?

    The imaginary friends thing is a neat twist.
     
    Jaime01 likes this.
  19. Threadmarks: Wax 1.4
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    [H1]Wax 1.4[/H1]


    I felt the movement of small paws as I woke up. Angelica scampered off my lap to the ground, the terrier carefully moving out of my way so I could stand. Brutus let out a groan, but he stood up next to me as well. Calmly, I rested my hand on his head, looking down at the rottweiler. He came up to my waist, after all.

    The dogs were real, at the least. That I was fairly certain about. Sitting on a chair in the corner with a cell phone out, was Aisha, the person I'd come here with. She was real too. Were the people in my head real? Did I imagine them entirely? The whole thing at the end…

    Dreams. I knew dreams were supposed to be something like the mind firing on all cylinders. Any sort of memory of dreams was more the conscious mind trying to make sense of things. It really followed the same principles as the visions seen while under sleep paralysis. Logically, there was no reason I should have been able to remember what had happened as clearly as I did. Well, other than lucid dreaming being a thing. But…

    Wait. When had I done research on dreaming anyway? Had Sarah-no, Lisa… had she done the research and I was just remembering what she'd done? Could someone imaginary really do that sort of thing?

    For a brief second, I felt a little bit insulted by that thought. God, what was happening to me?

    Aisha looked up from her phone to me, resting my hand on the largest of my dogs. Her lips quirked. "Rachel?"

    I shook my head rapidly. I wasn't her. I was me. I wasn't even sure what I felt about her. If she was real. If any of them were real. "Taylor. You knew?"

    "Tay, Alec and I are close," Aisha said. "Of course, I knew. We've been sitting together at lunch since the beginning of the year. You think I wouldn't notice when he's a different person?"

    I pursed my lips for a second. I needed to process this. So, they were with me… if they were with me, they were actually there since the beginning of the year.

    "Fine. Taylor," Aisha said, maybe misinterpreting my mulling over things as being upset about the nickname. I suppose maybe a part of me was a little annoyed. "I mentioned that I'd been here a couple of times. I've seen Alec and Rachel swap out… switch out? Whatever you want to call it, and I helped her with the dogs before."

    "Switch out," I said. "What do you mean switch out?"

    Aisha shrugged. "I don't know how else to explain it. Kind of like what happened with you and Alec. Alec and I watched the Aleph version of Star Wars because Brian had got it, but you woke up. Theirs was just… a little more real-time."

    "Was that really what happened?" I muttered. Assuming that they were real. If they were real. I wasn't even sure about what was going on anyway.

    "Studying up on that shit isn't my idea of a fun time," Aisha said. "So, I just roll with it. Alec's my…" she looked me over for a second. "friend. Who happens to share a body with some other people."

    "So, you think they're real?" I asked. "Not something I made up?"

    "Taylor, we're in a city with something like forty or fifty people that run around in costumes beating each other up," Aisha said. "Yeah, they have cool powers while doing it, but at the end of the day, they're still wearing underwear on the outside and fighting each other."

    "I don't think—"

    "Yeah, yeah, none of them are actually doing that," she said. "Could you imagine though? Armsmaster with his logo on some underoos he wore on the outside of his armor? Miss Militia with flag panties? Kaiser with a sword-bra?"

    Somehow, I found that last bit extremely hilarious. I mean, I'd literally seen some underwear with Armsmaster's logo on them, but that last bit? I started laughing, and Aisha only managed to keep a straight face for a few seconds before she burst into giggles herself.

    "God, I can picture it now," I muttered, and I pitched my voice to a lower, adding an over the top, fake German accent. "Sieg Heil, those who disobey me and undesirables will be impaled upon this bra on my manly pecs."

    Aisha's giggling just got worse. "Alec, that's terrible…"

    Wait. What? Alec? Wasn't I—?

    "Oh? And vhere are your papers?" I asked in the same tone, not really able to stop myself. I wasn't even sure where this was coming from, but it was kind of funny. Was it coming from Alec though? Was I Alec? Wasn't I—?

    "Alec, I was trying to reassure Taylor," Aisha said, after she gave me a significant look. She did look really cute like that, and a part of me wanted to get closer and get her giggling again. It wouldn't even be all that hard.

    But she was trying to reassure me. Taylor me. I was Taylor. I let out a breath. I could control myself. I was me. I really was. I spoke up in my normal tone of voice. "I'm still here, Aisha."

    It just had felt natural to use that tone for the joke. To even do that joke at all. I wasn't even sure if I could talk to the others outside whatever that was. Khepri had called it a mindscape.

    "Ah… sorry, Taylor," Aisha said. "Sometimes Alec and I… we make fun of the Nazis. Because…"

    "It's easier to deal with the idea of them if you're making fun of the idea," I said, nodding. "Sarah, Emma and I used to do it when we were kids. We'd make fun of the villains."

    Funny how despite Mom telling me Sarah was imaginary, she still featured prominently in my memories of the time. I mean, I trusted Mom, and she'd said that Sarah wasn't real. The loss and disappearance of my friend had hurt, but Mom still said she wasn't real. I loved my mother, but Lisa… why had she called her the "woman we called our mom?" It might have just been the hurt from her rejection, but there might have been more to it than I had at the time.

    Aisha nodded. "Does Sarah go to another school now?"

    I shook my head. "She was… an imaginary friend when I was younger, according to my mom."

    "Lisa?" Aisha asked, tilting her head so that her hair fell in a cute way.

    I nodded. "Maybe. Lisa looks a lot like an older version of Sarah."

    Because she was an older version of Sarah, of course. All of them appeared to be around my age, maybe a little bit older when I looked at them. But I supposed that made sense. They would be my age because they used my body. Right? But then again, I really didn't know how any of this worked. If it worked. Assuming that they were real, could it be possible that one of them was older? Alec was already a guy. Maybe they didn't have to look like me anywhere but out here where my body limited things.

    Our body?

    My body. I was Taylor. That's what my parents named me, and it meant I was me. They were… there. Real, or not. I just didn't know what to do about it. How to deal with it.

    "Lisa's interesting," Aisha said. "I haven't spoken to her much. Or Rachel much for that matter. But Alec likes to complain about them."

    "I get the feeling that he likes to complain a lot," I said. For a brief second, I almost heard an affronted "Hey!" that threatened to slip out of my mouth. Alec could keep his mouth shut, if he was real, and doubly so if he wasn't. I was in control for now. I still wasn't entirely sure that it wasn't me giving the joking responses to Aisha. They were still pretty funny.

    "Well, depending on the situation," Aisha said. "Alec just kind of likes pushing buttons, in my experience. Which might be why Brian got him into video games."

    I shook my head. Video games could be fun to play sometimes, but there were some people that took it too far. I didn't want to be one of those people who did, but Alec… God, I really didn't know. This whole situation weirded me out, and I kind of wanted to go home. I wouldn't be able to get away from anyone inside my head, but if I was just home and not here, I felt like I might be able to deal with things better.

    Brutus turned his head toward me, and I just scratched him behind the ear. He was a good dog, and so was Angelica. Carrying their kibble back to my place would be difficult, even with Aisha's help, but there wasn't really another option I could see… unless…

    "Aisha, would your brother be able to give us a ride back to my place? Or one of your parents?" I asked. I didn't own a cell phone, otherwise I'd consider calling Kurt or Lacey. But I also didn't really want them to deal with this sort of thing.

    "You want me to come over to your place?" Aisha asked. She sounded both confused and surprised.

    I couldn't help but smile at that. It probably wasn't a usual thing for her, given the confidence she displayed. Maybe Alec was good for something, if Aisha could be a real friend. I just… it really was a lot. I was me.

    I was me. Having more than just me in my head sounded… crazy. How could it really be true? The issue was, Aisha seemed to know them as well. Admittedly, it was mostly Alec she knew, but… still.

    "I can't just leave the dogs here," I said. "They might be used to being here, but I want to bring them home."

    Aisha nodded. "And you need some help. Rachel give you the idea?"

    I shrugged. Her guess was as good as mine. "Maybe. I don't… I really don't know. Meeting all of them… Seeing them, I don't know. They're there, but there was something else there too. Not them."

    I really didn't want to go into too much detail about what happened in the mind loft… where had I even seen a place like that? This place, this kennel? It wasn't like that. Had I… or if I'd let one of them be in control, had they seen something like that? Or had we somehow generated it together?

    I could explain the Khepri thing away with what we… what I did for the art project. The others… I had a much harder time explaining because of Aisha and the dogs. All three of them knew me, and I knew them. However, Aisha knew the other names. She knew Lisa even before I mentioned the name, but she hadn't even mentioned her until after I woke up.

    Lisa didn't like that Mom had said she was imaginary. But Mom had. Sarah was with me until I was around eight years old, but then after that talk… I wasn't entirely sure Mom spoke to me or if she spoke to her. After the talk though, Sarah stopped showing up. I started focusing more on Emma and some other friends that we'd had. She'd had. Emma was always the social butterfly.

    Aisha nodded. She let out a small sigh. "Would it be okay if I hugged you? You look like you could use one, but I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

    I nodded. "Yeah, I… yeah. Sure."

    Aisha stepped up to me, gave Brutus a pat on the head, and then she wrapped her arms around me, leaning into me. "Feels a little different than Alec."

    I returned the hug on the shorter girl. I supposed the main reason it'd feel different from Alec would be Alec's gender. He's well, a he, and given the binder I was wearing… It'd create a different feeling for the hug. "Thank you, Aisha. For being here, even if it's not really for me."

    "Dork," Aisha said, which I almost heard echoed. She patted my back. "You're my friend. Why wouldn't I be there for you?"

    "You barely know me," I said. She'd primarily been with Alec, and today was really the first time she'd spoken to me.

    "That's not true, Taylor," Aisha said. "I'm pretty sure you were there at least some of the time, even if you weren't paying attention. Of course, I don't really know how your mind works. Shit, I don't know how mine works."

    "Right…" I shook my head. I didn't really have an answer on that one. "About your brother."

    "I can try," she said. "But we might have to hoof it. The dogs look like they might be able to make it, but it's getting close to midnight."

    "How long was I out?" I asked.

    "Maybe two hours," Aisha said. "I guess there was a lot to talk about?"

    "Dreams are weird," I said, and we each simultaneously released our hug.

    She walked back to where she left her phone, and then she made the call. As she did, she walked into the other room, and I started to follow her. However we did this, the dogs needed leashes, and I knew the most likely area to find them.

    While I heard her getting on the phone with her brother, I made my way back into the room with their bowls. Opening the far-right cabinet, I was able to find two proper leashes and collars that went with them. I wasn't completely certain, but I thought Brockton Bay did have a leash law. It sucked for my dogs, which were clearly well-behaved, but I'd deal with it.

    I gave a sharp whistle, and both dogs came into the room. Upon seeing the leashes and collars in my hands, both started barking and wagging their tails.

    I placed both leashes in my left hand and gave a snap with my right. Using the same tone I'd used before, I gave an order, "Shush."

    They stopped their barking, but their tails still wagged.

    I shook my head. "Brutus, sit!"

    He sat down. Angelica came closer to me, sniffing at my shoes. I held up a hand.

    "Angelica, sit!" Angelica sat. I crouched down and attached her collar, pulling the leash up from it. Happily, it wasn't a choke collar. I wasn't comfortable using something like that on either of these dogs. My dogs would behave properly without something like that. I trained them well enough. Choke collars just seemed like abuse to me. And fuck anyone who abused their dogs.

    I put Brutus's collar on next, attaching his leash, and then I clicked my tongue. The two of them were at my side as we went to find Aisha. We'd have to get a wagon or something if her brother couldn't come to take us back to my house.

    Aisha was only around the corner, and she hung up the phone. She gave me a smile when she saw the dogs with me on the leash. "Oh, you found the leashes. I wasn't sure you'd be able to."

    "Same place they always are," I said, admittedly a little tersely. "He coming?"

    "He's almost done with the job he's doing, but he should be able to pick us up at the corner around the street in ten minutes. I didn't tell him exactly where we were because I didn't think you wanted him to know about this place." The way she stressed the "you" indicated she was talking to more than just me. I supposed, given what she knew. A large part of me appreciated that fact.

    I nodded. "Let's get the food."

    "Which one?"

    I thought for a second. Angelica's would be the easiest to carry, and Brutus technically could eat it too, even if it wasn't the best for him. It might do until I could either make my way back here for it or make my way to the store to purchase it. Either way, they'd have food for the morning, and they'd be okay with our fenced back yard over being stuck in this kennel all day. "Smaller food. I'll grab the bowls. You get the bag."

    "Gotcha," Aisha said, and the two of us went to grab the respective items. She picked up the four-pound bag and I got the bowls, holding the dogs on their leashes.

    They both looked eagerly at what Aisha held, but they behaved. Just as I'd trained them to do. We made our way outside. Aisha directed us toward the corner that her brother was supposed to pick us up at. She spoke a bit on the way, but I was more focused on the night at hand.

    Street lamps illuminated the corner far more than the clouded night sky, though a crescent moon did peek out through the clouds. Few cars were on the street at this time of night, leaving us only able to hear the occasional exhaust blow-out from streets away. Somewhere to the north, gunfire rang out, too rapid to be anything but, and the strange mixture of tobacco and cannabis smoke assaulted my nostrils coming from somewhere to the east. I didn't really want to know what else was being smoked that way too.

    "Should be here soon enough," Aisha said.

    I nodded, but a bit of movement caught my eye. Four men, older teenagers, young twenties, really, walked down the street, maybe half a block away. They were all white, with shaved heads, and I caught a glimpse of a red armband on one of them along with other indications of gang colors. The way they were looking, they'd spotted us already.

    Damn it. They had increased their approach speed when they saw me looking. I quickly glanced around. We could back away, but there was no guarantee that we'd be able to get away fast enough.

    "Aisha, Empire…" I indicated, nodding toward them. "Brutus, Angelica, ready?"

    Both dogs took somewhat protective positions near us. There weren't any real escape routes. We'd have to ditch the food, find another area for Brian to pick us up. Immediately, I placed myself between Aisha and the men, letting Brutus be between us.

    "Can we leave?" Aisha asked, following my lead. We were slowly backing off.

    "We'd have to run," I muttered. "Text your brother."

    "He's still…" She shook her head and started texting even as we continued backing away.

    Unfortunately, the Empire 88 gang members were still coming fast. I didn't want to flat-out run if we could avoid it.

    "Well, look what we have here, boys!" said one of them, the ringleader up front. My jaw clenched at the sound of his voice. I recognized it. The fucker worked at the docks at one point. Dad had gotten him fired for some reason or another. "A pair of little girls who shouldn't be out in this neighborhood. With some dogs that look perfect for Hookwolf."

    A growl rose in my throat. Nobody threatened Brutus and Angelica with that. Not after what I went through to get them out. "Fuck off! You're not touching my dogs!"

    "Oh, the little… has fight in her. Maybe she'd do well in those rings too!" One of the other members said. I suppose he called me a slur or something, but I was too angry about my dogs.

    I stepped closer to them, leashes in hand. They weren't going to touch them. My dogs. My friend. Me.

    "Tay—Rachel, we need to go!" Aisha hissed. She pulled at my shirt, trying to pull me away. I didn't listen to her, instead shaking her off.

    "Oh, shit boys," said the ringleader. "I think I recognize her. She's D—" I met him mid-path with a punch to the gut.

    I dropped the leashes. "Brutus, hurt!" I snarled out, and then I pointed back toward Aisha. "Angelica, guard!"

    Brutus tackled the next-nearest Nazi, snapping his jaws toward his throat. I ducked under a pipe swing from the one on my left and kneed dad's coworker in the groin. When he fell, I stomped his hand. I felt the bones crack there.

    "You bitch!"

    "Rachel!" Aisha called, dropping the bag of kibble. "The bowls!"

    I brought up Brutus's metal bowl in time to block a knife. I slammed it into the Empire guy's hand, moonlight reflecting off its surface. The knife dropped, but the skinhead struck my side with his own fist, knocking the air out of me. Fuck.

    "You fucking bitch!" yelled the third skinhead as he swung his pipe again. "Hookwolf will kill you, bitch!"

    Brutus grabbed the pipe mid-swing, and his weight wrenched it from the gang member's hand. Catching my breath, I sharply whistled, and he dropped the pipe.

    Aisha slid across the ground, Angelica chasing her, and she picked the pipe up. "Got your back, Rachel!"

    She slammed the pipe into the fourth Empire guy's leg as he tried to get up. She followed up with another swing to his arm, causing a metallic ring and sickening crack. Good for her. Angelica followed up the blows by biting down hard on the other leg. Brutus tackled the third Empire member to the ground once more, and he bit down on the guy's arm. Good dog. I got ready to square off with the second guy once more.

    Suddenly, my head rocked to the side. The first guy hit me across the jaw with something heavy. Blood trickled out of my mouth, and I felt him pull me to my feet. When had I even fallen from them? A clicking, cocking sound came from next to my ear, and a cool metallic cylinder pressed against my temple. "Call your mutts off, bitch, or I blow your brains across the pavement."

    I spat out some blood. The arm across my chest held me close, but the gun at my head was the worrisome part. I needed to do what I could to stop this, which meant… probably obeying him.

    "Rachel, do it!" Aisha said. Her worries were understandable.

    I spat out more blood, and then whistled. "Brutus, Angelica, down!"

    "The fuck is she calling you Rachel for, bitch?" asked the guy who held me, hissing in my ear. "You two might be little animals, but I remember your name. I remember you, little miss Taylor Hebert."

    Taylor…. Wait. I was… but… This situation was… No. I wasn't…

    "You've got enough fight in you, and your dad was a shit boss," said the guy. "Win-win, if I bring you to the ring. Especially with your dogs. Hookwolf will probably get me a shit-ton more money."

    Taylor, I'd been Taylor, but Taylor didn't really know how to fight. And my dogs… Rachel knew how to handle both of them. Which of them was I? Taylor? Rachel? Was I one of the others?

    A soft voice whispered in my ear. "Traveler of the Night, you need only ask for my blessing."

    Moonlight shone down on us, and as I looked around, I could see something akin to smoke billowing onto the street. It was an unnatural darkness that blotted out the light from the streetlamps, and it quickly enveloped the Empire members that were lying on the ground, while also enveloping Aisha. She didn't seem super surprised about it.

    "Cape!" I heard yelled from within the darkness, along with the sounds of leather-encased fists hitting flesh.

    I glanced up at the moon. Khepri had come to us, and now something else… if the God of the Night Sky were real, would he really give a blessing? I didn't see how that would help.

    "I'll kill the fucking girl if you don't come out!" Called the guy holding me.

    What did I have to lose other than my life? I whispered out the prayer, and then I felt a weight settle into each of my hands. I started laughing.

    "What the fuck you laughing about, bitch? You'll fight for Hookwolf and die, and your daddy won't even know what happened!"

    "You talk too much," I said, and I punched the crescent blades into his arms, pulling them out again as he reflexively let me go. I spun around, punching again. This fucker knew my name. This fucker threatened my dogs. This fucker threatened my friends. He dropped to the ground, and I punched again, driving the blades into his shoulder.

    The man screamed in pain. It would be easy. Eliminate the threat to my friends, to my life. He knew about me. He knew my father, and he threatened my dogs.

    "Deliver the Night's justice upon him, traveler," said the voice of the god. "Eliminate him as a threat, permanently."

    I can't say I wasn't tempted. It would be so easy to do here… I held the crescent blades in his shoulder, thoughts racing through my head. Would Dad want me to be a killer? I tried to shake off that response. This man would have killed me, killed my dogs, or worse. He needed to be eliminated, but my hand hesitated. I didn't feel bad for him, and in fact, logically I knew that he needed to die, yet somehow I just couldn't let myself do this. Why? Why couldn't I do it? Why couldn't I just get rid of this threat? Let him die? Everything felt distant from me, even my own arms, yet the weight of the blades in his shoulders was perfectly clear. He deserved death. But I couldn't let myself be the one to do it. I let out a growl of frustration and rage, and then, using my leverage, threw the man away from me, and I pulled the blades free. I just couldn't do it.

    "More's the pity, traveler," the God of the Night Sky said, disappointed. "Rachel Lindt, Taylor Hebert, we will be speaking again."

    I shook my head, and I spun around to throw the blades toward the wall. They disappeared before they could hit it, and my eyes went wide when I saw the second Empire member, the knife wielder, approaching. The darkness roiled over him and me before he could get close.

    I couldn't see at all. Within the darkness, I heard the sounds of fighting, and I felt the clammy heaviness of it like I was walking through fog. I tensed up as a leather gloved hand placed itself on my shoulder. When I spun to attack the source, another caught my punching arm.

    "Enough," said a distorted voice. "It's done. You're safe now."

    After pulling me a bit further away, the darkness around me started to dissipate, revealing the person holding me. He was a tall, muscular man dressed in motorcycle leathers. He wore a motorcycle helmet that had a visor sculpted to look like a skull, with side-vents upon it. At his side, attached to a belt, he had a crowbar.

    "The fuck are you?" I asked.

    "He's Grue," Aisha said, coming over to me, holding the leashes of my dogs. Both looked like they'd seen better days. Angelica had a small limp on her front left leg, and Brutus had several lacerations on him. "He's… complicated."

    I turned to look for the fuckers who dared to harm them…

    "The Empire members are taken care of, and I'll be alerting the PRT," said Grue. He seemed to look me over. "What the hell did you hit the guy with?"

    I shrugged and looked down at my hands, then looked over toward where I'd tossed them. They really had disappeared when I threw them, but I wasn't the one who brought them. I couldn't even begin to know how they even showed up in the first place. I didn't have powers, but was their appearance evidence that the gods were real? That Khepri was?

    Aisha patted my hand, and judging from the way she was looking at Grue, she knew something about him. Maybe she knew his secret identity. Wait. I had a guess. "Br—"

    Aisha covered my mouth. "Not here. Grue, can you escort us to my brother's car? He was supposed to give us a ride."

    Grue nodded. "Yes, I can. I'll keep any Nazis away from the two of you and the dogs."

    "Good," I said, once Aisha let go.

    "Rachel?" Aisha asked quietly. At this point, I wish I knew.

    Now that the fighting was over, I didn't really feel like I was her. I didn't think I was Rachel still, I thought I was… me. But I could feel Rachel's anger and protectiveness beneath the surface of my skin. Lisa was there too, watching. I was sure of it. But was I Taylor? Alec? Someone else who hadn't even shown up in the dream? I wasn't sure. None of this answered any questions about how real they were, but at the least, it proved… something. What specifically, I didn't know.

    Eventually, we made it to a pickup truck, and Grue stepped off for… reasons. Minutes later, Aisha's brother arrived, dressed in Jeans and a tank top with a bag over his shoulder, and he took us to my home, promising that he'd talk more with me and Aisha later, when it wasn't so late on a school night. Not that I was going to school in the morning, anyway. I didn't want to explain my injuries, if anyone noticed.

    Instead, when I got home, I took my dogs inside, and we made our way for the second floor. On the way, I noticed a blinking light on the answering machine, indicating at least one message. Deciding that I needed ice for my jaw, I started it while I went to prepare an ice pack.

    The first message was just something from Kurt, telling me that he and Lacey would be coming by on Thursday after school to pick me up for some dinner. The second was some telemarketer. The third, however…

    "Hello, this message is for Taylor Hebert," said a deep masculine voice on the message. It had a slight African-sounding accent that I couldn't place. "There's something you need to know about your father. I'm an old friend of his, and I think you need to know this information. I'm staying at the Radisson Boardwalk Hotel here in Brockton Bay. You can contact me there by giving them my name, Raul Bushman. You do need to know this. Your father isn't who you think he is."

    The message ended, and I let out a curse. Dad not being who I thought was already something that a part of me suspected. But that still begged the question. Who was my father, exactly?

    Who?
     
  20. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2019
    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    11,197
    Man I can't wait to see Aisha try to explain to Brian how she's in a five-partner polyamorous relationship with one single person.
     
  21. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,706
    Likes Received:
    13,967
    Her father is dead :(
     
  22. Threadmarks: Wax 1.m (Moon Knight)
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    [H1]Wax 1.m (Moon Knight)[/H1]


    The moon hung high in the sky as he leaped between the rooftops, his cape spreading out in its trademark crescent shape to extend the jumps. Moon Knight had arrived in Montreal a few days ago, and he'd taken a walk around the city to determine where he needed to go. He'd been careful as he walked the streets, having seen a picture of his target before, and he kept an eye out for any children or young adults that resembled the target. Nikos Vasil would receive the justice of Khonshu this night, and Moon Knight was certain that the Protectorate would be uninvolved, at least for tonight. They didn't have the information he had. There may not have been a kill order on the man, but that didn't matter.

    Nikos Vasil, alias Heartbreaker, had been kidnapping women for nearly two decades at this point. With his power affecting emotions, potentially even after his death, there were worries that Moon Knight had, even as he continued toward the man's Montreal location. If Vasil's thralls still remained under his control after his death, would it be kinder to send them to the authorities or to just eliminate them? It wasn't something he liked to think about. Not any part of him liked to think about that. It was one thing to kill a murderer or rapist, but it was another entirely to kill an innocent under the control of said murderer or rapist.

    "Move faster, idiot," Khonshu said, floating alongside him as he made his way across the rooftops. "You don't want to let him get away!"

    "He's not going to get away," Moon Knight said with a Northeastern accent. "You made sure that he's still there, right? There aren't too many thralls between him and us?"

    "Yes, yes, he's still on the fourth floor of the hotel, but he has that actress with him. Saile," Khonshu said. Internally, Moon Knight cursed, and parts of him agreed with the sentiment. Sidney Saile had disappeared from her Vancouver home two weeks ago, and he knew that Protectorate teams from both Vancouver and Montreal would be moving on this as soon as they could. There was a set window that Moon Knight had available for this action, and that was this night alone.

    "Any of his kids there?" Moon Knight asked, jumping another rooftop. He was getting close.

    "Two. Cherie and Guillaume Vasil. The former can control emotions and detect them, and the latter can see and disable senses of those he touches. The suit should be as protective against them as it is against the effects of their father," Khonshu said.

    "Should be?" Moon Knight asked. He shook his head, glowing eyes focused on his objective. "Whatever. Don't let them touch me, and deal with the problem directly, I suppose. Worse comes to worst, I'll switch."

    "I would rather you switch ahead of time, idiot," Khonshu said. "Jake would be far more effective in dealing with these people."

    "Jake's busy dealing with some personal problems. So sorry that you get to deal with me," Moon Knight said, jumping one last time before pausing at the edge of a building overlooking the Hyatt Place Montréal. His suit allowed him to focus in on the target room across the street and down below. The shades on the window were remarkably open, and Moon Knight could see a slender dark-haired woman standing at the window. She had a red streak running through her hair, and though she was young enough to be his daughter, she was certainly attractive enough. If not for her father, she'd be breaking hearts on her own. This had to be Cherie. Idly, Moon Knight wondered what she sensed from him, if anything at all.

    A young man of similar age and build sat down next to an attractive blonde woman that held a tray of grapes in one hand and she was leaning over the bed, feeding a shirtless man that looked in his late thirties, maybe early forties. The man had black hair and some muscles, but he looked like he hadn't ever really been in a fight. Draped around him were several more women, each clearly in some state of adoration for him.

    Under his mask, Moon Knight smiled. While a large part of him was complaining about how it wasn't fair to treat women like that, another part of him reminded himself that the man was using powers to accomplish this feat, and there was a reason Khonshu wanted him dead. Moon Knight found himself muttering, "Shush. We're about to go in."

    "Brilliant," said his British voice, without changing the suit this time, since he was in control. "And what are you going to do about the girls?"

    "Deal with it," Moon Knight said. "Shut up, Steven, unless you want to help."

    "No, no, mate, you've got this one," Steven said.

    "Enough, idiots. The window is coming due," Khonshu said. "Go, now!"

    Moon Knight rolled his eyes and pushed off the building, fighting the urge to scream "Parkour!" at the top of his lungs. Instead, while using his cape to glide, he grabbed two crescent blades from his chest. He threw them at the window, intending on using the momentum to create initial cracks. "Go, random bullshit!"

    The crescent blades struck true, creating an X right where Cherie stood. He slammed into the window, feet first, cracking his way through the plated glass. The glass broke inward, and the girl on the other side fell back, her head cracking on the ground. For the briefest of seconds, he felt some guilt over her, but she was alive. The Heartbroken were all threats so long as their father was alive, after all. They possibly would remain so after his death.

    "Kill her too," Khonshu said. "Her power makes her a larger threat, and she has taken pleasure in what her father has had her do."

    Moon Knight shook his head. "No, not this time."

    "Who the hell is this?" asked Heartbreaker's son.

    "Doesn't matter," Heartbreaker said, giving a languid glance toward Moon Knight. "You really should just leave now. You don't want to be here."

    "Well, no, I don't, you fucking would-be incel rapist," Moon Knight said as he pulled two more crescent blades from his chest. "But you, you great big fucking rapist are a problem that keeps going. But no more, after tonight."

    "The fuck?" Heartbreaker asked. "Ladies! You want to protect me!"

    "Yes, Nikos, of course!" said the women, pushing over themselves to get in Moon Knight's way.

    "He dares use innocents?" Khonshu's anger wafted through the room, and wind arose, blowing papers and clothes off the ground.

    Each time one of the women grabbed onto Moon Knight, he simply wrenched her hands free and tossed her to the side.

    "Guillaume, you worthless trash," Nikos Vasil said. "Use your power on him! Make him unable to find me!"

    Moon Knight threw two crescent blades at Heartbreaker's son, forcing him back against the bed. Each blade pinned an arm. He pulled two more from his chest, shrugging off a scantily clad blonde.

    "Bloody Hell, he's really got them knackered," said his British headmate.

    "Steven, if you aren't going to help, shut up," Moon Knight said as he watched Nikos Vasil scramble away from the bed, heading toward the door.

    "Why aren't you following what I want?" Heartbreaker asked. "You're crazy! What's wrong with you?"

    Moon Knight sneered and as Heartbreaker climbed to his feet, he threw the blades again. "Random bullshit, go!"

    Instead of two blades, four appeared mid-air, each one embedding into Heartbreaker's back. Shrugging off the actress and a fairly attractive Asian woman, Moon Knight finally reached his target. As Heartbreaker slumped forward, sliding against the door to the ground, Moon Knight drove one of the blades in further.

    "I'd heard the stories about you, as you started," Moon Knight said, flipping Vasil over. "You took, and you took, but you always retreated. I could never figure out where you ended up. With my wife, I worried that one day you might come after her. She didn't have the protection I do. Nor does our daughter. As a father, I could not let the same thing happen to them as everyone else."

    "Finish him off, idiot," Khonshu said.

    "I'm getting there," Moon Knight said. "I want you to understand, Nikos Vasil, that in the end, you are still the same pasty fucking nerd that grew up to hate women. And you deserved none of the love you got. You are a rapist and a murderer, and I give you the Night's justice."

    "Fuck. You." Vasil said.

    Moon Knight simply pulled another pair of blades from his chest and drove them into the man's sides. He threw him out the window, so that he'd land on them. Then he surveyed the room.

    "Heartbreaker's bodyguards are coming. You had best leave the way you came in," Khonshu said.

    "He's dead?" Guillaume asked. "Is he really dead?"

    Moon Knight looked at the boy, but he gave a nod.

    "What about the rest of us?"

    "I don't have an answer," Moon Knight said, and he ran toward the window. Extending his cape, he caught an updraft, thanks to Khonshu, and he made it across to the skyscraper he'd come from.

    After passing two more blocks away, Moon Knight stopped, and he allowed the mask to come off his face. Standing near him, in his full regalia was Khonshu. The bird-headed god wielded his crescent moon-staff and had a wide grin on his beak.

    "Well done this evening," Khonshu said. "Marc couldn't have done it better. Perhaps Jake could have."

    "Marc and Jake are busy working things out, so it was either me or Steven."

    "You are an adequate substitute, Daniel," Khonshu said.

    "Danny," said the man in the costume. "My name is Danny."

    "Quite right," said Steven, the costume shifting to a suit but leaving his face uncovered. "Danny, are you really okay leaving the children there like that?"

    "We needed to get away before any authorities came," Danny said as it shifted back to the avatar vestments. "A good portion of his kids have powers, and I'm not sure how much the suit would be able to protect from everything."

    "Do you not trust that I would protect you?"

    "In a word?" Danny asked.

    "No," Steven continued. "We've already done tonight's work for you, so piss off."

    "You mean I've done it," Danny said.

    "Perhaps I should pay more attention to the goings-on in Brockton Bay," Khonshu said.

    "You leave my daughter out of this!" Danny said. "We had a deal."

    "Easy, mate, easy," Steven said. "The bird's trying to get a rise out of you. Taylor's fine. Probably missing you a lot, but fine. Khonshu, leave us alone for a bit, please. Seriously, piss off."

    "Very well," Khonshu said. "But I will have more for you tomorrow."

    Danny grimaced. "Fine."

    "Enjoy the night," Khonshu said.

    Then he was gone, and after Danny descended to the streets of Montreal, he allowed the suit to disappear completely.

    "We still should do something about his kids," Steven said quietly.

    "Calling the local Protectorate is an option," Danny said.

    "Bollocks to that," Steven replied. "There's one person we can trust that will help."

    "She's not going to like it."

    "No, really?" Steven asked. "You and Marc really are cut from the same cloth. I'm surprised Annette put up with you."

    "She liked me and our daughter," Danny said. "Taylor was a cute kid."

    "Still is, mate, still is," Steven said. "Still, it's the right choice. Those kids need someone to guide them, someone who… isn't a killer."

    Danny nodded, and he reached into his pocket, pulling out something that he really hated he even had. He'd lost Annette because she was driving while talking on a cell phone. Still, it wasn't his phone. It was Marc's. And when he next got to speak with the original person that came with the body, he was going to find a way to punch him in the metaphorical nose for leaving him and Steven to deal with this shit.

    He scrolled through the contacts in the phone until he came across the one important one, "Layla."

    "She likes you more, you talk to her," Danny said.

    "Bloody coward," Steven said as he pushed the dial button. It rang a few times.

    The phone clicked as Layla El-Faouly answered the phone. "Marc, where the hell are you this time? And why has it taken so long for you to call me?"

    "Um, sorry Layla, not Marc right now," Steven said. "Hello."

    "Steven?" Layla asked. "I mean, same questions apply, but why is it you calling and not him?"

    "Because Danny's too much a chicken to dial himself, and Marc's on a bit of a holiday with Jake," Steven said. "Say hello, Danny."

    "Uh…" Danny said. "Hello, Layla."

    "Danny Hebert," Layla said, and she snorted. "Okay. If Marc's not around, can the two of you answer where the hell you are?"

    "Montreal," Steven said. "We uh… Well, mostly Danny, really, but we dealt with a problematic cape for Khonshu."

    "What? Who?"

    "Nikos Vasil," Danny said. "He's experiencing Khonshu's justice now."

    "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Layla said. "Why choose now of all times to call me?"

    "His kids," Steven said. "He has a bunch of children who are capes like him, and… I just don't think it's right that they should be put in the system. But they're too dangerous to go around unchecked. Just… it wouldn't be a good idea for us to be the major influence in their lives."

    "And you want me to, what? Find them homes? Be their mom?" Layla asked. Her voice took on an edge. "Is that what you want, Daniel?"

    "You're the only person we can trust," Danny said. "I trust you to do what's right for the kids."

    Layla cursed quietly. "I'll be there by tomorrow. Where are they staying?"

    "They were at the Montreal Hyatt," Danny said. "But from there, I don't know."

    "I'll be able to find them," Layla said. "But we will be having words, Daniel Hebert. And Marc too, whenever he gets his head out of your collective ass."

    "Of course," Danny said. He just wouldn't be in Montreal when she arrived. Even if he had to knock Steven out to ensure it.

    "Looking forward to seeing you, Layla," Steven said in almost a sing-song.

    "You too, Steven," she said. "Goodbye."

    She hung up, and Danny put the phone in his pocket once more. He knew that Khonshu would be focusing on getting him toward the next target the following night. Which meant that he had perhaps sixteen hours to get out of Montreal before Marc's wife arrived. It wasn't that he didn't want to let her know what was going on, but if she did, she'd want to get involved further. Being an avatar of Taweret did come with certain responsibilities, the same as being an avatar of Khonshu.

    He just needed to be sure those responsibilities kept her away from Brockton Bay. There was no way he was letting any of the gods get near his daughter. She was his wife's Little Owl, but she was his Morning Sun. That couldn't change.

    Even if Layla should have known.

    Shut up Steven.
     
  23. Ronmr

    Ronmr Getting sticky.

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2020
    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    121
    Well!
    He is going to be surprised!
     
    Jaime01 and AsternRumble484 like this.
  24. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2019
    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    11,197
    Oh shit.

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
     
    Jaime01 likes this.
  25. Threadmarks: Crescent 2.1
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    [H1]Crescent 2.1[/H1]


    The day's sunlight filtered through the blinds of my bedroom, which, on any normal day, would bring me to wakefulness. However, this morning, what woke me were two wet tongues repeatedly licking each of my facial cheeks. One tongue was larger than the other, but both eagerly pulled me from my slumber, and I was greeted by the acrid smell of dog breath in the morning. Lightly, I pushed on them both, and my two dogs moved away. I did not giggle at the sight of them, partially because I hadn't really giggled at anything since I was a little kid with Sarah—since I was a little kid, and partially because I still needed to put on my glasses. I did smile at them, however, and as I sat up, I playfully murmured to them, "Morning. Off the bed."

    Both dogs almost immediately backed off slightly as they looked me over. They nudged closer for a second, but at a look, they followed my order. Brutus let out a small whine, and Angelica tried to look a little pitiful, not really a hard task, given the missing eye and ear. I wasn't buying it. The two of them were trained well enough to be able to follow orders and wait. Sure, they probably were hungry, but the food was in the kitchen, where I'd left it last night. I'd get them fed when I went downstairs. I let out a yawn, something immediately copied by both dogs, and then I winced. My chin. A bruise was forming where that asshole had hit me last night.

    I'd… wanted to kill him. Eliminate the threat he represented. It would have been easy, just drive those blades into him. I'd really wanted to seriously hurt him? To stop him from hurting me? To prevent him from doing worse than he already had? All of the above? Yet, I hadn't. I'd stopped myself from using those blades, wherever they came from, from doing worse to him than I had. I'd been the one to do it, right? I stopped me?

    Or… had it been one of the others? More of them? Could they have stopped me? I didn't really understand it, any of it, really. If they weren't real, how could they have stopped me? But if they were? Shouldn't they have been able to stay something out loud? Why wouldn't they have?

    Because they weren't able to? Because I wasn't able to hear them properly? Whatever the reason, I just couldn't figure it out, and I probably needed to before things got worse. Before I was in another situation like that. There was just… It was too much. I could barely handle being me, how could I handle being other people as well?

    Brutus gave a little whine as I stood up, and he nuzzled into my hand. Angelica leaned against my leg so she could reach my other hand, and I couldn't help but smile at them both. "One thing right is you two. Though…"

    I frowned as I looked over their bodies. There were little patches of fur that had been cut and scraped up, one or two patches of blood. I had managed to clean them off some last night, but it was possible that they would need a vet. I wasn't sure I could afford one.

    I could, but it might mean not getting some of the nicer food for a bit. I'd need to check them over properly now that I'd had some sleep. Unfortunately, I really didn't know much about dogs. Except… I remembered looking into them, reading up on them. When had I done that?

    Had I done that? Or had it been someone else who did it, and I just remembered?

    "Rachel," I said softly. "You know about the dogs."

    A feeling of affirmation rose within me. Okay. So that was her. She'd been the one to train the dogs, to take them back to the kennel. Alec had been with Aisha, and Lisa… she'd been doing the research on us. On what was going on with us, and on what was going on with Dad.

    "I don't know how to let you talk," I said. "Any of you. I'd love to let you. So, we could figure things out."

    For a brief moment, my mouth curled up as if I was going to speak. But maybe I was the one doing that, not one of them. How had they managed to communicate with me before? Lisa and Alec both… I knew I'd seen Lisa in the bank, and Alec had been at the school…

    I closed my eyes for a second. Maybe I could force it? I'd… it just would… No. I couldn't just let go. Even if it'd be so easy. There was too much to do today to just let go. Let someone else handle things. But if it helped with the communication… it wouldn't though. I needed something to stop it from happening. Something… I don't know. I had to ground myself.

    Brutus pushed his way against my hand, nosing in. I ran a hand over his head, scratching him behind his ears, and I let out a breath. He and Angelica had to be hungry.

    "So, let's feed the dogs already, damnit," Rachel said. "Stop wasting time."

    "Rachel?" I asked, just to be sure.

    "Downstairs," she barked, and I got the strongest feeling that I should just head down to the kitchen to feed Brutus and Angelica. It made sense to follow that, but I did insist on getting dressed first. A light green blouse and dark slacks with a dark hoodie was enough with my glasses.

    I started for downstairs. But I'd managed to get something out of her. Sure, Alec and Lisa still were quiet, but baby steps. I got something.

    "Come on, you two, let's get you breakfast," I said.

    Angelica barked her agreement, and Brutus chuffed. They escorted me down the stairs, Brutus looking at me a little like I was going to fall over at any moment, while Angelica stayed a few steps ahead of me, never going out of my sight. I wondered just how smart the two dogs were. Then, momentarily, I felt insulted. Obviously, my dogs were smart. No dogs were truly stupid. There weren't really such thing as stupid dogs, just stupid owners.

    "Sorry, Rachel," I said softly as I made it to the landing. I hadn't meant to be insulting toward her at all. Other than the wondering if she really was there. That couldn't really be helped.

    "Brutus, Angelica, heel!" My mouth snapped the moment I saw the two of them start running toward the kitchen. I'd done it on autopilot, similar to how I'd handled them in the kennel. Of course, maybe that had been Rachel.

    They sheepishly came back and stood by my side some more.

    "Good dogs," I said, giving them pets. Rachel had trained them well, and I supposed I had managed to give them their orders that they followed. I adjusted my glasses some as we stepped into the dining room.

    In the kitchen were two people, Aisha and someone I could only identify as her older brother, Brian. Aisha was wearing a cute red silk blouse this morning with another pair of cutoff denim shorts that showed her legs off. Right now, she was barefoot, but I had caught a glimpse of her boots over near the front door. Brian by contrast wore a pair of jeans and a black muscle shirt. It showed off how thick his arms were, and wow, I could tell he worked out. While he looked pretty good to me, Aisha pulled her outfit off much better.

    Brian was working on some food in the kitchen that didn't quite smell as strong as the coffee, but now that I was closer, smelled a bit like eggs and bacon.

    "Oh, you're up," Brian said when he noticed her. "You feeling okay this morning, Alec? After what you went through last night… Wait, you're wearing glasses?"

    I blinked. Had he not met any of the others? Also, his confusion over my glasses was strange. Did Alec not wear the glasses somehow? That didn't seem fair.

    Aisha cackled. "Bro, take a closer look. That's not Alec. She's Taylor, right?"

    I nodded. "Taylor Hebert. You must be Brian Laborn, right?"

    "Uh… yeah," Brian said, and he went back to the eggs. "Wait, I thought your last name was Herbert, not Hebert."

    "No r until close to the end of the name," I said. "We pronounce it the American way too, not the French. He-bert. So, can I ask why you're here?"

    "After the shit that went down last night, Tay?" Aisha asked. "We didn't want to go home super late in case Mom was there, and I wanted to make sure you were going to be okay."

    "I'm fine," I said, and as I approached the counter, Aisha placed a mug of coffee down in front of me. As if on autopilot, I took a sip. For once, I didn't gag as I drank the coffee down. This wasn't the stuff Dad had hidden away, but it tasted… not half-bad. I still preferred tea, but this was drinkable.

    "How much food for the dogs?" Aisha asked. "I mean, I know for Angelica, but we weren't able to bring back Brutus's food."

    At the word food, both started wagging their tails. They were hungry, and… I did know how much to give them.

    "Put twice as much food in Brutus's bowl," I said, the idea coming to mind almost instantaneously. "We'll need to go back and get his food next. He can't keep eating small dog food at his size."

    Where had that come from? I mean, it made sense, given Brutus was a bigger dog. But… had that actually been from Rachel? It felt no different from any thought I would have had otherwise, but I knew I didn't know much about dogs. Plus, she'd spoken up earlier.

    Aisha nodded as she prepared the bowls. When she'd finished pouring the food, Aisha gave her own sharp whistle. "Breakfast, pups."

    Brutus and Angelica looked to me first, but at my nod, they went and dug in.

    I tilted my head slightly and took a sip of coffee as some pride welled up within me. It was surprisingly comfy to be sitting here in the kitchen and watching this. I was able to relax some.

    "You've been paying attention," Rachel said, giving her a nod. Smiles didn't really feel right, even if most people did them. They showed too many teeth. "Good."

    You had to praise people when they did well, the same as dogs. It was the only way to make sure that they kept doing well. I'd do the same for any other one of us, when they needed it.

    Wait. If they needed it? People weren't dogs. No, dogs were better sometimes. That was beside the point. Aisha was a friend, not a dog.

    "Of course," Aisha said. "You're my friend too. Not just Alec."

    See? It still surprised me that she was friends or more with Alec. He was such a shit sometimes. Yes, there were times when he wasn't as much of a shit, but he still was sometimes.

    Wait. Or more? What did I mean, or more? I'd woken up snuggled next to her last night, but that didn't mean anything.

    I shrugged and took another sip out of the coffee mug and made a face. The fuck was this? I gave Aisha a sharp look. Well, maybe that was Rachel. I helped.

    "What?"

    I looked down at the cup and back to her. "Why—the fuck—did you pick this?"

    Did Rachel just interrupt my question just to add that to me asking about the coffee? I didn't know that was possible. Of course, there was a lot about everything I didn't know. To be fair, I didn't know that we both could be up front at the same time.

    "Alec likes his coffee like that," Aisha said. "It's his coffee that I found in the cabinet. A French Colombian Roast."

    I got an innate urge to somehow find a way to beat Alec up without hurting myself. That one, I was going to blame on Rachel, even if I agreed with the sentiment. "Tea's better."

    "Water's good," Rachel said. "Tea's weird."

    Aisha gave me a look before shrugging. "I don't know everything you like in the morning. I do know Alec better than I know the rest of you."

    She did have a point there. Even if she considered herself a friend to… each of us, she wasn't extremely close to any of us other than him. Possibly more than just friends.

    "You keep talking about Alec," Brian said. "But you said she wasn't Alec. Just to confirm, she is a she, right?"

    "Pretty sure," Aisha said. "She hasn't corrected me on that. What do you say, Taylor? What do you prefer?"

    "I'm a girl," I said. "So is Rachel. And Lisa."

    Aisha nodded. "See, Brian?" She skipped around the counter and came over to give me a hug, which I felt myself happily returning. "Girl. Alec's a guy."

    "But she looks just like him," Brian said. "Sorry, Taylor, but you really do. And why were you talking to yourself?"

    "It's… complicated," I said.

    "Alec, Rachel, Taylor, and Lisa are all in this noggin," Aisha said, tapping my head with one of her hands.

    "Apparently not that complicated," I muttered, a flash of annoyance passing through me. "You don't have to share that with everyone."

    "Sorry, Tay," Aisha said in a tone that I knew meant she wasn't really all that sorry after all. "But it was going to keep eating him up inside the whole time."

    "Oh," Brian said, giving me a strange look. "So, there's four of you in there… Just four, right? Not Fourteen?"

    "What are you asking?" I asked. A chill went down my spine at the thought, and instead of Rachel, I felt a senses of curiosity. Like I needed to study him, figure out how he ticked. He was getting at something, and I needed to know what specifically it was.

    He shook his head. "No screaming, right? None of them telling you to do something you wouldn't normally do? Trying to get you to hurt people?"

    Oh, that's what he was getting at. A large part of me was affronted. Actually, scratch that. All of me was affronted.

    "I'm not the Butcher," I said. "I don't even have powers."

    No, having multiple personalities did not count as a superpower. Multiple people in my head meant that I had to deal with multiple conflicting wants and desires and even memories. There were many others like us out there, I knew, from the research I did.

    Wait. Research I did? I didn't remember doing any research. Well, it must have been from one of the times I went to the library and wasn't paying attention. Wait. Was it Lisa that did the research?

    Got it in one, kiddo.

    "That's bullshit," Brian said. "You produced those blades that you used on that Empire douchebag to help you get away."

    He had a point. Most people weren't able to summon disappearing blades. Then again, there was that voice I'd heard. It seemed crazy at the time, but… I had been desperate.

    "I offered a prayer to the Egyptian god of the night sky," I said with a shrug. Then I grasped a bit for a better explanation. "Look, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but isn't summoning weapons Miss Militia's thing anyway? I'm clearly not Miss Militia."

    "I don't know," Aisha said. "You're definitely close in skin tone."

    "She's older than me," I said, giving Aisha a withering look. "She was in the Wards before you and I were born."

    Aisha cackled and just gave me another hug. It felt nice. I'd missed something like this. With Sarah, it hadn't been quite the same as with Emma, but I'd missed it too. I hadn't even realized just how much I had been missing that.

    "So, what, you're saying a god helped you out?" Brian asked. "That's a little farfetched."

    I gave him a funny look, and I got the feeling of a request for permission. It wasn't Rachel. Rachel had spoken up earlier because we had been focused on the dogs, but now?

    "We don't have powers, Brian, like she said," someone said using my mouth. The tone was amicable but smart and familiar. Sarah… no, Lisa. She was Lisa now. Lisa was the one speaking. "I'm not sure how we managed to have two encounters like that in one night. But if the gods are real, there should be other evidence to it, right?"

    "I… what?" Brian asked. "Look, if you're a cape, I can keep it secret."

    "There's no powers here," I said, insistent.

    "None at all," Lisa added. It was strange that both Lisa and Rachel had been able to speak now when I was having so much trouble trying to let them do so earlier. Was it because I was more relaxed thanks to the familiarity of the breakfast smells? To Alec's coffee that… Rachel hadn't really enjoyed, but I could tell Lisa was okay with? With the gods thing, was I cracking up? The weapons had been real. But I didn't think they came from me. What about Alec, Rachel, and Lisa? Did they really exist? I mean, I clearly knew they existed in some way. They were able to talk, after all, and they did have their own memories somewhat separated from my own. But were they truly separated from me? Their own people? How did that even work? How would it work? What would be fair to everyone? It was my life, but… if they were real? If they were separate people, wasn't it also theirs? I might have been here first, but Sarah… no, Lisa, she'd been there with me a long time ago.

    She'd helped me, even when Mom said she was imaginary. Even when I believed she was imaginary. I still sort of believed that. But were they really? I knew they felt real. And one thing they didn't want me to be was alone.

    Brian shook his head, but then he seemed to want to change the subject. "Don't worry about school today. Aisha had me call Winslow and pretend to be your father. It's like that principal hasn't met him before."

    "She hasn't," I said, shaking my head. "Dad… he's usually out of town. Blackwell wasn't there when he enrolled me in Winslow, and neither was most of the staff. Some conference or another."

    "That… explains some things," Brian said. "Aisha and I heard that message last night, Bushman?"

    "Dad's friend, right," I said, frowning. I thought I'd known most of Dad's friends. Then again, he had come to Brockton Bay from out of town. Plus, there was the fact that his records were odd. There was a lot in the research that just didn't add up. But this person might be able to help. "Might look him up today, since I'm not going to school."

    "I'm coming with you," Aisha said. I gave her an incredulous look. It wasn't that the company would be unappreciated, but if it was dangerous… Not that I had reason to believe it would be, but there was a point to being cautious.

    "Is your homework done?" Brian asked as he plated up some food, placing some in front of each of us. I suspected that he didn't want to have Aisha risk herself, even for me. Even if there was no evidence of a risk.

    Aisha pouted and stuffed a strip of bacon in her mouth. Clearly, she hadn't quite finished her homework yet and was trying to hide that fact. The reaction was a little funny.

    "Mine won't take long," I said, assuring Brian. "And I can help with Aisha's when I get back."

    "When we get back," Aisha said, placing a hand on mine.

    "Good enough," Brian said with a sigh. "I've got another job tonight to go to."

    "What do you do for work, Brian?" I asked. Though, I suppose I had my suspicions.

    "He probably works as Grue," Lisa said, speaking up again. She gave him a wide, smug grin that settled on our face. I could feel the pride she had at figuring it out. The logical connections made some sense, but I wasn't sure she was right. She then tilted our head, without losing the grin. "Sorry, was that not supposed to be obvious after last night's save? You even mentioned the blades, which we definitely didn't have out around you, just him. Personally, I don't care if you're a hero or a villain. You helped us out against the Empire, and you're Aisha's brother."

    Brian looked at me… us with confusion on his face. I did get some smug satisfaction from him looking at us like that. Or maybe that was Lisa. Both of us? "What? How do you go from asking me what I do to that?"

    "She didn't ask you about it, Brian," I said, emphasizing that it wasn't me who spoke. "I did. She has a different voice than me. She was right though, wasn't she? You're Grue?"

    "He totally is," Aisha said. Bless that girl. "Though I don't think he knew I knew before today. He's a little dense like that, Taylor."

    "Wait, you're saying that you weren't the one who spoke up there," Brian said, gesturing to me.

    "By me, you mean me," I said. "Taylor, not Lisa, right?"

    "Wait. Who's Lisa?" Brian asked.

    "Seriously?" I asked.

    "Aisha told you that Taylor shares her head with me, Rachel and Alec, a bit ago, and you even compared us to the freaking Butcher!" Lisa crossed our arms. "It's not a good look on you, Brian. You still did help though."

    Yeah. We weren't the Butcher. We were nothing like the Butcher. I didn't hear them screaming in my head like that cape supposedly had. The damn cape did so much horrible stuff for people like us. Wait. People like us? Well, I'd done some research into our situation. The Butcher and some other cape stuff came up, but there were other things. People without powers. Oh. That made some sense, but it was strange. When did I do the research?

    At the library, of course. Maybe I hadn't been fully aware. Likely.

    Brian raised his hands. "Sorry, sorry… you have to understand I don't really have much context for this sort of thing. You said there's four of you in there."

    "That we know of," Lisa said.

    Wait. Were there more in there? It didn't seem like there were, but Khepri did show up. Yeah, but he was a god. Wasn't he? Based on the Khonshu thing, probably.

    "I… guess that might explain some things about Alec," Brian said, mostly to himself.

    And what was that supposed to mean? A part of me felt largely insulted by that. Rather than having Alec rush forward like Lisa and Rachel had and having him ask the question, I decided I'd speak up before he could get the chance to. "What do you mean by that?"

    "Just… Alec's been good for Aisha, but he seemed a little bit clueless about some things. I thought it was a lack of a good male role model for someone clearly trans, but…" Brian trailed off, looking at me. "Well, he helped out, so I helped out."

    I… really wasn't entirely sure what he meant by that. Well, I supposed that I didn't know much about male fashion and what would look good on me if I were to dress that way. I didn't, at first, anyway. Brian helped out with that, sure. And he knew a lot about video games. That… huh. Guess that made some sense.

    I sipped the coffee again, this time practically savoring it as I felt Alec's approach. If this was his favorite flavor of coffee, I'd lean into it while drinking it. He deserved some time, since the others had it. Maybe instead of doing the dual thing, what I'd done with the other two, I could figure out a way to switch with him. The others had managed to say their piece this morning. Didn't Alec deserve his shot? I… right now, I was just wanting to let him go ahead and do it. I just didn't know how.

    It's called stopping being a dork, dork. Well, that wasn't exactly a good explanation, but I took another sip of the coffee and gave a smirk to Aisha. "Thank you, ever so much, Bri-bri."

    Aisha stifled a giggle with another slice of bacon. Clearly she knew how funny I was. The rest of them were all philistines. Well, I didn't exactly find it super funny. Thus being a philistine, dork. It was a little different being out as me with her still paying attention, but I'd roll with it. Taylor was a bit dissociated right now, but it was less than normal. Which was fine. Everything was fine.

    "You weren't bleeding last night, were you?" I asked, pitching my voice appropriately. Because Brian knew me better. "Because one thing I do not want to try to do is make the dork explain why there's blood on the couch the way you had Aisha explain to her mom. Should have guessed you were Grue then, but I really didn't care."

    Seeing him come into Aisha's place with a seeping gut wound was definitely awkward. He bled all over the nice couch they had, and almost all over my clothes as I helped with the first aid.

    Wait. Bleeding from his stomach? How'd it happen?

    Heck if I knew. We got him patched up enough that he was able to go see a doctor without questions being raised. Luckily Aisha's mom was out getting high or there'd be more questions.

    "No, Alec, the only ones bleeding last night were you and the dogs," Brian said, giving me a pointed look. Oh good, he recognized me. Still…

    I grimaced, rubbing my chin. The bruises there were painful, and I especially felt it right now. Less so when I wasn't the one in charge. Neither the dork nor Rachel were killers, and I wanted to keep them that way as long as possible. Lisa and I managed to hold them back. Things were probably simpler when we weren't all paying attention at the same time, when the dork wasn't. But it wasn't fair to any of us, especially her. She didn't know what was going on.

    I still didn't. This was a new experience, and a little disquieting. But if it was like this for them all the time… they needed their time out.

    It wasn't like that all the time. Most of the time the dork got to ignore it. We did too, unless we were out. But after last night, we needed to be aware. If the gods were real, and they wanted us, we needed to be aware.

    "Everything okay?" Aisha asked. "Wanted to see you this morning, Alec."

    "I wanted to see you too," I said, cupping her cheek and rubbing it with my thumb. "You even made my coffee for me."

    "Of course, I did, Alec," Aisha said with that smile that looked so good on her. "Why wouldn't I?"

    I nodded and gave a surreptitious glance to her brother. I debated with myself about doing what I wanted, but Aisha had been so good to all of us. Lisa and Rachel almost certainly knew this already, or at lest they suspected. I wasn't sure Taylor knew or even if she realized.

    Rachel had mentioned the or more. What was the "or more," Alec? I mean, Aisha was a pretty girl, but… what was the "or more?"

    I decided to just show her rather than argue, and I leaned forward, kissing Aisha in a familiar, pleasant manner. Oh, it was nice to kiss my girlfriend.

    "Hey!" Brian said. "You know I'm right here, right? I really don't want to be watching that."

    His words jolted through me, and I pulled away from Aisha, a little disoriented. Had I? Had he? Wait… why did I feel so tired? What? I still kind of… what?

    "Alec, are you okay?" Aisha asked. Then she looked closer at me, specifically at my eyes. What was she looking at my eyes for? "Wait. Taylor?"

    I held up a hand, swallowing. What the Hell? "Aisha." I tried to compose myself. Think about the words I wanted to use. "Aisha. You. Alec. What?"

    That wasn't quite right.

    "What, what?" Aisha asked. "The kiss?"

    "How long?" I asked.

    Aisha reached out and grabbed the hand that I had outstretched with both of hers. She stroked the top of my hand in a comforting manner. "Technically, Taylor, we're not actually dating. Not officially yet anyway. We've just had some fun together. Mostly. I know that you all are figuring your shit out right now. I know you aren't him, and neither are Rachel or Lisa. All I want from you is your friendship. Could it be something more eventually? Maybe, I don't know. Alec's the one I like in that way, but you all do have the same body. You're just different people. I mean, I know you just found this stuff out, but I've been paying attention to you guys for a while. It has to be confusing for you."

    "Wait. Taylor just found out she has other people in her head?" Brian asked, clearly incredulous.

    Immediately, I shifted over to the side and gave him a strong glare. His attitude sucked. "If you aren't going to be helpful, Brian…"

    Intentionally, I tried to imitate the tone Rachel used. It seemed appropriate for the situation. "Fuck off. Go home, be Grue, whatever. Stop talking so much."

    Well, maybe that last part really did come from Rachel, even if she wasn't really up the way things were. I got the impression she didn't like a lot of talking. Though, to be fair, neither did I.

    "Thank you for breakfast though," I said.

    "Yeah," Brian said, looking at me oddly. "Clearly, you have some things you need to work out. Aisha, do you need a ride?"

    "I'll stay with her," Aisha said. "Go take care of your shit, Bri."

    "Yeah, Bri-Bri, take care of things," Alec said, smirking and making a shooing motion with our hand. That definitely was him, but he was doing what Lisa and Rachel had earlier rather than the full switch that we'd done that let him kiss Aisha. Did it really matter if he was imaginary or not? He was real enough for Aisha… what did that mean for the others? "The five of us need to talk."

    Brian looked at us like we were crazy. Very briefly, a part of me wondered if that might be true. But the larger part of me knew it wasn't. Well, I might have had some mental issues, but the multiple people in my head weren't necessarily one of them. "Fine. I'll be back. I'll bring some dinner later."

    I gave a nod, and he left the kitchen, heading for the front door. A few seconds later, I heard the door open and shut, indicating he'd left. Then I heard a loud curse and a cracking sound. He'd stepped on the broken step out front. Fun.

    Once he was out the door, Aisha turned to me. "Since neither of us have to go to Shitslow today, and I know you're trying to work some things out… what do you want to do?"

    I frowned and looked between her, my dogs, the answering machine and the door. I knew Alec and Rachel both probably would want to do something with either Aisha or the dogs themselves. Depending on which of them I asked, if I could figure out how to just ask them. That kiss certainly wasn't their first together, even if it had felt nice. It almost felt like it was me doing it, even if it really had been him. Maybe it had been both of us, given the body was still me.

    Still though, there was one thing that ate at me, and I knew it ate at Lisa's curiosity as well. "Mister Bushman. I think I need to find out what he knows."

    "I've got your back," Aisha said. "Wherever and whatever."

    I nodded, smiling at her. Hopefully we'd go to a place that allowed dogs. That'd help all of me be happy.

    But just who was Raul Bushman anyway? And how did he know Dad?
     
  26. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2019
    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    11,197
    Hmm, it's really hard to write narrative fiction for someone who shares a body with other people without being aware of it, but you pull it off masterfully.
     
  27. ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    I have a lot of help. This fic easily is the one I've done the most research for. From going to sites about plural people, to Egyptology research to research into Marvel stuff itself, I've done a lot.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Crescent 2.2
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    [H1]Crescent 2.2[/H1]


    The Radisson Boardwalk Hotel surprisingly, wasn't actually on the Boardwalk itself. Instead, it was located a little over half a mile from the shopping area, and it bordered on some shops that catered mostly to fairly rich set of clienteles. I'd been by them once or twice to just peer in, but it didn't seem like Aisha had, from how eager she was to look in the windows as we passed. Some of the people in the shops gave a smile or two at her eagerness, and a couple of the workers gave polite nods.

    "How much do you think some of that stuff is, Taylor?" Aisha asked as we passed another shop on our way to the Radisson. It was kind of cute.

    "Honestly? Probably runs anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on what you get there. Nicer fabrics will run you toward the thousand-dollar range, but you can get similar effects with some of the cheaper ones. Where they really get you are the accessories. Each dress has to have something that goes with it, matching it, for whatever event you wear it at," I said. That was a very detailed answer to a question I was not entirely sure that I should have known the answer to. Maybe I had been paying attention when Emma went into those sorts of things when she hung out. The strangest things could trigger memories, I suppose.

    "Huh. Learn more about someone every day," Aisha said. "Wouldn't have pictured you to know that much about fashion."

    I shrugged. "My ex-best friend is an amateur model. I picked up some things from hanging out with her when we were younger, and I guess that some of it stuck." The memory seemed fresher than I would have expected, but that didn't mean anything. Alec had apparently needed help with men's clothes, and Rachel didn't really seem like she cared all that much.

    Lisa might. It wasn't wrong to want to look good. Okay, make that she did care about that, but that didn't mean those words came from her. They definitely came from me, not her. I was pretty sure about that, anyway. Process of elimination. If not from Lisa, Alec or Rachel, they had to come from me.

    Okay, I needed to stop arguing with myself. Or whoever was arguing with me. We were coming up on the Radisson, and Aisha was poking me in the side. "—lor we're here. You were the one who wanted to do this, so where are we going?"

    "Mr. Bushman said that he'd be waiting in the lobby, wearing a red beret. I told him that we'd show up around 11:30, and he offered to buy us some lunch," I said. It still felt a little off to me, but this guy was one of the best chances we had to find out anything about Dad. He said he knew him and that Dad wasn't what we thought he was.

    I wasn't sure if it was the right idea to go here, but at least meeting him in the lobby was a public area. Lunch could be at a nearby restaurant, which also would be public. It seemed like the safest option. I doubted that any friend of Dad's would do anything to harm us, but I wasn't so sure he was Dad's friend.

    "What kind of last name is that, anyway?" Aisha asked. "Bushman. It almost sounds like a lame cape name. Beware, Bush Man! With the power to… shake bushes!"

    I snorted. "Don't forget the sidekick, Tree Lad. With the power to climb trees."

    "Sounds like something that'd be on those old Mouse Protector cartoons," she said with a wicked grin. She then gave me a curious look. "So, Taylor, any idea how we should handle this, or should it be someone else?"

    "He's expecting Taylor," Lisa said. Apparently she'd been paying attention. Of course, she had. I'd been wanting to look into more about Dad, and we were close to getting it. It was possible there were threats. "So, she's going to have to take point. I'm not quite as practiced at imitating her."

    "You imitated me?" I asked, and if I could, I'd give her a sharp look. Instead, I just cocked an eyebrow.

    "Later. We need to focus on this now. I'll be paying attention to what I can though, and I'll try to get things across," Lisa said. "Sorry that I can't get them to you too, Aisha, but you should keep an eye open."

    Aisha nodded. "You're eager to meet this guy, but are paranoid about him…"

    I shrugged. "How come Dad never mentioned him? There has to be a reason."

    "And Taylor's mom never did either," Lisa said. I guess Mom calling her imaginary still ate at her. I… wasn't entirely sure Mom was wrong, but even if she was imaginary, she was still there, nonetheless. Handling things like this, our whole situation… I felt we needed to understand. The god thing would be nice too. "Trust is earned, Aisha."

    "But we do have to at least give him a chance to earn it," I said. "If our computer was better, I'd have looked him up before this, but… it felt like there was a timetable here…"

    "Right," Aisha said. "Well, I do have your back. Can't let anything bad happen to you. Alec would never let me hear the end of it."

    I snorted. The reverse was far more true. Especially now that I knew what I did about their relationship. I still wasn't sure how I felt about that other than the fact that the kiss felt nice.

    "His name's still weird though," Aisha said. "Isn't Bushman some sort of derogatory name for people from Africa?"

    I shrugged. "Might be a pseudonym?"

    "Could be," Lisa added, quietly. "Or it could be his real name. I hadn't had the chance to look into him yet."

    "Guess you can do that later," Aisha said.

    I glanced toward the door. Well, it was now or never. "Game faces on…"

    "You mean acting like normal girls?" Aisha asked.

    I nodded, and the two of us entered the lobby of the Radisson. The bougie doorman gave us a funny look, given our clothes and age, but he didn't seem to have any of the hate I'd come to associate with the standard "you don't belong here" look. The hotel was one of the nicer ones in the area, and it was evidenced by the lobby.

    It was a fancy hotel with a restaurant inside, and the nice tile lined the floor, all yellows and whites. It reminded me a little of sand. Then I saw him.

    Even if Raul Bushman hadn't been wearing the red beret, somehow I was certain I'd identify him. The man was tall, somewhere on the higher end of six feet, broad shouldered, and dark-skinned. His hair was buzzed off, and he wore a set of camo pants with a tanned silk shirt and a camo jacket. I noted under the jacket was a pair of lumps, one larger and one smaller. The larger one was too large to be any sort of weapon, but perhaps it was some sort of documentation.

    "Taylor?" Mr. Bushman asked as he saw me and Aisha walk in. His voice had a rich bass to it that matched with what I figured would come out his mouth. "Taylor Hebert?"

    I nodded.

    "Come here, girl," Mr. Bushman said with a wide grin. He opened his muscular arms wide, and when I approached, albeit stopping far enough away that he couldn't hug me, he continued jovially. "It's good to finally meet you. You're the spitting image of your dad."

    "Thank you," I said. "Not really big on hugs from strangers, sorry…"

    "Oh, no worries. But believe me, we won't be strangers long. Your father and I go way back," Mr. Bushman said. "But we can talk about that later. Who is this?"

    "I'm Aisha," she said. "Taylor's friend. We didn't really know what to expect."

    "I bet," he said, and I could hear the slight accent in his voice. I had no clue where he'd originally come from, but it was likely that he was either from somewhere in the Caribbean or Western Africa. "So, if you're hungry, the hotel's restaurant is pretty good, but if you can wait, we can talk in a meeting room here and then go get something. Actually… I would recommend eating first."

    "Why?" Aisha asked.

    "You may not be hungry after you hear what I have to say," Mr. Bushman said. "You deserve to know the information, but it may ruin your appetite."

    "I'm not really worried about eating," I said. "I came here for the information you had, more than anything else, Mr. Bushman."

    "Do you know where your father is?" he asked. "And you can just call me Bushman. Most people do, even your father."

    I shook my head. "He might be heading to Canada, but I couldn't tell you from where or for why or even for how long he'll be there."

    "That's fine," he said. "Are you comfortable meeting in one of the meeting rooms here? There's an office space not too far from where we are."

    "If Aisha comes with," I said.

    "While I'm okay sharing this information, it is about your father, Taylor," Bushman said. "Are you sure you want her along to find it out?"

    "I can handle it, and I'm her backup," Aisha said. "Emotional support and whatnot."

    "I'm okay with her finding out whatever," I said. Even if I felt really uncomfortable following this man anywhere. Something about him just set my teeth on edge.

    He's got information about Dad. But the question is how much of it is the truth? Well, there's no way of finding out what he knows without finding out what he knows. But if he's trying to get us alone for some reason… to find out the information? What did he mean about losing appetite? What exactly are we going to be looking at?

    "That said… do you have any proof that you know my father?" I asked.

    "That I can go ahead and show you now," Bushman said, and he reached into his pants to pull out his wallet. He opened the wallet and flicked through it before pulling out a picture. He flipped it around to show us, and in the picture was a man that looked a lot like a younger version of Dad, dressed in military fatigues.

    While he looked a lot like some of the older pictures of Dad I'd seen, something seemed off about the picture that Bushman held. Close up on him, that wasn't Dad. It could maybe have been his brother, but I didn't think it was Dad. Still though, Bushman was sure this meant he knew him. Maybe it would be worth humoring him?

    But he showed us a picture of someone not Dad while claiming to be Dad's friend. Of course, it was possible that Dad might have his own version of what we were going through. It was a wild theory, but it might have been true. If it was, the man in the photo could have been Dad. Just another part of him instead of the Dad we knew.

    "That looks like him," Aisha said, and grimacing, I had to agree for now. I didn't want to tip off anything. There really was no way of knowing for certain without him here.

    "I suppose that could be Dad," I said. "But it's an old picture."

    "Yes, I suppose it is," Bushman said. "It's from around when your father joined the Marine Corps, back in the late 80s. I was his commanding officer, helped him out."

    I supposed Dad being an ex-marine made some sense, given his physique. However, he certainly didn't act like I expected a marine to act. Of course, if he were another part of someone else… then why wouldn't he have said something when Mom told me Sarah was imaginary? Maybe he believed it too? Didn't think that I could have someone like her?

    Honestly, I still wasn't sure Mom was wrong, but Lisa was there now. She was paying attention now. And the indignation that came from the thought of Dad being like us and still going along with her being imaginary wasn't just from me. Such an asshole. Wait. I wasn't even sure he necessarily was like us. But if he was, he was an asshole. Maybe he had good reason to go along with Mom. She was an asshole too. No, she wasn't, but she might not have been operating on full knowledge. It's possible she was just wrong. Being wrong doesn't make her an asshole.

    This guy might be though. Well, yes, that might be true, but so far, all he'd done was show us a picture and tell us that Dad was in the marines. Didn't mean he wasn't an asshole. Okay. Seriously, stuck on a word much?

    "So, he served in the marines," I said. "Never really came up…"

    "I expect it wouldn't," Bushman said. "We can discuss further in private, though."

    I glanced to Aisha.

    "Your call, Tay," she said quietly. "Or… well, y'know."

    I frowned, closing my eyes for a second. Right now, he hadn't done anything that had completely earned distrust, but something about him just felt off. I couldn't quite place what, but his smile didn't quite reach his eyes. Those eyes were cold, calculating, and I didn't really know what that meant.

    Well, I had an idea, but until proven otherwise, the idea wasn't necessarily accurate. While I trusted my instincts, the desire to hear what information he had won out. This was probably a bad idea. He still had information we needed to hear. When it went south, I'd deal with the consequences then. Well, maybe I wouldn't be too smug about it.

    Maybe. Wait. Who would be smug?

    Two names overlapped echoing in my mind. Lisa and Alec, somehow at the same time. Not the time. This was not the time to argue with ourselves.

    "Okay, we can go into the office, if it's open." I gestured for him to lead. "There's people who know where we are and what we're doing…"

    "Good," Bushman said as he started to lead the way. "That is a very good way to look at things, especially with your father being who he really is."

    He made his way to one of the small conference offices that the hotels had reserved for their guests, and he opened the door. Inside was a relatively small conference table, and Bushman intentionally walked to the other side of it and sat down, facing the door. He gestured for Aisha and me to take a seat across the table from him, allowing us easy access to the door behind us.

    Clearly, he wanted us to seem comfortable. Or maybe he was genuine. For now. The smile he had still didn't reach his eyes, but something about his expression had softened a little.

    I pulled out Aisha's seat for her on autopilot, and she sat down, letting me push her in before I took a seat myself. The door closed automatically behind us. "Okay, so, you mentioned that Dad was a marine, under your command. And you said that it was understandable why he might not have mentioned it to me."

    "Well, yes," Bushman said. "Now, some of this story I only have second-hand. I retired from the military a few years after your father joined my command, and I formed my own private military company."

    Private military company. Wasn't that a politically correct way to say he was a mercenary? Soldier of fortune? Wait, when did I look that one up? Another time while looking into Dad. Why did I look that one up? It was a possible explanation for why Dad had so many postmarks on his letters. It didn't make a whole lot of sense unless he was deliberately trying to obscure where he was from either us or someone else trying to read his mail. And that was linked to mercenaries how? Well, it was a bit of a theory as to why he might have enemies to hide where he was sending from. So, Dad still was a mercenary? Maybe.

    "You mean you made a merc company?" Aisha asked. When I looked over to her, she smirked. "I pay attention in Gladly's class sometimes."

    "If you wish to be crass, yes," Bushman said. "A mercenary company, or group. We were often hired as protection for varying archaeological groups or as support for the military. But we'll come back to that in a bit."

    "So, Dad worked for you after he got out of the military then?" I asked.

    "Yes," Bushman said. "But you won't find any records of Daniel Hebert in the military. The name he joined under was Marc Spector."

    "Marc Spector," I said, giving a skeptical look. The name sounded… well, it wasn't that bad, but it was a strange one. Danny Hebert not being Dad's original name did match with the finding that his birth certificate was a fake. While I had suspected that he had either changed his name and created a new identity, that combined with the picture… Maybe he had a situation similar to me, after all.

    That asshole.

    If he'd recognized the signs, maybe he or they could have sat down with us to explain it. To make it better, to help us understand it. But maybe he hadn't? I wanted to give Dad the benefit of the doubt. He had been gone a lot, and maybe Mom hadn't talked to him about it. Maybe he genuinely thought Sarah was imaginary, or maybe he thought that she was one of my friends he hadn't met. I certainly spoke about her as if she was as real as Emma.

    I mean, she was as real as Emma, but Mom said she was imaginary. And I believed her. I wasn't sure whether I still did or not.

    "Yes, Marc Spector, a man who was dishonorably discharged from the military after he went AWOL for a bit in a fugue state," Bushman said. "Likely did a lot more during said fugue state too, but that was all the records said and what Marc told me when he joined my company. I haven't quite managed to piece together everything he did then."

    Fugue state added another point to the like us column. That could easily describe what Lisa had called me being dissociative. But it still didn't prove anything. The man in the picture could easily just have been a relative of Dad's instead. I mean, it totally was Dad's body, even if it wasn't Dad in the driver's seat. Probably. He held himself different in the picture than Dad would though. Which again pointed to the like us thing.

    That asshole.

    "Okay," I said. "So, Dad was a mercenary named Marc Spector, but now he's the contracts and hiring manager for the Dockworkers Association here in Brockton Bay, going to external sites for contracts."

    "If only that were true," Bushman said. "He was a good employee of mine for several years. Followed orders, did what was necessary. He protected our clients the way he needed to. Except… when we were hired by a group of archeologists in Egypt to guard their dig site, something happened."

    "What happened?" Aisha asked.

    "You sure you're okay with her seeing this, kid?" Bushman asked. "It isn't pretty, and it doesn't paint your father in a good light."

    "Seeing?"

    He pulled a folder out from within his jacket. "Seeing."

    "Aisha's a close friend," I said. "She can handle it. What happened?"

    "I'm not sure, exactly," Bushman said. "One second, we were guarding them, afraid any rebels nearby might show up, and the next, Marc started screaming about the Guardian of the Night or some shit. He gunned down every last one of them."

    He opened the folder and spread out several pictures of dead men. Clearly, they were executed by someone, and the person that Bushman claimed did it was my father. Well. He claimed Marc Spector did it. I knew Marc wasn't Danny. It was obvious from the pictures, but somehow something felt off about this.

    "What were you doing during this?" I asked. "You were his CO."

    "I tried to stop him," Bushman said, his voice low and steady. "He was crazed. It was like he had turned into a cape… I even shot him, trying to put him down so he couldn't hurt anyone else."

    "You shot her dad? Must have been a shit shot if he was well enough to have Tay," Aisha said.

    Bushman shook his head. "He must have gotten powers around then… I don't remember much of what happened next, but I next heard of him showing up in a few random places around the world."

    He put out more pictures. Each one had a dead body, and each one had a date and location on the bottom of it. "And everywhere Marc showed up and left, someone showed up dead."

    I only gave cursory glances to the dead bodies. He didn't offer any proof that this Marc guy was the killer, and he seemed very interested in making us believe it. I wasn't sure how he'd acquired the second set of pictures, but judging from where they were, they were crime scene photographs. Which meant he likely acquired them in extralegal ways.

    "When I found out he'd changed his name to Danny Hebert, after a brief stint as Steven Grant in the UK, I did some more looking," Bushman said. "Imagine my surprise when I find out he's got a daughter. I'm really sorry to shatter your mental image of him, but… it seems like my old friend might be a killer."

    Wait. Steven. That name seemed familiar. Uncle Steven? He was at Mom's funeral for a bit while Dad was off dealing with other things. If Marc was Dad, and Marc was Steven, that meant that Uncle Steven was Dad.

    That asshole.

    I didn't buy the murder story for a minute, or at least I suspected there was more to it than what Bushman was telling us. What if there wasn't, though? What if the reason Dad was away so often was that Bushman told the truth? He was a murderer… It could be plausible, but then that Guardian of the Night thing happened. The God of the Night Sky had been prompting us… to try and kill that Empire member.

    Khosnu… Khonshu… whichever spelling was accurate, he'd wanted the Empire guy dead. I had wanted it too, but I managed to stop myself. Well, we managed to stop me? I'm not sure about the proper phrasing.

    Dork.

    "I'm… not saying I believe you," I said, pushing the pictures on the table together and putting them back in the folder. "But I'm not saying you're necessarily lying… why come to Brockton Bay and tell me? Why specifically seek me out?"

    "Because you might need protection," Bushman said. "And if any part of my old friend is left in that noggin of his, he'd want to make sure that his daughter is safe. You aren't, not with your father not in the custody of the PRT. You sure as shit aren't here in this town full of Nazis. You deserve safety, kiddo."

    He pulled out his phone to check it, and then he shook his head. "But… it has to be your choice. I have a safe place I can take you and your friend, but I won't take you against your will. I do understand if you're not hungry anymore after seeing what you saw here."

    The phone. It was a little weird for him to check his phone during a meeting, but it wasn't unusual. Maybe he was expecting a message or was checking the time. Maybe he had an addiction to something. It wasn't like it applied to me. I wasn't all that interesting.

    Bite your tongue. I was not going to bite my tongue over that. But I had three other people in my head besides me, and Aisha found at least one of them interesting. But that didn't mean I was interesting. That's stupid. I was totally interesting, and at least some of me thought that. Not that it directly applied to what was going on here. But Bushman checked his phone during a conversation with me. Clearly, I wasn't interesting enough to hold his attention.

    "No offense, Mr. Bushman," Aisha said. "But… I think Tay needs some time to process. If you're still good about that lunch, maybe you could give us cash so the two of us could go to Fuglies while she does?"

    "Not Fuglies," Lisa said, and I let her. I still was reeling as I went over some of the possibilities. She didn't quite take on her normal pitch, but I knew it was her this time. Even if she sounded like me. "We can go somewhere else. You gave us a lot to think about, Mr. Bushman. Do you have a way of contacting you beyond the hotel in case we do actually get into trouble?"

    "Of course," Bushman said, and he gave me his card. Lisa took it and put it in my hoodie's pocket. He then reached into his wallet and pulled three twenties out. "And for your time today, kiddo. Take your girl somewhere she might like."

    "Oh, we're not together, Mr. Bushman," Aisha said. "Just friends."

    "Yeah," Lisa echoed as she took the money from him as well. "Thanks."

    Aisha and I stood, and we left the room. The two of us power walked out of the hotel proper, and we started on our way toward the Boardwalk.

    "So," Aisha said once we were outside. "Your Dad might be a serial killer… or a mass murderer… Almost makes me feel better about Mom just being a junkie."

    "One, it's okay to not like that last bit," Lisa said. "Two, Raul Bushman is a liar. I couldn't tell about what, exactly, but he was lying at least part of the time."

    "You sure you're not saying that because it's Dad?" I asked, speaking up.

    "Of course not," Lisa said. "Dad's an asshole, but he's our asshole. He's not a murderer." Her voice grew small. "He can't be."

    I echoed her, in a similar tone. "He can't be."

    Aisha placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. "Lisa, Taylor, even if he is, you probably need to know."

    Which meant we needed to do more research. And our home internet was shit. "Guess we're going to the library."

    To look up records on people as little as three months dead. And to look up an ex-marine named Marc Spector. Who, in all likelihood was like us.

    That asshole.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2022
  29. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2019
    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    11,197
    This seems likely, especially if he wasn't around a lot. From his perspective, Taylor had a friend named Sarah, until one day they grew apart. The Annette thing could have happened while he was away, and she just never mentioned it because she was hoping it was a one-time thing. After all, if it turned out to not be a one-time thing, that would mean Taylor had DID, which is something no mother wants to contemplate. The idea of a parent ignoring an issue and pretending it doesn't exist because they don't want to believe it is unfortunately common even with the best parents.
     
    Jaime01 and Doccer like this.
  30. Threadmarks: Crescent 2.3
    ellf

    ellf Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    6,200
    The library computers really were much better than working from home on some of the homework assignments that I'd been given. It really didn't take all that long to get the initial work done, and with Gladly's assignments, the set of research came to me quite easily. Of course, then I found myself searching for other things, almost as if a part of me wanted to look into more. Parahumans Online was a staple for finding out some of the current cape events, seeing as it was at least a little relevant, but there were other things I wanted to find out.

    I started some more searches into what was going on with me… with us. Things that seemed familiar, that I knew I'd seen before. The first few pages weren't all that promising. The psychiatry sites were either far too technical, or, well, blatantly insulting for them to be of any use whatsoever. Instead, I went for the sites that seemed to treat it as less of a disorder. Yes, Dissociative Identity Disorder was a thing, and I did dissociate sometimes. I just… I didn't want to think of myself that way. I wanted to understand what was going on. I needed myself to understand what was going on.

    I'd help all of us understand, show us what we needed to see. And if there were some interesting threads on PHO to read in the meantime, I'd also take a look at those. My fingers quickly found my username and password, and I opened the first tab. Now those were some interesting threads.

    Welcome to the Parahumans Online message boards.
    You are currently logged in, MacNCheeseIzGreat
    You are viewing:
    • Threads you have replied to
    • AND Threads that have new replies
    • OR private message conversations with new replies
    • Thread OP is displayed.
    • Fifteen posts per page
    • Last ten messages in private message history.
    • Threads and private messages are ordered chronologically.

    ■​

    ♦ Topic: Heartbreaker Found Dead in Montreal Hotel Room
    In: Boards ► International ► News
    Bagrat
    (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
    Posted On Apr 13th 2011:

    I’m just going to directly quote from this article in the Toronto Star:

    It then goes into detail about some of the wounds that Vasil suffered (he was killed by blades) and that police have no leads at this time. If more information is released, please keep it to this thread.



    (Showing page 1 of 2)


    ►ArmiPants (New User)​
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    First! No really, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I’m surprised it took him taking Sidney for any action to be motivated.​

    Guess a superfan got to him first.​

    ►General Prancer
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    It said several of the Heartbroken were brought in by the PRT. @Bagrat, any idea which of them?​

    ►Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)​
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    No clue. There’s not a whole lot of information on Heartbreaker’s kids out there.​

    ►XxVoid_CowboyxX
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    One less supervillain out there in the world. Fuck that guy. I wonder who did it and how. Blades means it was up close and personal, right? How did Heartbreaker not use his power on them?​

    ►FlippinMad
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    A smart comment from Void Cowboy, will the wonders never cease?​

    ►Spiritskin
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    Ah, leave him alone. Heartbreaker’s dead. We don’t have to worry about where we go in Canada anymore.​

    ►Aloha
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    Or our women.​

    ►FrenchieCanuk (Verified Canadian)
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    That’s sexist.​

    ►Aloha
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    Literally most of the people Heartbreaker mastered were women. If anyone’s sexist, he was.​

    ►FrenchieCanuk (Verified Canadian)
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    U’re Sexist. Lol​

    ►Aloha
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    That’s the laziest troll I’ve ever seen.​

    ►FrenchieCanuk (Verified Canadian)
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    Une vache espagnole… Is what you are, you sexist pig.​

    ►Trumpet Nerd (Moderator)​
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    Hey, knock it off both of you. No need to turn this into a slugging match.​

    ►FrenchieCanuk (Verified Canadian)
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    That official? Fine. Fine. I’ll lay off the sexist.​


    End of Page. 1



    (Showing page 2 of 2)


    ►Trumpet Nerd (Moderator)​
    Replied On Apr 13th 2011:​
    Right, giving you a break from this thread for 72 hours. Take it.​

    ►Albino Lupa (Verified PRT Agent)​
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    Yeesh. Wonder who ended the man’s life. As far as I knew, no kill order had been authorized for him. Mostly, given his capabilities, we wanted to make sure that nobody went after him half-cocked. It was for protecting civilians as best we could. Still, given the situation with Sidney Saile, something was going to give. Of course, with no kill order, this will likely be investigated as a homicide, albeit with the justifiable one attached. This falls under the Provincial Law regarding vigilantism, but it's possible that a kill order may be issued posthumously. Not my department though.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    Looks like someone went in there full-cocked though, Alb. Can you share what actually killed the guy? Yeah, Baggy said that it was blades, but that could be anything from a machete to a dagger to something like what that racist prick gang leader in Brockton Bay uses as his power. Anything?​

    ►Albino Lupa (Verified PRT Agent)​
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    Nothing I’m authorized to share at this time. We are working with one of the Protectorate’s allied traveling heroes, the Scarlet Scarab, to investigate some of this matter.​

    Re: Kill orders posthumously… It’s happened before. but not really my call.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    Ooh. I like her. (Scarlet Scarab, I mean) She has such a cool costume too, and some sort of flight, right? Nice.​


    End of Page. 1, 2



    ■​

    ♦ Topic: Announcing the Medhall Charity Gala 2011
    In: Boards ► Brockton Bay ► Society
    WhiteCoatVic
    (Original Poster) (Verified Medical Professional)
    Posted On Apr 14th 2011:
    Just wanted to announce the Charity Gala that Medhall is putting on this weekend at Brockton Bay’s own Forsberg Gallery. The proceeds are going to a near and dear charity to Medhall, Doctors Without Borders. If you are among those able to attend, I would like to remind you that the silent auction bids are due by 10 PM on April 16. The list of options is found on Medhall’s website, located here: Medhall – Silent Auction. Among the items are pieces of Egyptian artwork and artifacts donated by the Forsberg Gallery’s private funders, and other pieces donated by the gallery itself.

    If you are unable to attend the gala, either due to lack of funds or other reasons, you can still support Doctors Without Borders. Their charity site is here: Doctors Without Borders | Médecins Sans Frontières.

    Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) is a large, international medical humanitarian organization, focused on providing care “to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe.” They are especially focused on handling relief in areas affected by Endbringer Attacks.

    Edit: Apparently the incorrect link has been posted. Check further down in the thread to have the correct donation link.



    (Showing page 1 of 1)


    ►Lasersmile
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    Wow, a bunch of rich people getting together to get a tax break. Woo hoo.​

    ►Laserdream (Verified Cape)​
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    MSF are a great organization though. If the money’s all going to a good place, isn’t that a good thing in the end?​

    ►MorningCloth
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    Good place, yes, but that money could also be used to support some of the less fortunate here in our own city. Have you seen some of the areas in the Docks, or do you stick to the Boardwalk and college areas when you patrol?​

    ►Glory Girl (Verified Cape)​
    Replied On Apr 14th 2011:​
    I’ve been by the Docks, and I agree with you MC. There’s a lot of people who probably need more help than are getting it, but MSF is supporting people who have lost everything thanks to the Endbringers or other catastrophic events. I’ve even heard that they risk their own lives at times going in after times where the Nine have visited.​

    Ames has talked positively about all interactions she’s had with their members. They’ve been quick to help her when there’s something she doesn’t understand about the medical side of her powers.​

    ►VerTheCal (Site Supporter)​
    Replied On Apr 15th 2011:​
    If you’re going to post a donate link, at least have the courtesy to post the correct one, Doctor. Here is their main site. I recommend going to click the Donate button in the corner if you want to help.​

    ►Glory Girl (Verified Cape)​
    Replied On Apr 15th 2011:​
    Whoops, didn’t even notice that one. Good catch, Vert. So, WCV, what was the point in linking the wrong one? Where did that link end up going?​

    ►WhiteCoatVic (Original Poster) (Verified Medical Professional)​
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    My apologies. I must have misclicked when I created the link. My original post is not able to be edited easily, so I would advise people to use the link that VertTheCal posted in order to do their donation.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    Gotta say, that’s not a great look, Vic. You’re representing Medhall here when you’re advertising their event. Glory Girl and Laserdream are right about the real charity, but linking the wrong site just looks suspicious. Makes me question whether Medhall was trying to phish us. Careful out there everyone. Make sure the links go to the right sites.​


    End of Page. 1



    ■​

    ♦ Topic: Travelers Attack Medhall Charity Gala!
    In: Boards ► Brockton Bay ► Society
    Dawgsmiles
    (Original Poster) (Veteran Member)
    Posted On Apr 16th 2011:
    Oh. My. Freaking. God. I was at the Medhall Gala, you guys, and while it started out pretty cool, and I got to see some really cute dresses on some people, about half an hour before the whole Silent Auction was supposed to finish, this guy dressed up like the world’s smarmiest Magician showed up with a whole bunch of capes. They called themselves the Travelers. They stole a bunch of cash from everyone along with some of the items from the silent auction, and they made it out before the Protectorate was able to show up. Luckily New Wave was there, but still.

    I don’t know what they managed to make off with, but it was a lot. I got some of it on video, posted here



    (Showing page 1 of 2)


    ►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)​
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    Oh jeeze, Dawg, are you okay? Hope you are. Really, going from a bank robbery last week to this? The Travelers really seem to be doing a lot lately. You’d think after the bank, they’d know to avoid anywhere New Wave was though.​

    For reference, the Travelers main discussion thread is here, but a brief rundown of them and their powers are as follows:​

    Trickster – the Magician looking guy in Dawg’s video. He has the ability to swap the locations of two things. The current estimate is that they have to be of equal sizes. He can even do it on himself.​

    Ballistic – The guy that apparently still has a bruise on his jaw from when he got hit by that dark-haired girl at the bank robbery. He has the power to accelerate objects he throws to near-lethal speeds.​

    Sundancer – The girl in red. She’s apparently got some power related to fire and balls of it. Not fully clear on that one.​

    Genesis – The creature thing. It’s different each time. Current estimate is that Genesis is either a changer or a projection of some sort. No clue exactly how it works.​

    There used to be another member back when they were in Boston and before that, but nobody knows what happened to him.​

    ►XxVoid_CowboyxX
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    Holy… Wait, I think I recognize that kid. Isn’t that the Medhall CEO’s kid with that girl in the red dress? Freaking gold diggers, man.​

    ►FlippinMad
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    What the heck is with this week? Void Cowboy says another thing I agree with. Clearly, the girl doesn’t know what’s going on, or someone dressed her bad. That shade of red does not go with her hair. Her skin’s so orange she looks like a pumpkin.​

    ►XxVoid_CowboyxX
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    She doesn’t look bad though. Just not like she belongs with him. Clearly, she’s after his money.​

    ►MorningCloth
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    For pale blondes you usually want lighter, softer colors, otherwise you get that effect. But really, how she looks isn’t important. Sundancer’s costume is kind of cool looking though, even if she helped them steal some of the auction items and money that would have been going to charity.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    Any idea which items were stolen? Genuinely curious here. Not entirely sure why they’d bother stealing these things, but maybe there was a reason.​

    ►Reave (Verified PRT Agent)​
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    The PRT is currently investigating the missing items and compiling a list of them. If the Forsberg Gallery authorizes a release of the list to the public, expect to see it in the news. Sorry, I realize that’s not what you wanted to hear.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 16th 2011:​
    Eh. Figured that was likely, especially this soon after the robbery. Hey Glory Girl, you able to post yet? New Wave have any statements on this event?​

    ►Glory Girl (Verified Cape)​
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Mom’s still working on one, but really, dealing with these people so soon after the other, and they still got away? Trickster’s an annoying asshole.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Certainly seems that way. Hard to believe Ballistic still has the marks on him from last week.​

    ►Glory Girl (Verified Cape)​
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Oh, that wasn’t from last week. Something ended up ricocheting into his chin a short while after he got in. It was like his stuff was on a string or something. Weird.​

    ►XxVoid_CowboyxX
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Maybe there were more capes at the gala than just New Wave. But they weren’t in costume so they couldn’t openly fight. I wonder if it’s anyone from the video.​

    ►Judge (Moderator)​
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Void Cowboy, this is your only reminder to not speculate on cape identities publicly in these threads. Feel free to do so in private, but don’t keep doing so in the thread.​

    ►XxVoid_CowboyxX
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Fine. Secret identities are bullshit though. It’s not fair. I want to know if I actually know any capes in person.​


    End of Page. 1



    (Showing page 2 of 2)


    ►FrenchieCanuk (Verified Canadian)
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Void Cowboy, my brother in Christ, you probably know several capes at your school. Feel free to shout your theories from the rooftops, the very very tall ones, and then pray that none of them know you know. Pray that you are not right. For if you are…​

    ►Judge (Moderator)​
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Right. Frenchie, no encouraging possibly suicidal actions. That’s blatantly against site rules. I’m giving you an infraction which may trigger a site ban, but regardless, you will not be able to post in this thread for the next 72 hours.​

    ►MacNCheeseIzGreat
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Judge, good decision. Void Cowboy, don’t listen to Frenchie. Hey, can I be a mod, Judge?​

    ►Judge (Moderator)​
    Replied On Apr 17th 2011:​
    Not my decision, Mac. You’re free to apply to it though. Let’s get back on topic.​


    End of Page. 1, 2



    ■​
    [/CENTER]
    Lot 2475 – Golden Scarab – Engraved with hieroglyphs dedicating the scarab to Khepri. This scarab will make a fine addition to any collection. The scarab even has an ability to extend and retract its wings. The picture here shows it with its wings extended. This piece was donated anonymously to this auction through contacts at the Harrow Foundation.

    Lot 2764 – Ankh of Life – This Ankh, beautifully decorated with the hieroglyphs indicating that it is a Key of Life, is made out of 18 karat gold, and it is rumored to have been found in the tomb of an unknown Pharaoh back in the 1930s. This piece was evaluated by archaeologists of the British Museum and is often seen in tours. The donor for this piece has wished to remain anonymous.

    Lot 2947 – Book of the Dead, copy circa 230 BC – This beautiful piece has been carbon dated to indicate that it is from the era of Ptolmey II. It is a copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, wonderfully preserved save for the slight burn marks on the edges of the papyrus. It is rumored that this piece may have been in the original Library of Alexandria. (Sorry, not the Triumvirate member.) This piece was donated by the Fleischer estate.

    Lot 3175 – Burial Mask – This Burial Mask was found, sans its mummy in a place called the Tomb of the Morning. It is said to be the burial mask of the Great One, En Sabah Nur, according to hieroglyphs found by the archaeologists exploring the tomb. Legend has it that the reason the tomb was empty was not because of robbers, but because En Sabah Nur was never mummified. This piece was donated by the Harrow Foundation.

    Lot 7145 – Shabti Collection – These small statues were once a part of a larger collection that has since been returned to Egypt’s government from the British Museum. Egypt’s government authorized the distribution of these small amounts to private collections so long as the proceeds went to charitable functions. These were donated by an anonymous donor.

    Lot 8144 – Collection of Various Jewels- ….
    Khepri – Also spelled as Khepra, Khepera, Khopri, Kheprer, or Chepera, is the Egyptian god of the morning sun. Often depicted with the head of a scarab or simply in the form of a scarab beetle himself, Khepri represents the creative, transformative power of the sun. As the morning sun, Khepri was considered to be a part of the Egyptian sun god, Re.

    Khepri symbolized the resurrection of the body, rolling the sun across the sky as a dung beetle rolls its ball across the land.

    Khonsu – Also spelled as Khons, Chons, Khensu, or (rarely) Khonshu. He is the Egyptian god of the Night Sky, depicted in many positive incarnations as a healer, however in earlier incarnations, he is depicted as a violent god. One thing that is consistent with each incarnation is that he seeks justice, protecting those who would travel under his watchful eye. Ramses III built a temple to him, honoring the god.
    Pluralism - Plurality is the state of having multiple headmates collectively sharing a single body. A group of headmates is called a system. Plural experiences are extremely diverse. Systems may be spiritual in nature or secular, median or partitionary, small systems or ones with thousands of headmates.

    Headmates are generally assumed to have their own unique personality. They often have their own names, pronouns, goals, and preferences.

    Referring to the system they belong to is often done using plural pronouns like we, us, them, and they, although it is best to ask. They may want to be seen as an individual, a part of a whole, an accompaniment to the core or host, or any other state of selfhood. Plurality comes in many forms. [1]

    While there are parahuman powers that may create situations that are similar to plurality, it is important to note that not all plural people are parahuman, nor are all parahumans plural. No psychiatrists or psychologists have acknowledged a link between parahuman powers and plurality or multiplicity.
    This site is meant to gather stories and media from people who experience multiplicity or pluralism. This is not a site that gathers stories about abuse or similar activities. If you are someone who has suffered from abuse, there are many sites that can guide you to resources for help there. This site is simply to gather accounts from those who are people who live with it. What is it like for you? What are your experiences as multiples? What do you hear, smell, taste, see? Do you share experiences? Where do you go when you’re not running the show? What is it like for you? We want to know. The people below shared their own experiences.

    Me, myself, and we – A take on the idea of the unwanted personality, how Jacob dealt with it, and how they came to terms with their other selves and their headmates. The walls between them all blurred at times, and there were fears they had, which they described.

    Multiple lives -This article is an interview with a system that does not consider themselves to be disordered, at least not in the traditional Dissociative Identity Disorder way. They speak of their experiences, how one of their members has PTSD, and how they themselves just are. They wish to remain anonymous, and this site will honor that fact, but until the world writ large can accept multiples as reality, this will often be the case. We accepted superpowers, didn’t we?

    Multiplicity is Not a Superpower, But We Can Get Powers An account from an anonymous cape that goes into the realities of handling multiple identities while having multiple personalities. Told in the first person, they avoid giving anything specific away, but they speak in generalities of what they have had to deal with.
    Let’s get one thing straight. You don’t want to get superpowers. Pretty it up all you want, the experience of getting any form of power is Hell, and actually using the power itself is a reminder of the Hell you went through in order to get it. Every. Single. Day. Yes, the standard line is that powers can come in times of great need or in triumphant times but ask any cape when they’re not on camera how they managed to get their powers, and the answer will be the same. And if it isn’t, they’re lying.

    The experience was the worst day of our lives, and we didn’t actually think that we could get worse than what we had gone through as children. It still happened though. We won’t go into any specific details but trust us. You don’t want to have it happen to you. Trying to force it doesn’t usually have it happen anyway. Shoot, it was strange enough even before we had powers, but throw the powers in the mix and it creates a whole new barrel of monkeys to try and sort out. It took us a bit to figure out how to work all toward the same goal, to realize that we all wanted what was best for us. We just didn’t always agree on what that specifically meant.

    When we realized we had our powers, however, we were elated. We immediately set out to test them, to try and figure out our limits. Sure, that probably is what any cape does when they get powers, but not many capes have a sounding board. We’re a system of eighteen people, and each one of us had different ideas on how our costume should look. As our powers were similar, albeit not exactly the same, we felt that we should share our costumed identity between all of us. Which meant we had to have concessions on the costume to each of our choices. You can imagine what the first attempt looked like with eighteen people inputting. We’re sure that designing by committee often gets similar results. Still, we did manage to get something together before we joined the Protectorate.

    We won’t say which branch, but our branch leader has been better about noticing which of us it is under the mask. They even managed to start calling us individually by our own names. The director, on the other hand, was less good about that. They’re learning though.

    We’re a lot like a set of siblings, really, each with our own likes, dislikes, wants, and desires. The one thing we can agree on completely is that being a part of the Protectorate, with our power, is completely worth it.

    Continues on next page
    Marc Spector – Interpol File

    Age: 43

    Nationality: American

    Wanted for Questioning regarding the following incidents. █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █

    █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █

    Kissing█ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █

    █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ bear trap.

    Warning: Treat Spector as if he is armed and dangerous. Take caution when approaching him, and treat him as if he were a brute with a rating slightly above human norm. (Brute 2, per latest PRT protocols)
    ■​


    Welcome to the Parahumans Online message boards.
    You are currently logged in, MacNCheeseIzGreat
    You are viewing:
    • Threads you have replied to
    • AND Threads that have new replies
    • OR private message conversations with new replies
    • Thread OP is displayed.
    • Fifteen posts per page
    • Last ten messages in private message history.
    • Threads and private messages are ordered chronologically.

    ■​


    FrenchieCanuk (Verified Canadian), you are temporarily banned from PHO, preventing you from posting in threads or viewing individual threads. Your ban will expire in 47 hours and 34 minutes.

    I pushed back from the computer for a second, and I let out a sigh, glancing around the library. There weren't that many people here at the moment, which definitely helped me relax some. The stories had been interesting, at least, especially that one about the cape. Idly I wondered which Protectorate hero it was. I hadn't even realized that it was possible for people like us to get superpowers. What he'd described for how his headmates interacted was interesting and still different from how I interacted with mine. Every story on there was different.

    Perhaps it was because the human mind wasn't all that well understood. I wasn't sure that made me special, but it made me feel kind of nice. Well, somewhat. I could practically feel someone else getting ready to mock the nice feeling. What a little shit. The vague offense there didn't bug me at all.

    What did bug me, however, was the strikingly small amount of information on Marc Spector. There was record of him serving in the US Marines before we were born, and he had a highly redacted record on the Interpol database I… made my way into. I'd searched a bit more for him, to try and confirm other things that Bushman said, but there was nothing that confirmed nor denied that he was a murderer. Uncle Steven had a record of existence as Steven Grant, an employee of the British Museum in London. The blurb was mostly small, but it was about him

    It seemed that he was, at one point in time, a member of the gift shop staff. I empathized with him, even if him not telling us the truth was a bit of a dick move. If he knew that we were in a similar situation to him and this Marc Spector person or with Dad, then he should have worked it out.

    Maybe he just hadn't figured it out. I'd give Dad the benefit of the doubt, at least for now. It was the right thing to do. Well, right-ish, anyway. It'd be hard to confront him with him out of town, anyway.

    A librarian passed by us as I let out a short yawn. Doing research was a tiring proposition, but it was necessary to help us decide what the best next move was. At least assuming Alec didn't screw everything up.

    The feeling of self-righteous indignation that flushed through me at my thought nearly made me laugh aloud. If we hadn't been in a library, I might have. I probably would have done this research back at home, but the internet speeds we had were abysmal compared to here. The issue with here was the limits on how much noise could be made.

    Which meant that talking to the others was… not something I really wanted to do at the moment. Only one of them would care about the research's results anyway, and I knew she was paying attention as I browsed. She prompted me every so often, which helped with some occasional things. There was a stub in the plural wiki site about plurals with superpowers, but really, the only one that we'd even shown hadn't been ours. Khonshu had provided those blades, I was sure of it. The Egyptian research had been far more useful on that front than anything relating to plurals and superpowers. Even if that account from the Protectorate cape had been interesting.

    If I could find someone in a similar situation to our own in the future, it would be wonderful to talk with them, if they were willing. I wasn't exactly sure how I'd locate them or not, but that would be a problem for future us. Who knows, maybe I'd even find someone like us with superpowers. That would be pretty cool.

    Honestly, in the meantime, looking more into Dad and what was going on with him and this Bushman guy made sense. Why would Bushman choose to contact us now of all times? Did he only just find out about Dad and found out he had a daughter?

    A sneaking part of me suspected that he might have been here on a job for some reason. He claimed to be a mercenary, after all, and he was staying at one of the nicer hotels in the area. But why would a mercenary be staying at such a nice hotel? Well, he could be rich. Locating his finances wasn't something to do on a Library computer. We really needed to get to a place that had better, more secure internet. Getting it at home wasn't really an option due to the whole "needing an adult" thing.

    I shook my head. It really bugged me. Something about Bushman just felt off. Yes, those pictures had been real. At least some of them. I hadn't had the chance to really examine them closely, but I didn't know why he would carry around fake pictures of dead people. Either way, Dad was getting blamed for these murders by that guy.

    The blade wounds though. One of the more recent pictures had the man being stabbed. It was… similar to the wounds that we'd inflicted on that Empire guy's arm. Wait. You aren't seriously thinking… Dad and Khonshu?

    There wasn't enough information on that general site about him. We probably needed to go talk to an Egyptologist or something. Find out more about them. Wasn't there one at Mom's college? One of her colleagues?

    Ugh. "Mom." It was sad that she was dead, yes, but… she had been a very opinionated woman. Yes, but she loved us. Loved you, maybe, but me? It hadn't surprised me at all to find out she followed Lustrum. How Dad managed to get her to his side at all is beyond me. Well, Dad might have been able to be a suave person.

    With Lustrum in the Birdcage, it's not like we could ask her, anyway. If Dad ever showed up, we could ask him. Yeah, but would we be asking him that, or would we be prodding him about Marc Spector and Uncle Steven? Both was an option. True. Both was good.

    The computer let out a beep of an alert, calling attention to the tab that had PHO open. Well, to the tab that had my PHO sign-in. Alec, that shit, was still sulking about his own PHO time being cut short. He really needed to learn to troll better. I opened my PHO tab on the browser and scrolled over to the alerts. I was getting a chat request. Unusual, I suppose, but I could roll with it.

    Wait, getting a chat was unusual? Yes. Despite my winning personality, I don't usually get people trying to talk to me personally. After the bank, I had a couple people that I messaged, but for the most part, not much. I was not going to link us to that event if I could avoid it, anyway.

    God, I really didn't want to think about the bank. I still didn't fully know what had happened.

    I did, but… huh. Why would someone name themselves "LegendsGirlfriend?"

    Good question. Legend's been out for how long, exactly? Nearly his entire time as a Protectorate member. Maybe there might have been a short time at the beginning… How old was this account messaging me?

    I went into the background, frowning. When exactly was PHO founded? This account seemed at least that old, albeit without much post history.

    Might as well see what they wanted.

    <LegendsGirlfriend> Hey MacNCheeseIzGreat, hope you don't mind me contacting you here. You always seemed fairly observant and knowledgeable when you post on this site. I've got some things that I might need some help on.

    I would have cocked an eyebrow if it was something I could easily do. Instead, I just rubbed the bridge of my nose.

    Wait, where were my glasses? I didn't need them, so they were in their case in the pockets of my hoodie. Why didn't… what? I didn't need our glasses. Just because one of us needed them didn't mean all of us did.

    Weird.

    Response time.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> Two questions. One. Why that username? Two. What sorts of things?

    They responded quickly after my response.

    <LegendsGirlfriend> Well, for the first question, this was… made roughly about a month prior to him coming out. I got stuck with this. I've requested a name change several times, but it hadn't worked out. As for the second question, I could use some help with translation work and some research.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> What sort of research, what sort of translation? My time isn't completely free.

    <LegendsGirlfriend> Oh, no, I wouldn't expect you to work for free. There's a set of hieroglyphs on an item that I have acquired that I need translation work from. I can send pictures of the symbols blown up, and then I could use a little help looking into more information on something. I don't want to get too much into it before you agree.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> I need to know what I'm agreeing to. Why not go to an Egyptologist? I'm sure there's one at a university near to you.

    <LegendsGirlfriend> You seem more effective and the cost is probably better.

    I smiled despite myself. It was nice to be seen as more "effective" than someone whose specialty was what this person wanted me to look into.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> Fine. My rates for hieroglyph translation are 200 dollars per page-effective. Other research rates depend on the specific research and content of the data. I value my time.

    <LegendsGirlfriend> As expected. I can front you $2000 for the initial translation along with some cursory research.

    Holy shit. What the fuck was he wanting me to research?

    Why he? I agree about the research. Can you even translate hieroglyphs?

    Word choice feels masculine. And no. I can't. But…

    I can.
    Mom showed me how.

    Exactly. I remembered that, but since she didn't want me around… I didn't bother paying attention to that. Research-wise, however…

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> Assume I'm interested. How would you be handling the payment?

    <LegendsGirlfriend> I would give you a phone number. You contact that number and give your banking details. If you would like to keep that money separate from other money, that can be done too.

    This guy had some experience with things like this. That was strange, but research could still be fun. Plus, it was a chance to get some more money that wasn't Dad sending it.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> Sure. That could work. Send over the pics and the research topic. How quickly would you want the info?

    <LegendsGirlfriend> Check the email linked to your PHO handle. The number will be there. A second email will have the pictures. As for the topic… I'd like some information on the research done by Abdallah El-Faouly, along with any possible links between Gesselschaft and Egypt.

    I blinked.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> Wait. The first topic seems reasonable. The second… what?

    <LegendsGirlfriend> Call it a hunch. Take a look, Mac. Please. I really could use your help.

    I grimaced. I'd heard rumors about Gesselschaft and what they had done. I'd come across it in my research on what was going on with us. They had links to the Empire 88, and now this person was saying they had a link to Egypt.

    Everything was coming back to that place recently. I had to wonder. Why us? If the gods were real, why us?

    Still though.

    <MacNCheeseIzGreat> Give me a target date. I'll get it done.

    Two thousand dollars to start wasn't bad. If it helped find something out to hurt the Empire, even better. I'd do what I could.
     
Loading...