08.1 - Temple of Boom [Joe's Tale]

So I get to breakfast, and Alex is already there at the table, and they’ve got just, like, a bagel, a banana, and some of that yogurt that you never know the flavor til you eat it? Nasty. But they’re not eating, they’re just on their phone.


I grab a buncha those little Raisin Bran boxes and pour em into a big bowl, and about a dozen sugar packets and a bunch of milk. Much better. So I start nomming down on that, and then Mette comes in, and I give her a big grin, and she smiles back. She’s got a big plate – always likes the fresh stuff, berries, fruit, things like that.

A question, if I may.

You’re asking if you can ask a question?

Ironic, I know. But this is a bit personal.

You’re asking if you can ask a personal question?

Ha. Fair enough. I’m curious. I know from your file the general … parameters of your transformation. But this raises the question of edge parameters. Your appearance is that of a giant gorilla. But gorillas are primarily herbivorous, with perhaps some insects were available. Dairy product and pizza and so forth –

Yeah, Dr Quill, he’s done some research on that. I mean, I’ve tried chomping on leaves, and you know what it’s like?


Chomping on leaves. Ugh. Dr Quill, he says I seem to run on a more complex diet than actual gorillas, maybe to make up for, ah, “increased cerebration and metahuman activity,” something like that. He made up this “optimized” diet for me, lots of protein powders and this yeast goo that tastes like, uh, something not good. I ask him if I could just eat, like, normal stuff, and he said I sounded like his kids, but yeah. So that’s what I do.

No ill side effects?

Well, I gotta be careful on Mexican night at the caf, 'cause I eat a lot more, so, y’know, it’s all gotta come out sometime, and stuff that’s too spicy …

Ah. Yes. Thank you both for that image and for indulging my professional curiosity. Please continue.

So Mette always goes for fruit and fresh stuff. Roddy, other hand, is like picking crunchberries out of a bowl of cereal with chocolate milk, which is pretty disgusting, not surprising. The last to the table is Kiln, and they’ve got, like, a pile of bacon and a bowl of ranch dressing – you okay?

It’s a wonder half of you don’t come down with scurvy or something.

I don’t get it. We’re not, like, pirates.

Never mind. Please continue.

So Kiln’s got the tray of bacon, which smells really good, even if like the meat packing industry is shit and animal cruelty and all that, so I’m a little conflicted.

You’ve an interest in animal cruelty causes?

Look at me, doc. What do you think? But not enough to go veggie or anything, because that’s maybe being a little too gorilla. So, yeah. If I was gonna go all social cause thing, I’d probably choose hunting, poaching, that sorta shit. I heard and saw enough about that even before the – thing – that it pissed me off.


So, bacon. Kiln’s there, on my right, but looks all distracted. Roddy’s eyeing the plate, and I think he’s gonna take some of the bacon, but he asks Kiln if he’s gonna use that ranch, which is even more disgusting, but, hey, Roddy. I mean, they call me unnatural, but he’s talking crunchberries, chocolate milk, and ranch dressing? Dude’s a freak, and I know about freaks.


So Roddy just snags the ranch, and Kiln blinks, and kinda nibbles some bacon, and then there’s no ranch, and they start to look around, and then Alex, next to them, takes their bacon, and says …


Doc, I gotta ask you. I mean, I know what it says on TV, but – the stuff I talk about with you, it’s, like, confidential?

Psychiatrists and similar professionals have both ethical and legal standards which keep their conversations with their patients fully confidential, shared with nobody, even under legal compulsion.

Like, nobody? Ever?

There are some very limited circumstances when a “Duty to Warn” comes into play. If you were a threat to yourself – being suicidal – or if you were a threat to others – threatening to harm someone – then a psychiatrist would be obliged by ethics and the law to pass that on, in the least confidentiality-breaking way.

Okay, guess that makes sense. Um, sometimes some of the language I use –

The bar is set pretty high, Joey. Saying, “I wish I could give Roddy a poke in the nose,” doesn’t count.

Okay, okay, that’s good.

Unless the health care professional really thought you were going to commit a serious act of violence.

Okay … um …


How about, uh, other stuff?

Other … stuff?

Other things that might be, y’know, breaking the rules. Like, the school rules. Or, y’know, the rules of someplace else. Or, like, um, the law?

Duty to Warn does not encompass joy rides, sneaking out under curfew, or even, arguably, jewel theft. Unless what you tell a professional demonstrates a serious risk of self-harm or harm to others, they are obliged not to report it, at the risk of losing their license to practice, at the very least, along with civil liability.


So is this leading up to something?

So what if …?

Joey, I am here to help you, not to judge you. I have heard amazing things told to me by people in this room, many of which involved, ah, “rules violations” far greater than I deem it likely you would commit.

I, uh, guess that’s good?

Joey, ultimately, what we do here is a matter of trust. I would hope you would trust my judgment as to when something was so dire that I would break confidentiality to pass it on. If you can’t, I’m not sure you can trust me enough to tell me anything of importance, sufficient for me to help you.

Okay. Okay, I got it. Thanks, doc.

You’re welcome, Joey. Now, what happened when Alex took Kiln’s bacon?

to be continued


So they say, “I’m takin’ your bacon.” And Kiln just blinks at them, and Alex reaches over, and I’m half-expecting this dagger to come down and pin their hand to the table, but Kiln just lets it happen. And then Alex says, You’re looking to go back to the stone ruins at the museum. You remember, doc, the ones I told you about?


So Kiln’s all yeah, and Alex is all yeah, and I’m all yeah –

Why did you want to go along?

Well, I told you, doc – there was something really weird about how the ruins looked, the light show that Kiln made 'em do – something reminded me of little bits of memory, maybe, from Africa. Sort of like deja vu, y’know, but, uh, different?

So you wanted to go along …?

So I could take another look. And maybe ask Kiln something about 'em. Which I was gonna do anyway, but hadn’t had the right … I dunno, the right moment. I mean – this is stuff inside my head, right? Maybe important stuff? Kiln’s cool, and he’s part of our group, but it’s not like we play true confession or nothing. I – just don’t talk about all this stuff to everyone.

Is there anyone you feel you can trust talking about yourself?

Besides you? I mean, I’ve told some of it to … well, bits and pieces to the whole team. They know, kinda, the basics. I told the deja vu thing to, um, Mette. But didn’t have a chance to say anything to Kiln, yet. And I thought, at the museum, at the temple, that’d be the place, especially if, y’know, I got more of those memory flashes.


So then Roddy is down with doing it, but is all, “Yay, skipping class.”

Ah. Is that what you were worried about telling me?

Um … yeah?

There’s more?

Well, let me finish the story.

Of course. Continue.

So skipping class, and I’m kinda pissed because that means skipping math, and I actually got my assignment and had that homework all done to turn in, and if we were skipping class, that wasn’t gonna help my grade any. So I’m thinking about maybe I can slip it into the class mailbox, but then Kiln starts talking about the temple, and this dream he had, and all about, um, ancient evil and rising waters, and some demon named Flu-shot that was trying to take over the world. You okay, doc?

Yes. Go on.

Um … do threats to the world come under that Duty to Warn thing?

If believed to be imminent … arguably.

No, not imminent. I mean, I don’t think so.

Have you advised any of the faculty, or any proper authority?

Well, we really didn’t have – look, let me tell the story, and maybe we can talk after that.

All right. Though if the world ends during the session –

– I’ll owe you an apology.

Quite. Continue.

So Kiln is talking abouty the ancient evil thing, which, like, dates back to whenever they’re originally from. So they wanted to get to the museum, and back to the temple thing, to check it out. We could get off campus, cause it was first thing in the morning, but we were kinda worried about actually getting into the museum. So Alex says they know a guy, and put in a call, and they say to meet at the museum.

You had no problems traveling there?

Naw, it was – well, I mean, we took the ferry, then the train, and Claremont Station is only a few blocks from the museum. And some people kinda stared, but some of that mighta been because of the stuff from the museum the day before, in the news. But mostly it didn’t seem like as many people staring before. Rush hour, man – lotta different types here in Halcyon. A few weirder-looking than me.

How did you feel about that?

I – dunno. I was more worried about the whole museum thing. I mean, I’m kinda obvious, and I don’t think they were gonna just let us go in and poke around after what happened, even if it wasn’t our fault. Also …


Tickets to that place are expensive. Yeesh.

You arrived without incident?

Yeah, and there’s the van, and this guy – I won’t use his name, but he’s like there to give us disguises, and I’m all, really, me? What, funny nose and glasses, or a big hat that that will distract people, or maybe I should comb my hair the other way?

It does sound like a challenge.

Yeah! I mean – well, anyway, he hands me a hat, like a Indiana Jones hat. And a big trench coat.


And I’m like, you’re joking, right? And he’s all, no, try it on, oh, and it’s fireproof, and I’m all, so, yay? But I put it on, and, yeah, it’s like my size which is awesome, maybe even a little big, which is okay cause I grow, but this isn’t gonna do nothing, and he gives me these instructions about how to do something funny with the hat and how to do something with the trench coat and …


I – uh – looked normal.


Well, I mean, not completely normal, but it did some sort of force field or video something or another – it sorta tingled, and Alex took a phone picture and showed me, and I looked like this old homeless guy, kinda, with a big beard, and I’m still my height but I look, kinda, like just a great big … guy.

How did you feel about that?

I was like – I don’t know how I felt. I mean – wow. This was a chance to walk around and have people not stare at me. I mean, I know what I said a minute ago about the crowd on the ferry and the train, but this was – this was different. And he’s telling me all about how to move and everything so that the projection on my hands and face could react in time, and I’m all poking my face with my finger, and it’s still my face, but to someone looking at me, I’m just this big beard guy poking his face. For the first time since … it was … actually, it was wonderful.

How so?

I looked normal. I wasn’t normal, but I looked it. Someone could look at me and … not think of me as a giant gorilla. Even if they weren’t screaming, or staring, or going “cool,” or whatever. They would think I was a human being, not an ape. Anyone would. Something like this I could even, I mean – even have, like, y’know, maybe a normal, I dunno, a normal, like, relationship. With someone. Y’know?

But your appearance was an illusion.

I know. I know. But I wasn’t thinking that right away. Just someone … not seeing me as a monster, even if it wasn’t even skin deep, y’know? It was, for a few minutes … awesome.

to be continued


How did your friends react?

Well, they were pretty much, wow, you look like a big bearded homeless guy dressed up like a detective, but then the guy is giving them, like, other clothes to wear don’t look like what they normally wear, changing inside the van, and Mette has this really pretty dress, like I never see her wearing, and she, it was really pretty, and she seemed to be enjoying wearing it and I didn’t want to like interrupt her to talk about me, so … I didn’t say anything.


But we got in, through the turnstiles – I still had to use the jumbo-size one – and there are signs up about closed exhibits, which of course includes the temple cause the fighting sort of spilled in there when Kiln was thrown through the wall. And Roddy is getting all excited about Agent Alloy showing up in the Rook Amphitheatre later that afternoon, because Alloy is in that group with Powertronic, and Roddy is such a fanboy for Powertronic it isn’t even funny.

Are there any metas you admire?

Sure. Tatanka’s cool, like all nature and Native American. And my parents once met that Grom dude at a conference, and he’s done a lot, even got kicked outta Russia for crime fighting, which is cool. Silver Streak, maybe, back when I was a kid. But I mean, Roddy’s got like posters, and he gets “Powertronic” news on his phone, and for all I know he’s got a bunch of Powertronic action figures he plays with at night, y’know?

So you think his admiration for Powertronic is wrong somehow?

No, I mean Powertronic is okay. I guess. It’s just Roddy thinks he’s the biggest thing since Jesus. Probably get a Powertronic tattoo when he’s old enough. It’s just creepy. But very Roddy, y’know?


But he dragged himself away from the Agent Alloy sign, and figures out our best way into the temple exhibit. There’s this upstairs viewing room, second floor, big windows, looking over the temple room. We kinda, um, duck under the tape and around the curtains to get in. I mean, it’s not like there were guards, just a sign saying closed and like that. That didn’t do anyone any harm, right?


So we’re in the viewing thing, looking down. The gallery’s got a bit of damage, and the temple down below, it’s been all lit up by, like, construction lights and stuff, marking maybe places where there’s damage. Nobody down there working on it right then, though. Place is empty.

Kiln, they see some of the gallery window panels on the far end are broken out, so they head that way like they’re gonna climb down, and Roddy’s following, and I wanna do that, too, because it looks cool and I know I can do it better than Roddy, and I want to get to the temple – but Mette, she’s staring at the temple, and I kinda still wanna ask her about how I look and cause that dress is actually really pretty, and I’m trying to not stare at her, but I’m pretty sure she’s not wearing a – anyway, so I kinda hover there, and then Mette points at the temple, like, down inside of it, and she says to me, “See how the shadows are moving?”

The shadows were …?

Yeah! I mean, it’s kinda subtle, but I look, and I’m like getting that deja vu feeling again, but there’s something – yeah, something definitely moving. So I shout out a warning to Kiln and Roddy, who are climbing down, and head after them, and Roddy is all, cool, awesome, action time, because of course, and Kiln like suddenly has his sword, and they’re both dropping down and running for the temple.

Did you think that was the wisest course?

No, it was a stupid thing to do, just the sorta shit Roddy pulls all the time, so I knew I was gonna have to rescue him.

Wasn’t he following Kiln?

Yeah, but Kiln’s cool and mysterious. Roddy just, like, gets impatient and jumps into trouble. Like the time – anyway, that’s when things started to get interesting.


Yeah, cause suddenly everyone could see something moving inside the temple, and Kiln slows down, and bats aside a rock comes flying out of it, and there’s this grinding stone sound and more movement and something big is coming outta the temple, big and like it’s made of rocks, and huge, and I didn’t know how it could fit. So I –

– called 911?

What? No, someone had to protect those guys against the Big Ugly Rock Dude, especially since Roddy wasn’t gonna be any good against it. So I JUMPED at it!

Of course you did.


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This is a question for @Dave

In the course of Alex’s surveillance of the team, do they have access to the doctor’s notes on Joey’s case? If you say no, I also won’t have Alex make an attempt to get them in the future. But if you think it would be interesting to say yes, let me know.

So it’s worth noting that I left it entirely ambiguous, in Dr. Anton’s dialog, that she was in fact subject to normal ethical/legal standards for confidentiality. (Within the trope that people will, rather than lie, simply speak misleadingly.)

It is possible that Alex is able to get access to Dr. Anton’s notes. In completely legit circumstances, they are in her personal Box folder, to whom nobody but sys admins have access. (Heck, they might even be encrypted files within that, but, hey, Alex.)

It is also possible that Alex finds the file data within Hellbinder’s private student files. Whether that is because Dr. Anton is feeding him the information, or because he simply has that level of access are both intriguing possibilities.

For that matter, Alex might find that Dr. Anton is an AEGIS plant, and copies her patients’ data into encrypted AEGIS databases.

Any of the above would also, with Alex’ guile, expose a variety of other students’ files to their access. Which raises the question of whom else Dr Anton, regardless of her actual status and motivation, is counseling.

In short, I am fine with Alex having access to Joe’s files. Where Alex finds those files, I’m also happy to leave to you, since all have different and interesting plot points to them.