33.2 - A Visit to the Library with Daph. And Boys. [Cutscene] [RP]

Walking to the library is … remarkably freeing. Out from four walls, a fenced compound, overhead security cameras, a dozen other more subtle surveillance systems that cover the Gardner grounds … off along the suburban avenue with its tall trees, blocks of housing extending in a grid in all directions …

I know I’m still under watch. The illusion of freedom is a strong one, but still an illusion.

I could rabbit, to be sure, and, unless they’ve slipped a tracking pip into my gruel, I even think it likely I could get away.

But get away to what? Show up on Mr. Cane’s doorstep and ask for sanctuary? Dig out the Halcyon safehouse? Flee to Europe, South Africa, Argentina? And do what? Being a fugitive is hard work, though I’ve decided it beats sitting in a cell. If it ever comes down to that choice, I’ll be headed for the horizon. But that’s not the choice facing me. Not yet. And there’s no reason to do it, and every reason not to.

I don’t want to rule the world. Well, not yet, and not like that. Not Father’s way.

Turn left on Oak Street.

I decide to maintain the illusion of freedom. They might spot me spotting them – the car parked down that street, the news copter that just went overhead, cameras in the streetlights, an invisible drone, those kids playing with that dog, stop it, stop it – and that would make them more suspicious, more wondering what was going on with me, more inclined to keep me locked in my cell except for school hours and “going on adventures.”

(So how does that “going on adventures” thing work? Because it seems kind of random, and we really haven’t seen any action since that fabulous little party Jason through, and isn’t he being the quiet, confident type now, and I am not going to be the one who breaks that silence between us first …)

And there it is up ahead, where Oak meets Conway Landing.

Have I ever been in a public library before? Not much need or opportunity during my previous “schooling.” All the books and CBT modules I could ask for (or Father could assign) growing up in one lair or another.

Do they really have muffins in the lobby? How very American – never missing a chance to stuff their faces. My greatest challenge once I get out of lockup won’t be to fight public threats, it will be to avoid putting on twenty-five pounds.

Daph manages to stay fit, though. Girl’s soccer, sure, but – well, she seemed to be eating the same unhealthy glop that everyone else was at the cafeteria at lunch.

Yes, I watched her, after my call to Parker. From a different table. Once I knew I was going to be going to the library to study with her, it only made sense.

Especially after this whole thing got arranged.

“Save me!” she whispers, swinging around me, head huddled close like we’re in deep conversation, using me to mostly block her from the sea of students heading out from class and in the hallways. The reaction is automatic, trained, operative to operative, as I let her move around, loosen up my shoulders in case her pursuer needs their larynx broken, wait for a further cue. Her eyes drift past my shoulder as someone walks by; I shift my position slightly so I can watch in my peripheral vision. Short kid, male, East Asian, some sort of concert t-shirt on I didn’t catch, backpack with an orchestra patch on it, already past and walking. She relaxes after he’s moved on.

I’ve chatted in passing with Daph a couple of times since our first encounter at the Semester Assembly. I have her in AP US History and in Calc, and she’s a decent enough student in both. Most of the conversation has been meaningless social interactions, notes about the weather, the day of the week, etc. There are a few others who have done likewise, or just exchanged "Hey"s in passing to a semi-familiar face.

Should I be suspicious of her? The approach is consistent with standard infiltration and engagement techniques. On the other hand, it’s also consistent with (from what I’ve seen) normal behavior in this particular setting.

I reserve judgment.

"Hey, thanks, sorry, that was weird, but – yeah, that guy, G. T., don’t even know, he’s kind of like semi-stalking me. He told me before the break that we’re fated to be together from another life, which – yeah, I’m pretty sure not, and if it’s a pick-up line, it’s really lame, but he keeps showing up places, and I was just a little tired of it. Thanks, you’re a life saver. We should hang out. Hey, want to work on the that Three Presidents Project together? Cool – catch you later."

I know she’s a Meta, because she told me, but that’s about the extent of it. I should certainly learn more.

The library is large (compared to other buildings in the immediate vicinity) and fairly modern. I’ve little doubt there are AEGIS assets present – at least one live. (That car in the parking lot? The one at the book return? That old lady sitting next to the bronze sculpture, reading something? No, more likely inside and – stop it.) Parker had plenty of time to arrange something after our droll little conversation at lunch. (I enjoy yanking her chain that way, esp. balancing being provocative and not drawing down retribution; that’s a game I learned to play long ago.)

I ignore the security cameras on the front plaza, and go inside.

Yes, there’s a muffin shop.

Yes, Daph is there.

Yes, per her prediction, there are boys.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6247967

“Okay,” Daph says as she slides out of the bakery/coffee shop with some kind of candy bar in a cup, and into the library proper. “First claim territory.” She indicates a small cluster of research tables on the border between non-fiction periodicals, with line-of-sight to… YA fiction, rather than the exits? Troubling.

“Then, figure out what presidents we’re doing.” She drops her backpack on the table and fishes out a folder, extracting from that a much folded assignment sheet. “Three presidents, non-sequential, non-related, thematically linked in some way.” She squints at the paper. “Essays OR displays, thank god. I hate displays.”

She sits back on the edge of the table, crosses her midsection with one forearm, rests her elbow on it, and takes a sip of her ‘drink.’

“So…” she says. “Please tell me you are a history nerd, because otherwise I’m going to pick Teddy Roosevelt and hope I can find two other guys who wore those little round glasses.”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6248201

“I can … recite the US Presidents?” I tell her. “My previous school was more into – People’s History. Socio-economic patterns, political oppression, nationalistic expansion, economic dislocation, cultural suppression. I do know some things about Roosevelt, both of them. But it’s a tad hit or miss much before then.” Americans have such cults of personality around their presidents, as if those individuals were the most important source of lessons from the past. Unfortunately, that puts me at a disadvantage. I shift a bit uncomfortably in the chair. I’m not used to being … ignorant in that way. I have no doubt I can catch up, but it’s irksome. “But perhaps we can find a theme a bit more – meaty than ‘little round glasses.’” I smile. "It is an AP class, after all.

I eye Daph’s drink. I may hop over there for some tea, assuming they have something that isn’t filled with cream and sugar and extra flavorings and sprinkles. Americans and their sprinkles!

I pull my own History notebook out. Each page I’ve divided into two columns – content from the lecture, and commentary on same. The latter is in personal shorthand – not for consumption by the teacher, certainly, nor by my AEGIS keepers when the backpack is not in my custody. “We should pick a theme, then build from there. Aggression against Mexico? Contributions to the slave trade? Capitalist expansion? Imperialism? That last would tie into your – into Teddy Roosevelt neatly.”

My gaze drifts over the neighboring spaces. Actual agents? How many would be needed to make it all seem natural? Or would they just rely on security cameras to keep the numbers down?

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6248661

Daph raises and eyebrow. “… kay.” Then she squints, her mouth twisting into a thoughtful, side-leaning smirk. “Okay. Right. Not glasses, but let’s not go completely Anger March on the first week of the semester. If we stick with Roosevelt, how about pro-environmentalists?”

At Alycia’s doubtful (if not outright skeptical) look, she adds “We can… specifically shame some of the worst counter offenders, and the whole things ends up as a call to improve, which is allllmost like dragging everyone for being a filthy capitalist.” She winks. “We can save that for our final project.”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6250420

Is she mocking me? I smile. She is. All right, I should be pissed. Instead, I’m impressed. And she didn’t actually reject the cause, she just – pivoted. Neatly done. “That works. Three data points – Theodore Roosevelt, enshrined upon the national temple of Rushmore Mountain, establishes the Republican party commitment to conservation and national parks, institutionalizing America’s iconic self-image as a nation of pristine wilderness. Fast forward 75 years to Ronald Reagan and James Watt. Fast forward 35 years to Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke. The failure of the American electorate to live up to its own mythological imperatives. Excellent!”

I’m smiling, and it’s an honest reaction. _Give me an army of Daphs and I could change the world! Without use of assassinbots and mass deployment of nerve agents.

_“You’re an excellent partner, Daph.” I look around us, and lower my voice, hopefully below the level of any monitoring. “That G.T. kid. Do you need him to be – dissuaded?”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6250530

This time, Daph raises both eyebrows. “Aly, you might be new, but you’ve got the Gardner random mood switches and intensity down cold.” She grins to take the sting out of her comment. “And I appreciate thought, even if the mafia hitman impression is a little chilling.” She turns slightly, letting her eyes roam over the open main room of the library. “Nah. G.T. is…” she makes a face. “Well, not all right, but harmless enough. Danger with a small d. A threat only to himself.” Her gaze locks, and her smile broadens. “Unlike this guy, who is pure trouble.”

Another student - a boy, of course - swoons (there’s no other word for it) into view, staggering dramatically and clutching his chest. “You wound me, Daphne. I am wounded. Stricken.”

“Trouble,” Daph repeats, still smiling. “Aly this is Marion. Avoid at all costs.”

The boy-man gapes, as though suffering a gut punch. “Un_call_ed for.” He looks at Alycia. “Do I look like a Marion? No -” he holds a hand out, palm raised. “Don’t answer. I couldn’t survive it.”

Daph rolls her eyes. “God you’re a nerd.”

“But studious.” He points a finger upward in triumph and drops into a chair. “I, like you, am here to deepen my already canyon-like knowledge of our presidential elite, and have hit upon a theme so mighty, so transcendent, so magical, it will guarantee a perfect score, perfect skin and, dare I say it, a date for prom.” He leans back in the chair, lacing his hands behind his head, and nods. “So how you two doin’?”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6250721

I’m an idiot. Idiot. Some idle banter, some friendly chit-chat, an innocuous setting, and suddenly I’m acting like – as though Daph were a long, trusted ally. A comrade-in-arms. A friend. I start to babble and grin like – like a bloody school-girl.

My father would send me back to Zhukov to learn more about “friendship.” I would be hard-put to disagree with such judgment.

I smile, manage an easy chuckle. “It’s all an act. So many people here seem to have some sort of routine, assumed persona, secret identities, masks – I thought I’d go for the ‘crazy new girl, better watch out for her’ thing. It worked well at my last school.” I snort. “Keeps away the riff-raff.”

Except it doesn’t, since rather than having an opportunity to further evaluate Daph, the boy wanders in. Nothing special to look at. A little short of six foot, but not in good shape. Soft. Not fat, but heavier than he should be. Animated face. Contact lenses, at a guess. Same pointedly casual dress worn by the rest of his cohort – rebellion through anonymity.

Two words in passing that disrupt my train of thought, or force me to spin off new ones: Daph calling me “Aly” is the first. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the diminutive. I’ve never really had one before. Should I protest, or will that make me seem even more eccentric? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

The second is the mention of prom. My thoughts about that are much darker, but not any more actionable.

The newcomer, Marion (or is that it – there’s some insider byplay there I don’t quite follow), seems to be settling in. This will not help us get the paper written, which, along with investigating Daph, was my point in being here. I raise an eyebrow. “Does your epiphany involve little round eye-glasses?”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6251304

Marion blinks. “I… have no response to that.”

Daph extends a fist toward Alycia, but stops well short of dojo ‘practice strike’ distance. Seeing you staring she reaches with her other hand, takes your wrist, and self-initiates a fist-bump. “Shutting down Marion on your first go,” she murmurs. “Priceless.”

She turns back to the boy. “Springboarding off Teddy Roosevelt, we are examining the march of capitalism against well-meaning but apparently doomed presidential environmentalism.” She sniffs. “Because we’re awesome. You.”

Marion blinks. “Ahh…” he says, and then finally remembers to close his mouth, and blinks again. “Ahhmm. We’re doing the three Presidents with the coolest rumored superpowers, ranking in increasing order of likelihood, based on found footage and eye-witness accounts.”

Daph’s eyebrow goes up again. She’s got strong eyebrow game. “You’re sourcing your paper off the Daily Mail,” she says. “Again.”

“The finest middle-market tabloid newspaper in all of London, yes.” Marion’s attempt at deadpan is damaged by a badly controlled grin.

“Away, peasant.”

“But -”


They boy stands, signaling to his partners, across the chamber. “Fine. But you will tremble at the might of my journalistic research.”

“And the C the teacher said you’d get if your sources were garbage on another paper.”

“Trembllllllle…” he hisses as he moseys away. Then, again: “Tremble.”

Daph watches him go, grinning without (you suspect) even realizing she is.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6254402

I feel a brief stab of envy at how easily Daph flirts / grins / ogles boys, but push it away for the moment. It’s still an interesting insight as to how her mind works (and when it doesn’t), and the social norms of this particular educational institution and culture.

(I realize I should be amused by his banter. But while most media outlets are simply mouthpieces for corporatist interests and governmental power structures, the Daily Mail isn’t even suited for wrapping fish in.)

Clearly he likes her, as he went out of his way to swing by the table and try to impress her with his wit. And clearly she likes him. So rather than maunder about my own issues, why not press for more information? “So. Have you actually dated, or are you waiting for the right moment to ask him and/or to be asked? If the former, then you’re keeping it pretty low-key. If the latter, your subtlety is exceeded only by his obliviousness.”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6254486

Daph’s eyelids flutter through a spasm, as if her body can’t sort out of the shock responses of eyes-gone-wide and blinking-in-disbelief, and tries to do both at once. Her head draws back as she turns toward Alycia.

“Marion?” she hisses. “That… no. He’s… we’ve… he lives… no. No.” She shakes her head, extending her palms toward Alycia, pushing the thought back. “Just… no.”

Her face is a really remarkable shade of pink.

She drops into a chair and lowers her head below the line of reference books stacked along the center line of the table, tucking her hair behind one ear. “I mean… he’s funny. And crazy smart. But…” She shakes her head again, ending it with a small smile. “He’s doing all his papers sourced from different tabloids this year just to prove a point to the senior faculty about the bias in the big press textbooks they went with last funding cycle. He was pushing for independently published texts with small print runs through college presses, but no one listens to the lower class presidents - it’s just juniors and seniors, so he’s back on it this year again, ‘from the big podium.’” She trails off, shaking her head again, but the faint smile remains.

You have a moment of disconnect, trying to parse “lower class presidents”, until you realize she’s talking about school classes, not socioeconomic. As you sort that out, you realize Daph is refocused, and looking at you.

“God,” she says, covering her mouth. “Are you right?” She lays a hand on your arm, only half-joking. “Do you do counseling?”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6255265

Perhaps I’ve underestimated Marion. That sort of strike against the politico-corporatist hegemony over Received Knowledge is just the sort of thing I should be supporting_. He’s going about it counter-productively, but that’s tactics, not strategy. I’ll try and talk with him later …_

But most of my attention is on Daph’s protest and semi-request. And it’s not at all difficult to manage a bit of twist to the smile over that. “I am probably the last person to consult on relationships, I’m afraid.” Hell, the one thing I have that might be described that way continues to be a mess that I can neither quit nor work to fix. Frustrating is too kind a word for it. “It’s just easier sometimes to see things as an outside observer.”

Hmm. I have a minor epiphany at those words. Understand, I’ve had extensive training (including in the field) to observe, to gather intelligence, to infiltrate and winkle out information that others don’t realize they’re giving up. But beyond data collection, understanding the data, interpreting what it means, relies upon experience. A look at a facility’s armory can tell me a lot beyond the mere description (though that’s important to pass on, too): funding, discipline, intended targets, suppliers, preparedness, capability, efficiency, and even more idiosyncratic considerations (personalized weapons being ideal for this), all these things can be gleaned from a quick look around at the room, its contents, its arrangement. I know these things both from being told and from seeing those interpretations proven out. Through experience.

(I am perversely proud that I got the Lima base’s general quarters test time down 8.7% through improved configuration of the armory space and trooper load-out. But I digress.)

That said, when it comes to close interpersonal relationships, I’m instead at a significant disadvantage. My sole personal romantic experience is hardly normal (for example, dinosaurs should not be introduced until at least the third date), and the other examples I’ve lived around have not been healthy ones by and large (“romantic” relationship tactics learned at Zhukov would not, I suspect, be deemed successful at Gardner). And aside from relying upon patriarchal media renditions meant to shape and/or reinforce social structures and control, I don’t have any other sources to draw upon.

Which means this whole outing, this involvement with Daph, is a mistake. I should withdraw, go back to observation mode, not try to engage until I’m ready, let inductive reasoning over time show me what works (and, perhaps, what’s preferable) in such matters here. I should definitely not get further involved in Daph’s relationship drama, let alone …

I hear my mouth saying, “So – maybe that means I could use some advice from you – about a guy I know?”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6255400

Daph’s eyes go wide. “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssss…” she whispers, edging closer. “Spill spill spill. Nothing can be worse than crushing on the friendly neighborhood boy activist. I am a safe space.” She makes clutching hand gestures. “Gimme.”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6255472

Her vehemence is almost offputting, though I sense it’s in part the persona she’s adapted: enthused about everything, deeply engaged in others lives, far more flighty than she actually seems. Can I trust her? would be a fair question; How far will I trust her? is a better one.

I push down my heart rate, assess the surroundings, ease my breaths. “There’s this guy. I’ve known him for a long time, and it’s been kind of a weird on-again, off-again sort of thing between us. Like everything has been either --” My mind transposes it all into terms that will be anonymous, understandable, and not send her screaming for the police or national guard. “-- long walks and holding hands --” escaping deathtraps, floating in space, sex on a raft "– or else screaming matches. And … our parents really didn’t get along." And destroyed the world over us in another dimension.

Okay, how to relate the next part? So next thing I know, I’m in a secret chamber with a reality-controlling artifact under the US Capitol building in that other dimension, and guess who shows up? “So he searched me out recently, and things got kind of intense, and we told off our parents and everything --” Including mentally crippling them, and they deserve every moment of suffering from it. "– and he, um, invited me into his life, with his friends, his extracurriculars, and all that. Which --" I had no other choice, nowhere else to go, and I wanted to be with him. “-- I really liked, and – started feeling an emotional thing going on --” Meaning I actually got back a bunch of emotions about Jaosn that my father had chemically suppressed, and boy has that made contemplating my life at night in an AEGIS high security cell so _much more interesting. “_Then he kind of quit all those things, after I’d joined, and has gotten really busy with, um, homework.”

And what do I really want counsel about here? Nothing. Run away. Time to go home. Call up Parker and get out of here before you make an even bigger idiot out of yourself. “So … do I chase him down and confront him? Do I sit tight until he figures out WTF he’s after? Or do I --” go trolling for friendly neighborhood boy activists “-- move on and enjoy the semester?”

I’m understating it. I’m overstating it. It’s not that big a deal. It’s a huge deal. I realize those conflicting impulses show precisely why a third party input – even as a straw man to argue around – will be of value.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6255647

Daph sits back, not mock serious, but serious-serious, considering. “Hmm. Okay. I will ponder this while we dig up stuff on our presidents. I think --”

Your phone buzzes.

It’s Parker.

Homework will have to wait. Car outside. You can change on the way.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6255751

Of course. The timing is oh-so-perfect.

But disappointment (or relief?) is swept aside by a flush of adrenaline. This isn’t simply an abort on the library trip. “Change on the way”? That sounds like action.

I tap back “OMW”, then turn to Daph. “Well, crap. Family … thing. I gotta go.” Flash decision: I scribble my number on a piece of paper. “Here. Give me a call or text or whatever tonight. I’ve got some compare-and-contrast ideas I think will work. Really sorry, though --” More than you know, or I realized. “Maybe tomorrow!” If I’m still alive.

I grab my stuff and dash.

author: *** Dave H.
url: Community Forums: 33.2 - A Visit to the Library with Daph. And Boys. [Cutscene] [RP] | Roll20: Online virtual tabletop

When my mind races, my body (and everyone else’s) seems to slow down. Which is fine, because I need time to think, to process, to contemplate between leaving Daph – hope she doesn’t resent my sudden departure, leaving her in the lurch for the homework session; I’ll have to make it up to her somehow – and hopping into the inevitable black fuel hog at the pick-up curb out front and having to deal with Parker and her sunglassed henchmen.


(I zig and zag through the kids and a few adults standing about in the aisles, and cut around some magazine racks. Not running, but moving with all deliberate speed.)

I’m so excited to be doing something that I have to force myself to slow down wonder what that something will be.

“Change on the way.” So a costume, then? I didn’t think we’d finished those discussions. Or maybe just something more appropriate than the Gardner dress code permits for combat.

What am I doing? What am I going to do? Is this a team action, or something solo?

Is it action at all?

“Homework will have to wait. Car outside. You can change on the way.”

Perhaps it’s a visit with some oligarch, and I’m simply going to be dressing up more nicely. All right, that would be disappointing. And irritating, making me break a commitment just to meet some politician or millionaire (but I largely repeat myself).

Assume it’s action. What’s my role?

(Kids sitting on the floor, talking and working. I salute their defiance of convention, even as I curse internally at the obstacle they are causing.)

Probably not leader in the field, though I’ve the training to do it. Never liked it, though, and, honestly, never managed it. Of course, getting mercs and criminals and the sort my father could hire/suborn to obey a 14-year-old girl, even under pain of offending Doctor Chin’s daughter (and, thus, perhaps Doctor Chin), was never going to be easy.

I have little doubt I can successfully direct this group of neophytes. Except, again, they aren’t likely to see that as their preferred course.

Still, I can always offer suggestions – if they bother to give me a comm this time – to whomever (Leo, presumably) is leading this soiree.

Unless it’s purely an AEGIS matter, and I’m just being thrown in as a soldier. Hmmm.

(Lines at the check-out; I feel more than see the point to move around, weaving about a woman with a stack of books in one hand, baby stroller in the other, and pirouetting about a trio of kids I recognize from Calc.)

The role will depend on the kit they’ve pulled together for me. I’ve not had time (or materials, or opportunity) to actually hand-craft any of the items I’ve been thinking of (and have already thought of several refinements to the sketches so carefully placed in my notes). What I’m provided will determine what I’ll do with it, sniper or close-up combatant.

If this is some sort of metahuman threat –

I feel a weird tremble run down my spine. I’m a 17-year-old high school senior, with little to offer except a well-trained body – an hour of exercise and kata work every morning to maintain that – and a very smart brain to operate it. But I don’t have super-speed, or cybernetic armor, or cosmic police powers, or eldritch attributes – or even a swarm of nanobots at my beck and call.

Given the possibilities, what the hell am I doing here?

Trying to make a difference. Trying to turn my life into something I can be proud of. Trying to protect Jason – or, well, now, I guess, Jason’s friends (goddammit, Jason).

None of this makes sense. Excitedly running off into battle, like I’m a different –

I stop, right in front of the muffin shop. Someone almost stumbles into me, and I step lightly aside. Through the shaded glass doors (southwest exposure, must be brutal in the summer) I can see the black, boxy vehicle looming, waiting for me, waiting to carry me off to –

My mind goes into overdrive. I shoot off at right angles into the women’s bath room – I need to pace, and can’t do it here. It also provides a few moments cover – nobody ever questions that a woman has to pee before driving off somewhere.

Who am I? What did Leo do to me with his memory machine?

Those feelings are back, to be sure. Images of times with Jason – in jungles, warehouses, beachside esplanades, in orbit – now have an emotion track to them. Mine? Or Jason’s? They feel too coherent to be Jason’s, but I’d think that, wouldn’t I? I’ve tried to resist poking at them, analyzing them, letting them flow over me. Sitting in a prison cell didn’t seem the right time, and then Jason pulled off his asinine retirement and I was so angry –

Why was I so angry? His excuses make sense. Indeed, on one level, they’re laudable. Hell, I should be clamoring to be right by his side, helping him, if it wouldn’t give Parker and the national security apparatus a fit to have me involved in so much classified hypertech.

I step around in the cold, tiled echo chamber of the ladies room, a waltz, a gavotte, moving around the tight spaces, ignoring the stares from other library patrons, feeling the space as I try to construct the right thought structure for all of this.

Why am I rushing off to “adventure” and danger and putting my life on the line? (Whether I am or not; my brain has decided it’s 79.26% likely, ±12.47, based largely on the overtones of Parker’s texting and the circumstances it was received under.) I’m trained to caution, to planning, to silent infiltration, to violence directed and focused only as a last resort, to overcome a particular obstacle, to withdraw from a failed situation.

Going out and thumping bad guys isn’t what I’m designed for. It’s something I can do, but –

Did Leo do something to me when I foolishly let him into my skull? (For a good cause – healing Jason was just and fitting, to be sure.) Did the Toy Maker decide that crafting his own wind-up girls wasn’t enough of a challenge any more? (Father talked of Rossum to me a few times – he seems a hideous psychopath, and I say that as someone with special insight into that category. Did the sprocket fall far from the gearbox there?)

Of course, Leo could be innocent of this particular crime. AEGIS keeps him on a tight leash, protestations notwithstanding. If they had access to his “Heart Factory,” might they have taken the opportunity to affect my mind? Or Jason’s and mine, both? In a heartbeat, so to speak.

I am trained to be patient. Quiet. Observing. Even smiling used to cause my father fits when I was supposed to be covert. Yet, here I’ve been, visibly and audibly chafing at the bit, practically begging Parker to let me out, sketching weaponry, dropping hidden messages, designing a secret identity, dying to be “part of the team.” Spilling my guts to Leo. To Daph. To anyone who’s graced me with a smile or been willing to lend an ear to poor, damaged, evil Alycia Chin.

Has someone manipulated me? Less paranoically, did Jason’s quixotic impulse to heroism infect me during our merge?

Or am I just changing as a person?

Which of those can I prove? Which is the most terrifying?

I stop in mid-spin, arms outspread. A girl, perhaps 9, is just inside the door, staring at me with curiosity. I smile. “Don’t ever let them see you sweat, little sister,” I say. I sling the book bag back over one shoulder and exit past her. Regardless of the whys and wherefores, I have a mission, right now. And I can observe, even while I act, right now.

If this is all by someone else’s intent, they will betray themselves eventually. And then they will learn that the greatest danger of a sharp blade is when it turns in your hand and cuts you, instead.

I step out of the library, pause at the top of the steps, looking at the black SUV a dozen yards away, idling, shaded windows betraying nothing of what’s within. I smile. The dance begins.

author: *** Dave H.
url: Community Forums: 33.2 - A Visit to the Library with Daph. And Boys. [Cutscene] [RP] | Roll20: Online virtual tabletop

Leo would have seen to the communication question during the week, unless you prefer he forgot.
I am also SO READY for Alycia to talk to Summer about the Heart Factory and whether her feelings are real.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6266082

Alycia would appreciate (sincerely) getting an ear bud. Which I have no doubt would be immediately confiscated upon arrival back at the AEGIS site in the evening. It might well be waiting for her in the Escalade she’s about to step into.

Yeah, I’m ready for that scene with Summer, too. I’m hoping that, post Attack of the Million Zillion Rookbots, that will be able to happen.

Of course, Alycia might not be as open to persuasion as, say, Jason.

On the other hand, Summer can be very persuasive.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6266240