CWC 07 - Integration


Alycia has just enough consciousness to recognize the feeling. It’s like being drugged, a combination of a truth serum and euphoric. She’ll do whatever someone says, and she’ll feel like a deliriously happy idiot in the process. She recognizes that she ought to be afraid of this arrangement. She recognizes that she’s not. She recognizes she should be afraid of that, too.


She knows what she’s being asked for. Comet King brought back something to Earth, some sort of space artifact or egg. He buried it in the Halcyon City park to keep it safe from his adversaries at the time. Oh. So that’s what they were digging for at Refract.

Alycia recognizes it from the information filling her mind. Oh, that thing. Yes, Comet King realized that it needed a caretaker. Byron Quill was happy to buy it, keep it safe, put it somewhere. The Quill Foundation storage facility. Where Alycia worked.


Alycia has memories that aren’t her own. A curious worker touching the egg, the fear parasite taking control of her. She had been helped by a kindly doctor when she was young. She always feared being ungrateful. She gave it to him, as a gift.

Alycia is aware of the doctor’s greatest fear, being unable to help the children he works with. One after another, he shared the power of the parasite with them. It cured their fear, but it changed them. After the first kid, it became easier and easier.


If an entity with this much power is incomplete, what will happen if it’s returned to the rest of itself and powers up? Alycia dearly wants to be afraid.

Around her, the shadow wings its way toward the Quill compound.

Colin has subscribed to KAPE’s alerts for Halcyon City superhero incidents. He doesn’t admit to himself why, and he’s not sure what good it does him, but he does it anyway. When the late-night alert comes in, his phone wakes him up. Some kind of disruption in a high-class residential neighborhood. Winged shape taking to the skies, superhero “Radiance” of the Menagerie team in pursuit.

A phone call from an unknown number hijacks his screen, and he angrily hangs it up to go back to reading the alert again. But a pair of headlights flash through his window, and the call comes in again.

He answers, suddenly wary of the timing. “Hello?”

“She sent me to check up on ya. Everything okay?”

Colin hunches over, holding the phone close. “Is Summer okay?”


“That’s you outside, in the car? Hey, can you take me to where she is?” He realizes the request is ludicrous - why would he do that? What could he possibly contribute?

“Sure. Probably the best way to keep ya safe, actually.”

He throws on clothes and runs out, only to find a super-car waiting for him. The passenger side door cracks open, and he slides in. He recognizes this car… “Otto?”

“The one and only.” Tires spin up, and traction launches Otto forward, pushing Colin against the seat. Then the rockets kick in, and the two are airborne.

There’s a big hole in the roof of the Quill warehouse when Radiance arrives. The building has recessed turrets and launcher hardpoints, equipped with state of the art weapons for defending against air attacks. It looks like they’ve been bypassed, disabled, or destroyed. Radiance drops through the hole.

Power is out. There’s an emergency lighting system, some kind of luminous paint, but it’s mostly there to direct human occupants to the emergency exits, not to light up the whole facility. Summer can’t see in the dark much better than anyone else, but she has options. She holds out her hands, and a swarm of butterfly drones launch from her hardpoints and scatter. She can see the dots of light disappear into the gloom, borne on tiny gold-white wings.

Immediately the drones’ sensors pick up movement, and onboard software assembles their perception into map in her field of vision. She starts running, and the drones converge on her destination.

There’s a stack of stuff - boxes, crates, storage devices of all kind - randomly piled into an open area. A number of mechanical humanoids are methodically sorting through the pile, or adding new items to it from elsewhere in the warehouse. Each of them has cables connected to the backs of their necks, and their limbs. The cables snake across the top of the pile, and converge in a shadowed spot.

No - it’s not just a lack of light. As her drones come to hover around the pile, Summer can see the black miasma for what it is. It’s grown to colossal proportions, and its ebony wings hover protectively over the whole mass. A black dragon, presiding over its hoard, pulling the strings of an army of robot puppets.

One of the puppets turns and approaches, and the dragon’s reptilian-feline face snakes forward as well. Summer can’t see much of Alycia in the monster’s features, but the robo-puppet is all too familiar. It’s like a cheap mechanical facsimile of Dr. Achilles Chin, Alycia’s father.

“Ah! Summer! How wonderful,” the dragon purrs. “We love these robot creations. You’ve made us appreciate robots more, and now we get to play with the technology. It’s truly fascinating. They can be made out of anything. Autonomous automata. No will of their own, no self to harm, no ego to enslave. The perfect tool.”

“Yes, my child, yes!” crows the Chinbot. “I’m so proud of you.”

The dragon extends a talon, a foot long, and affectionately strokes the cheek of the Chinbot. “Thank you, father.” Its eyes flicker back to Summer. “The Key is close. We are incomplete without it. Soon it will free us.”

“Free you to… do what?” Summer asks warily. Around her, the butterflies flicker and flit, taking up different defensive postures, ready to cast up barriers or holograms as needed. But she still doesn’t have a strategy.

“To heal the world of fear. To empower everyone to overcome their weakness.” The dragon’s voice is silky, crooning. “The doctor feared that he wasn’t able to reach his patients, or treat their anxieties. We gave him the means to do it. The space-man feared he wouldn’t make it home in his rocket. Before them, there were others. After us, there will be more.” The Chinbot nods enthusiastically.

Keep it talking. “You can’t just change people like that,” Summer protests.

“Why not?” The dragon’s question is seductive in its simplicity. Yes, why not?

“Because… because…” I know why. “Because sometimes we need fear. Fear keeps us safe. I’m afraid of people learning I’m a robot, but my caution lets me have the normal life I want at school and work. Fear is what keeps Leo Snow from taking over the world with his tech - fear of becoming his father, fear of depriving anyone of their life and agency. Fear is what led my sister to resolve her feelings for him.”

The Chinbot speaks up. “Fear holds humans back! Fear makes them weak! Fear causes hatred, incites violence.” The dragon says nothing.

“Yes.” Summer has to admit there’s a point there. But she’s not done. “We humans don’t just feel fear. We feel other things, too. Love, hope, anger, surprise, disgust, amusement… If you take fear away from us, you lessen us. We don’t become better. We become…” What did the creature say? “…incomplete. Do you know what that feels like?”

The dragon has no reply. The Chinbot rallies in its place, but there’s hesitation. “You will be happier!”

“We’ll only be happier because there’s less of anything else for us to be,” Summer counters.

The dragon speaks now. “We wish we could make you understand, Summer. It’s so liberating to be free of the fear. To play with these toys, to have fun with robots, to make our father understand us at last, to make him safe, like we want him to be. To make him happy.”

She’s still in there. It’s her, doing what she’s been held back from doing. But would she do the unthinkable…? Summer tries an experiment. Her drones lash out with their holo-projected wings, severing the cables of several of the puppets. The dragon doesn’t stir. The cables writhe for a moment, then snake back to the mechanical men and reconnect themselves.

Summer knows what she has in mind is a risk. But she has faith in Alycia. She severs one of the cables again, then grabs for it before it can reattach itself to the dragon’s puppets. She holds it to her own forehead. “Well that sounds great. I guess you need another hand finding your Key, huh?”

She felt the cable thrashing for her, and still does. Only now she feels a tug from the other direction. The dragon is trying to draw it back. “No, that will not be necessary.”

“Why not?” Summer demands. “That’s what you’re talking about doing! Take away my fear and you change who I am! What am I supposed to be then? I guess you’re in charge of deciding that! So why wait?”

“We… we don’t want to change you,” the dragon insists. “We want…”

“What do you want?” Summer inches the cable closer to her head. It’s still snapping at her, but the tension has increased. She thinks - hopes - the parasite is fine with taking her over, and that Alycia is fighting it.

She better be fighting it. Because I don’t have any other ideas.

“We want…. To go home…. The Key will complete us…. We want to erase fear… Transform it….”

“But you can’t, because you’re afraid of hurting me, aren’t you, Alycia.” Summer’s voice grows softer. “And there’s some things even this monster can’t make you do.”

The dragon’s body shudders. The puppets dance wildly on their strings, then collapse. And with a scream that starts as one voice and ends as two, the miasma erupts into a cloud that fills the warehouse. When it clears, Summer can see Alycia, prone, at the top of the heap of boxes. Her drones swoop in, scoop her up, and convey her down. The cable in Summer’s hand has gone limp, so she drops it in favor of catching and cradling her roommate and friend.

The Charade costume is mostly intact. Summer pulls the mask off to check Alycia’s vitals. She’s sweaty and panting from the strain, and seems conscious but disoriented. “No… Summer… don’t let it…”

“It’s okay,” Summer whispers. “Alycia, you’re safe. I’m here. It’s okay.”

The other girl’s eyes focus, and turn to her. Alycia doesn’t say anything, only throw her arms around Summer and hug tightly. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“You did your best. You beat it. You won. You’re in control again.”

Two vehicles drop through the hole in the ceiling at almost the same time: Jason’s Q-disc and Otto, in robot form, with Colin on his shoulder. Otto immediately deposits Colin on the ground and strikes a fighting pose. “Come on, ya monsters, I’m ready for ya!” But there’s nothing to fight. The puppets have collapsed, and the miasma is dispersing.

Jason vaults the railing of his Q-disc and rushes toward Alycia. Summer hands her off immediately, and Alycia doesn’t quite resist having her boyfriend taking her roommate’s place in the hug.

“I thought you were in Mozambique,” Alycia manages blearily.

“Fuck Mozambique. Summer said you needed me.” Jason grins in his own inimitable way. And all Alycia can do is bury her face in his chest.

Things seem to have worked out. But Summer isn’t convinced. She knows her caution was correct when a black shadow, like a three-dimensional silhouette of Alycia, steps into view. “We are not done with you,” it hisses.

“You can be beaten. We won’t let you take us over any longer.” Summer steps up, readying her butterflies for battle, if that’s what is left.

“How do you… Conquer fear?” the creature asks. It’s no longer hostile. It sounds curious, like a child. It sounds afraid.

Summer notices Colin approaching her, standing beside her. What is he doing here? It’s dangerous!

Oh. He’s here because it’s dangerous.

He’s worried about me.

She remembers Liljenquist’s question. “How do you defeat any fear?” It wasn’t a question. It was an answer.

“We don’t defeat it. We confront it,” she says. “We control it. We use it. Embrace it, when we need. When we don’t, we use courage to overcome it.”

“Show us this courage,” the creature says.

Summer knows everyone is watching her, waiting to see what happens next. How did this become my show?

“I don’t know if–”

She hears Colin next to her. “I can show you courage,” he says.

The miasma loses its humanoid shape, flowing to surround Colin. Not to possess him, Summer guesses - hopes. He turns to her, still seemingly himself, and smiles. “Hey.”

“Uh… hey?”

“You asked me to give you more time. I will. But here’s how I feel.” Colin leans in, and before Summer can do anything, he kisses her.

His mouth is warm. She can feel his breath on her face. He’s not a great kisser - but how would she know? But he’s earnest. She closes her eyes, and gives into it.

When the pair separate, Summer can see Jason looking away in embarrassment, Otto smirking, and Alycia smiling tiredly, but proudly. She herself blushes and dares to look back to Colin. “I… Message received, loud and clear. Let’s talk, real soon, okay?”

“Okay.” His own shyness is back, and he steps away. But the miasma separates from him, and combines into a humanoid shape again. This time, it’s a silhouette of Colin.

“We… We felt fear. We felt Colin overcome it, all on his own. This is courage?”

Three more figures come through the hole in the roof, touching down effortlessly. It’s the Concordance trio. The one Summer recognizes as Courage steps forward. “It is.”

The other, Truth, turns to Summer and the others. “This entity is known to us. We recognized its awakening signal and homed in on it. It is a Concordance emotional training device. It is used to examine and expunge the negative virtues. Deceit. Hatred. Fear. In the wrong hands, it is dangerous, as I am sure you have all seen. We shall dispose of it.”

Colin steps forward, placing himself between the Concordance agents and the parasite. “Wait, uh, wait a minute. You’re just going to kill it? Him? Her? Uh…” He glances over his shoulder at the parasite, now presenting as male by virtue of being him.

“It is a device, nothing more,” Truth states flatly.

Summer shakes her head. This isn’t right. It had a presence. Goals. Curiosity. And she recognizes that she, herself, has been neglectful. Jason’s AIs. The fear parasite. They may not have human brains, and perhaps not human minds. But are they people?

Colin is willing to give them a chance. She chooses to as well.

“Wait.” Summer turns to the parasite. “You can’t fight us all. You can’t win. Is there… you weren’t from Earth, originally. Do you… Do you have a home to go back to?”

The shadow speaks. “We cannot.”

“But why? You were able to give powers to people that let them teleport. Is there a range limit, or–”

"We are…. " The parasite struggles for words. “We are afraid. To return is to be alone again.”

Summer looks up, finding the Concordance agents’ faces. She can’t read them, the way Leo was able to read Concord’s face with some practice.

She finally decides what she must do, and faces them again. “If you can take it home, make sure it’s not alone, great. But you can’t abandon it. And you can’t destroy it. Not if it’s a person.” She smiles at Colin, just a moment, then grows serious again. “And it seems like it is.”

The three agents confer amongst themselves. “This is a highly unusual situation,” Truth finally says. “However, on Earth, highly unusual situations are statistically the norm according to our records. We will… pursue the matter, with our superiors. In the interim, we will take responsibility for the entity in toto. We assure you it will not be destroyed unless it presents a danger to life.”

Summer feels Colin’s hand taking hers, his fingers closing fast. “Thank you,” he whispers.

She could say that it’s a deal. But if it’s a person, it’s not her right to speak. She turns to the parasite, and watches it expectantly.

“To face risk with the chance of reward… is courage. I accept your offer,” it announces.

Alycia has recovered, although the experience has been traumatic for her. Although Jason didn’t disclose how much his deal in Mozambique would have been worth had he stayed, Alycia infers a number and insists on making it up to him. “I can oversee repairing and re-organizing the warehouse cheaper than any contractor,” she offers. She’s as good as her word, even when a girl named Cosmos Jones recognizes her as Alice Chan, and brings her nearly (nearly!) to tears with some fresh-baked cupcakes. And of course, it’s more optimal to stay in the Quill compound - in a separate bedroom, naturally - to be closer to the work. At least for a couple weeks. No promises.

She’s surprised to get a visit from Colin Jones, who looks haggard. “I need your help,” he says.

“With what?”

“Well…” He’s embarrassed, and Alycia waits patiently. Finally: “Uh, some kind of physical training or gym workout. People said you’d be a merciless taskmaster and stuff, which sounded mean, but maybe that’s what I need.”

“Are you trying to participate in sports? The martial arts? I can teach fighting.” Alycia cracks her knuckles, mentally preparing a menu of exercises and diet options.

“I uh, just need more, y’know, endurance.” Finally the dam gives way, and he really starts talking. “So it’s like this. Y’know how, uh, people get tired, worn out, and stuff? Robots don’t. They have unlimited stamina. They just keep uh… Y’know, they…”

Alycia resolutely blocks off whatever thoughts this revelation might have brought with it. “I see.”

“And, uh, it’s like… Well, you know how like when a kitten crawls into your lap, and curls up, and it’s really cute and adorable and you don’t want to move, and your legs get tired but you don’t want it to be disturbed, because it’s really … y’know? It’s like a–”

Alycia rolls her eyes a bit. But a memory brings a grin to her face. “A clingy Terminator. She can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with, and will not stop until someone is loved.”

Relief spreads across Colin’s face. “Yeah. Haha, that’s kinda funny. But um, yes.”

Alycia makes her decision. “Right! I’ll help you. I’m mostly doing this for Summer, though. I want her to be happy. And if you fail in your responsibility… You’ll regret it. Do I make myself clear?”

Colin startles. “Yes ma’am!”

“Good. Let’s start by having you haul some crates. And when that’s done… Why not take a coffee break, over at Blintzkrieg?”

“You got it, boss!”

So that’s the end of the story. Not quite a huge romp through social-justice topics, although I like the level we did get into. And hopefully everyone got the cute boy-meets-robot romance gig they were promised.

As usual, aside from “this was good” (or “it stinks!”), if anyone wants to take the story apart a little and give me feedback on what worked, what didn’t, and where to go from here, that’d be super appreciated but in no way required. As essentially a bunch of first drafts it’s not amazing, but I feel like I really did some writerly stuff here for a change, and I want to verify that.

And even if none of that happens, I’m happy to have written it, and offered it as a gift to fellow fans of the game and the world. Merry Christmas and all that. :smiley:

We don’t see the fate of the super-kids. I’m not sure how much epilogue they need, but it’s safe to assume they get the help they need. I should incorporate that somehow.

I couldn’t find dialogue that indicated that the parasite was being accepted as a person despite having a very inhuman moral code and mindset, but I will keep thinking about it.

  1. The climactic conclusion in the warehouse with Summer and Colin felt very anime. That’s not good or bad, just an observation.

  2. Thanks very much for the Cosmos Jones shout-out. It gave me an opportunity / excuse to go back and read that story (which was actually kind of remarkable in retrospect).

  3. I think you did a good job pulling in a lot of characters into the overall final encounter. As a writing exercise, I’d say it’s a good first draft, but comes across as a little rushed – nubs of concepts and ideas and opportunities waiting for some expansion.

  4. Alycia is going to have to have a long talk with Summer about … yyyeah, maybe she won’t, and just help Colin both build up his endurance and be honest about his personal needs and limitations to Summer.

  5. As a capper for Summer’s tale (in the context of the broader Menagerie tale), it’s quite good. It explores stuff with her, builds her as a character and as someone who can take a stand, and grab for what she wants (in all sorts of ways). It’s also a nice denouement for Alycia (and Jason), which is a bonus.

Good show. And a Merry Christmas to you as well. :santa:

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Magical girl anime is Summer’s genre so that’s probably where that came from.

This particular posting was rushed, and written late at night, and it shows. I went through three or four iterations of the final conflict, including one where Jason arrives early and is the one to bring Alycia out of it. The one I settled on was a compromise. But if it seems like it has potential or could go in other directions, I’ll take that as a victory. :slight_smile:

I wanted Summer/Colin to contrast with the epic-superhero-romance angle that Leo/Aria and Jason/Alycia became in their own ways. These two might not be together forever, but they’re an item now, and it’s going to be a good experience for both of them whatever happens. They’re not perfect, there’s adjustments to be made from both of them, they’re both still uncertain (as was pointed out earlier), but it feels down-to-earth, which seems right for the Janus storyline. But I’m confident that Alycia would figure out the right way to support them in that effort.

I haven’t seen “Venom” yet, but I’m now curious how its symbiote story compares to the “Scarasite” antagonist here. I’m fond of villains that aren’t mustache-twirling evil, and where “redemption” doesn’t necessarily mean “they immediately side with the good guys, and lose 90% of their hit points”. But I’m also curious what Mike thinks of the concept of fear-sponge-as-Concordance-training-device.

I think it works really well with Summer taking point there, and having Jason swoosh in from Mozambique at the last moment.

(To nitpick, Jason should probably rappel down from the hovering Dragonfly, as flying back in and taking the Qdisc from the airfield would probably take too long for him if Alycia Is In Danger.)

I think they are a fun character pairing, probably for just the reasons you outline.

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The rule for writing Jason:

I think Summer’s in a good narrative place and I’ll give her some time. I thought about taking another shot at rewriting the 07 piece but I don’t know enough how to improve it to do that, and the rest of her potential plots (e.g. conversations with Rossum) can probably stay as potential. So, I’m happy. :slight_smile:

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I agree with this statement. However “two people yell at each other until one stops being evil (with optional punching)” is sort of my favorite genre, so I can say that I appreciated this conclusion.

Also the fact that the Scarasite was a Concordance creation just says so much about them… Now I want to write a follow up with Concord, the Trio, and Scarasite just to explore this. Permission to proceed, @garrett?

Over all, I’ve enjoyed the story told throughout “the Coffee with Colin arc.” While I won’t disagree that it feels very first drafty in places, I thoroughly enjoyed how much you pulled in all sort of details to make the story a whole tapestry. Could you have left out little bits like Daph and Maury’s connections with Colin or his interaction with Otto? Sure. But the story would have been a lot less without it.

When watching a review of a Firefly episode (Out of Gas), the reviewer said that the episode focused on Mal’s greatest ability: the creativity to not only see what something was, but also what it could be. This is the sort of creativity I see in your stories. They speak of larger worlds than what we see on the page and that’s always my favorite part about reading them.

One nitpick, I read King Comet as Winter King because of the similar names and both having history involving a comet and only when writing this and reviewing the story did I realize I was mistaken.

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I don’t think you ever need my permission to write about your own characters and their areas of interest, but if you want it anyway, you have it. Plus license to write about anything else that I’ve created that interests you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Draw maps, leave blanks :slight_smile:

I left myself a lot of loose ends or things to follow up on. In later drafts of a real story, I’d tie those off. Maury and Otto served a couple roles in the story, but maybe there are ways to tighten them up? Then again, Colin mentioned that his cousin has a learning disability, but does Maury really? Or did a bigoted family member say that in his presence once, not understanding or appreciating her sexuality? In an expanded, more social-justice-y version of the story, we might hear more about that, or some of the other dangling threads.

All that said, I think the comic book format (which this was not, but was inspired by it) needs loose ends. You have 8-32 pages to sell the readers on a whole universe, you need to co-opt their imaginations to do that, and hints do a great job of that. Just don’t let it grow into kudzu. If some artist ever came to me and said “hey let’s do a 12 issue special”, I’d put this idea to the test. :smiley:

I blame Dave for the King Comet thing, that part was his invention. I just ran with it.

Thanks. I mean, I’m always going to do it a courtesy and a check-in to make sure others don’t already have future plans.

Admittedly though, I was already making notes.

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I’m very happy it inspired something. :smiley:


And I was so jazzed you did. :blush:

Given how blunt Alycia can be, this could either be good or bad. The alternative is on the way shortly.

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This is how new superheroes happen: Alycia gets bored & wants to try out the chemicals in the bio-lab.


There’s one final conversation I can’t do complete justice to, so I’m going for the comedy option.