Issue 5 - Vignettes

This thread will be a series of short scenes, Q&A sessions with the characters, or anything else that seems interesting. Issue 6 will resume next time. If there’s a scene you’d like to see played out, or some question or topic you want to hear the team talk about, post it here!

Q: When did you first learn Midge Leafstone’s pronoun preferences, and do you have any thoughts about it?

Guardian Ghost: I think it was Astralis who asked first. Happened after Mack Atlas rescued us from the collapse in Sector Zero. She said “I address him (me) as him, and her (Sabine) as her. How shall I address you?” Glad she thought of it. If it had come up for me, I’d have asked, but she was proactive about it.

Astralis: Many non-humans do not follow the Earth’s pattern of sexual reproduction, and Earth has many such visitors. It is always wise to inquire. … I am not implying that Midge is such a person. Nor that I am. Only that … our perspective as people must be as broad as possible. By analogy.

Pelagos: Midge can be whoever Midge wants to be, y’know? I admit I was little confused when I first saw them, and I would have felt pretty awkward asking. I don’t think Astralis is ever awkward though. Or, uh, I guess never more awkward than she always is.

Sabine: Midge is a shrinky-dinky cinnamon roll and I’m lucky to know them. It was pretty cute because Astralis was all stiff and everything while asking, but she sorta came off like she was sharing a secret too, y’know?


I am the Princess’s bodyguard. It is my duty to ensure her safety. It therefore confuses me why I am stuck on the ship, while she is below, regularly exposing herself to danger or discovery. To organize my thoughts, I am keeping a journal in the ship’s computer.

We have been here for several of the planet’s local days. During that time, we have established the following routine:

  • The Princess wakes up. She has no regular maid with her. I do not understand how she keeps herself clean after visiting such a dirty planet every day. At least she sleeps on the ship.
  • She tells me of the plan for the day, briefs me on the locations where she will be at, and confirms the details with the ship’s computer. The computer then informs us of local cultural norms, such as the currencies and languages in use, styles of dress and body language, and so on.
  • She teleportals to the surface, leaving me behind. Although we are in regular contact, I am to avoid distracting her with too much detail. I have been delegated some authority to speak with the Chancellor, and may entertain myself with the ship’s systems.
  • I exhaust my entertainment options by local noon time, then work out with a simulated combat environment. This generally takes two local hours.
  • I will sometimes teleportal local cultural artifacts to the ship for further study and risk analysis. So far the safest and most positive artifacts studied are a bottle of something called “Ten High”, a recording of music classified as “smooth jazz”, and a personal entertainment device called a “Nintendo Wii”. It is exceedingly primitive compared to ship’s systems, but has an exercise module, a driving simulator, and a two-dimensional combat training system. I don’t anticipate fighting other beings in a 2D spatial environment, but the novelty is compelling.
  • By the time the Princess returns to eat, I am usually impatient, and start reviewing her uploaded records of the day’s events. I scan for security anomalies, indicators of pursuit or observation, and so forth. Generally, the Princess retires to her chambers before I can make a report, so I transmit it to the Chancellor.
  • To date, none of these reports have been acknowledged.

Tomorrow I will practice with the “revolver” I teleportaled up. There is a flourish where skilled wielders of such weapons spin them around one digit while in the process of holstering or drawing them. I will see whether I have the physical dexterity to achieve this feat without significant practice.


I want to tell you about the Richard Cleveland Endowment, and about being a hero.

I’m 16 years old. I’ve been able to control water all my life. First just a little bit, then the water in my body, and later on, water around me. And I grew up in a city where you’re supposed to use your gifts for the good of others. Not always selflessly, just not selfishly, as my dad put it.

There’s an estimated three million shipwrecks out there. In the last three years, I’ve found twelve of them. Half of those were loaded down with treasure: gold, silver, precious stones, you name it, they had it. The other half were valuable in their own way: snapshots of the world of the past.

I’m not going to reveal details. Location, country of origin, all that. That’s part of the deal. I can get to a shipwreck nobody else can reach. I sink like a bubble into the ocean. The water is held at bay around me. I’ve got flares, I’ve got breathing apparatus, everything. The bends aren’t a problem for me 'cause I’m not breathing that deep-dive stuff, but I still need a rebreather. But the experience of the descent? It’s kind of like a flare dropping into the deepest blackest night, you know?

So there I am. “Deep dives” for shipwrecks are between 90 and 160 msw, or meters sea water. That’s a unit of pressure. The hydrostatic pressure at 160 meters is 17 atmospheres. That’s 17 times Earth’s atmosphere. In the Challenger Deeps, 10 kilometers down, it’s a thousand atmospheres. Think of it. The slightest loss of control, and BAM. I’m roadkill.

Thing is, to get down to that 160 meters, it takes them half an hour and a special breathing mixture, then six more hours of decompression. I can go down and back, solo, in ten minutes. And once down there, I can stay down there - scout around the ocean floor, whatever I want.

I can’t do it all day. Not because it’s taxing on my power so much. It’s just… dark. And terrifying. And you can only really be down alone so long before you have to come up to the light again, and people.

But it pays off. If you’re the guy who can bring up 74 million in gold, you can afford a therapist.

So that’s where I’m at. Some pretty profitable ventures got me some spending money, but because of these powers, I can’t just use it all myself. So with my parents’ help, I funded an endowment, to help kids who need medical assistance, food, help getting into school, whatever. I want the next Ricky Cleveland to be out there, doing his best for the world, because they learned the value of kindness and aid.

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Azophi K-8 Community School is up in the highlands. The teachers, ever the old people that they are, like to joke the school’s initials and mission both sound like “access”. Katia knows better. Middle school is where hopes and dreams go to die, before you get shoved into the soulless meat grinder of high school. To her, it sounds more like “ax”.

Headsman, Headsman, grab your axe,
Give the Zeta forty whacks,
When the job is finally done,
Give the next guys forty-one.

Why can’t she go to Tarter Sauce? It’s K-12, although the high school area is physically separated from the classrooms for the lower grades. At least that way she’d be able to keep friends all through school.

Neave spells her name as “Niamh”. Amelia goes by “Amy”. Among these friends, Katia goes by “Kat”, to fit in. They aren’t the best of friends ever. Neave stormed off in a huff one time because Kat said she thought Charlie was cute, and Amy had to tell her that Neave thought Charlie was cute too and didn’t want anyone else thinking it. Well that’s stupid, he is. But whatever. And then there was that time that Amy and Kat got busted for doing something we won’t tell the parents about, behind the school, involving some illegal etag paint. And Neave didn’t take any blame either. Sure, she wasn’t actually there for it, but shouldn’t friends do that?

Still. They are cool to hang out with, kinda, y’know. They talk about the usual dumb stuff. Kat comes from a family of superheroes, and that’s the most interesting thing she knows about. She’s even got some powers of her own, and that’s pretty interesting too. But she can’t talk about that either. And anything else just feels boring and lame, so she usually hides in the shadow - ha ha - of her friends, trying to be supportive and listening to them.

She’d never, ever be friends with Miguel. She’s his sister, you’re not supposed to be friends. But she sometimes wonders, if she was at Tarter Sauce, would she know more about what he’s doing? All she knows is what he talks about at home, which isn’t much because mom and dad always get pissy when he talks about doing what he wants, because that’s not what they want. Bluh.

So when Neave and Amy ask about her, she’s got nothing much to say. And when she talks about Miguel to them, which isn’t often, all she says is vague stuff about what he’s doing in theater, and they’re both like, “that’s cool”, but in that way that you know it isn’t very cool.

You know what would really be great? Friends she could talk about superhero stuff with. Tarter Sauce has a bunch of hero kids going there. Sabine goes there. Sabine would probably be fun to talk to, if the TV is anything to go by.

Oh well. I’m just fated - no, cursed - to be isolated from people because of my heritage of heroism. This is my cross to bear. The weight of the world is on my shoulders. I have to hide myself away for the good of my undeserving family. Woe is me, woe is me.

“Do you want to go get ice cream, Kat?” Amy asks.

“Yeah, sure,” she shrugs.

Okay, go ahead with your report.

Alright. So–

Oh, sorry, official stuff. Name, status, and assignment, for the record.

Navin Picardo, City Control undercover security. Assigned to monitor Setsujoku Hisako, case 1124272.

Alright, my bad. Sorry. Start from the top, the audience for this might not know the background.

No problem. Anyway, Ms. Setsujoku came to our attention after a group of teenagers, between Alpha-1 and Alpha-3 ratings, called for help in Sector Zero. One of them, Miguel Murphy, is the child of a Silver Seven member and carried an approved comm unit. So they radio for help and Mack Atlas responds. Since they were there illegally, we bring them in after a bit and question them. And Ms. Setsujoku gives us an alias. I mean, it has to be an alias. There’s no record of anyone named that who’s been cleared for Zeta-2 tech, which she has, and no candidate for a father that she talked about. Plus her family name literally means “revenge”, so, y’know.

That name’s a mouthful anyway, just call her Hisako, we’ll search and replace before the brass gets this transcript.

Okay. Anyway, if she’s not licensed, she’s carrying Z2 gear around with her illegally, but how did she get so good at it? Who trained and equipped her? City Control surveillance doesn’t have anything on cameras for her for a long time, and no entrance records. How did she get here? We could just bring her back in, but maybe she’ll lead us to someone bigger or badder, right? So that’s where I come in.

Okay. Skip methodology for now, just get to the relevant stuff.

Right. We don’t have any idea where she lives. She goes off monitoring and then just, y’know, disappears sometimes. I filed a re-evaluation request to classify her gear as Zeta-4 if she’s teleporting, or Zeta-3 if she can disappear from our cameras. I suspect she’s Z3 because if she could teleport, why did she let herself get stranded in Sector Zero, and draw official scrutiny, something she must have expected?

That’s the biggest thing, I think. Other than that, there’s just a lot of little weird shit.

For example.

Okay. Her and this other person, Midge Leafstone - I’m pretty sure that’s another alias, by the way, also someone we have zero data on. Anyway. Zoe’s Atomic Burgers and Milkshakes, 45th and Trent upon Rez plate 2A. They’re at this place, right, but they stare at the menu like they’re a couple of Martians. There’s nothing to pick though! It’s just five kinds of burgers with a bunch of options for toppings, and a few flavors of shake.

They’re sitting there staring at it, and each other, and whispering. Two people in a crowded setting is classic tradecraft, so I aim the mike at them. You have the transcript–

I’m going to plug it into this point in the record, yeah. Go ahead.

MIDGE: Who is Lucy? And why is she juicy?

HISAKO: It is… a cheeseburger, in which the cheese is melted inside the patty. “Juicy Lucy” is a term of culinary art. It is not a reference to a person.

MIDGE: Is that good? Is it better that way?

HISAKO: I am unsure. It seems to be popular in Minneapolis.

MIDGE: What’s Minneapolis?

HISAKO: It is the 16th largest urban area in the United States. It is part of a place called the Twin Cities. It is in the state of Minnesota.

MIDGE: I don’t know any of that. I’m just hungry. Is it a good thing to eat?

HISAKO: Hamburgers are a staple of American fast food. I assume it will be good.

MIDGE: Have you ever had one?


MIDGE: Me either. Ricky gave me some money though, so let’s get a burger.

HISAKO: What kind shall we get?

MIDGE: I like mushrooms. They’re really good at keeping the rain off you if you get caught outside. So let’s get a mushroom burger.

HISAKO: That is a good point.

MIDGE: Oh, do you normally use leaves?


MIDGE: To keep the rain off, silly!

HISAKO: I am unused to being surprised by weather conditions. But no, I meant that money is a good point. I will need to pay for more things here, won’t I.

MIDGE: I guess. When I said I had marbles and hay to trade at the clothing store, they looked at me funny! Maybe they’re full up on that stuff and I need new stuff to barter with.

HISAKO: I don’t want to ask Ricky for assistance, though.

MIDGE: Ricky is so nice though! I’m sure he would be willing to.

HISAKO: He shows signs of resentment and low self-esteem when the subject of money is broached. Have you not noticed?

MIDGE: No…? Should I… should I not have taken money from him? Did I upset him?

HISAKO: Only he can answer that. However, as he has given you the money, and since you are hungry, I think he would find it best if you used it to purchase food.

MIDGE: Okay… Well, I don’t want to make Ricky sad…

HISAKO: I don’t wish to make Ricky unhappy either. So. Show me your currency.

HISAKO: I calculate that what you have here will pay for 12 burgers, and 4 milkshakes, if our goal to obtain an amount closest to the amount you were provided. There is a “tax” which is factored into this calculation as well. Ah. A surcharge for the funding of government services. Logical.

MIDGE: How big is a hamburger?

MIDGE: Oh wow that’s huge! How are we going to get through one of those?

HISAKO: I suggest one hamburger between us, and one milkshake. We can estimate our remaining caloric deficiency, should we finish these things.

MIDGE: They don’t have a mushroom milkshake. Is that okay?

HISAKO: I don’t believe that the flavors are expected to align. There is a phrase, “a la carte”. Do you know it?

MIDGE: Nope!

HISAKO: It refers to food items that may be ordered separately, rather than as a unit. I believe that the hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes, are a la carte. You may order whatever flavor you wish.

MIDGE: Which should I get?

HISAKO: … Chocolate stimulates euphoric feelings by the release of theobromine, and phenylethylamine. Vanilla is known for its relaxing, soothing, and sensual fragrance. Do you wish to feel more euphoric, or more relaxed?

MIDGE: Um, uh, I guess I could relax a bit?

HISAKO: Very well. We shall order the mushroom burger and the vanilla milkshake. We shall also get some of the French fries. Come.

MIDGE: Okay!



Any preliminary conclusions?

Those two are a couple of fuckin’ weirdos.

Can we dress that up a little bit for the official report?

Yeah, sorry. An assessment at this stage is premature. The subject shows only superficial familiarity with American culture. Her companion even less. They’re both good English speakers. They’re most likely undocumented immigrants from somewhere else. Surveillance will continue.

Okay. Thanks, Navin.

Thank you.

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“Hi Q, I’m home.”

Welcome home, Mia. You have three new emails.

“Hi Q, summarize news stories about Silverline superhero Sabine.”

KAPE news feed. Yesterday. Sabine, the young woman dubbed 'Sonic Youth', was spotted by Hildegarde’s Bakery, helping with the cleanup following, link, Silverstone versus Vex Venom. She was then attacked by an unknown individual using independent robots. Nobody was reported harmed.


KAPE news feed. Yesterday. Independent heroine Sabine has been spotted with several other powered individuals, rated Alpha-1 to Alpha-2, including the Guardian Ghost. Link, other Guardian Ghost sightings. Link, speculations on Sabine's new group of friends.

“Really? KAPE? That’s it? Nobody else mentioned me?”

Query unclear. Please repeat.

“Cancel. Play Criminal by Fiona Apple.”

Now playing Fiona Apple, Criminal.



“Sweetie, what is going on out there? I know you want to help people, but you said you’d be careful, and now you’re running around with older men–”

“What? Mom, what are you talking about?”

“The Guardian Ghost! He’s at least in his 40s, isn’t he?”

“Mom, there’s more than one Ghost. They’ve been around since the 40s, you know that. I’m not with that one, the one you’re thinking of. I’m hanging out with, uh, like his successor or something.”

“Oh. But sweetie, how do you know? You can’t see his face.”

“Mom, I actually can rez things pretty well. Like I can tell you’re frowning right now.”

“Sweetie, you could hear that in my voice–”

“Mom! I’m not stupid!”

“But you are blind, sweetie.”

“God dammit, mom! Every fucking time, you bring that up! Do you think I don’t know I’m blind? Did it escape my attention? Jesus, I’m sorry, please don’t cry, I can tell you’re trembling, mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout.”

“It’s… it’s okay, sweetie. Your father and I, we just want to take care of you, and we know it’s not easy–”

“Take care of me. You still can’t let it go, can you. You think I’m a bird who can’t fly that needs to be kept in the nest forever.”

“Mia, we just want what’s best for you.”

“I just disagree with you and Dad what that is, Mom.”

“Sweetie, I know it’s hard. We are trying. But honestly, you could do a little more to help us out, couldn’t you.”

“You mean like staying home? Not being a hero? Not doing what I can to help the city?”

“There’s so many heroes in Silverline, Mia. Not everyone with powers needs to go risk their lives.”


“Mia, I know you’re not trying to hurt us.”

“Geez. Mom. I’m not trying to hurt either you or Dad–”

“We’re making masgouf.”

“Alright. Mom, I love you. I’ll be down soon. Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Your father and I love you too, Mia. Don’t forget to wash up.”


“Thank god that’s over with.”

“Hi Q, play Mother by Danzig.”

Now playing Danzig, Mother.

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