Masks 31.4 - Job Change [Cutscene]

This is a QNotes guest article, sent to us by someone who will only identify as “Evan”. We are reprinting it with permission. We have taken every step to verify its authenticity, and we stand by our reporting.

I’m 16 years old. I’ve talked to members of the older generation. It used to be that coming out to someone was met with worry: “Holy shit, thank you for your trust in me. Are you doing okay? Here’s my phone number. Do you need a place to stay?” Today, when you come out, to family, friends, or an employer, it often means something different: “I have something to say about myself.”

I have something to say about myself, and the Halcyon City teen hero, Telekinetian.

A lot of people have said a lot of things about TK. He’s faced demands from all sides. From families who think he’s a bad influence on their children. From children who needed a role model like him. From hardliners who think he’s not doing enough for representation. From social conservatives who think he’s done quite enough. I’m going to tell my TK story. Add it to the growing pile, because as close as we are, I’m only one perspective on a complex young man.

I met TK on a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, or MMORPG. It’s one of those big games where a million players log into servers and pretend to be heroes. You can create any sort of character you like, be whoever you want to be, and go on adventures with other players. For someone with a family like mine, that’s a blessing from Heaven.

TK was part of a group (or “free company”) called the Cactuar Knights, formerly the Gaymer Alliance, a group of LGBT and LGBT-affirming players. He invited me to join as soon as we met, and reached level 70 (the game’s current maximum) as a team. We play on the Excalibur server together. TK’s sword-wielding teammate Armiger claims that this detail indicates we were destined to meet. I agree.

In the game, characters can “job change”, or switch between jobs like Warrior to Ninja to Bard, in the blink of an eye. You can play offense, defense, or support roles. I think that’s what appeals to TK about this particular game. He didn’t have to be one thing for life. If he wanted to try something new, he could do it.

I’ve seen him do this in his public life. He’s at Halcyon’s prestigious Gardner Academy on a scholarship. His paper on the “Adventurers of Jason Quill” television show was published and recognized by academia. He’s able to talk to anyone about anything, interact with any student or teacher, and have something intelligent to say. But he can pivot at a moment’s notice to a fun-loving party guy, a sports fan, a driven organizer who stays active in the school’s club system, and more.

He’s versatile in his chosen vocation of superhero. His telekinetic powers are flexible and powerful. He can throw up walls of stuff to protect allies and civilians. He can bludgeon targets with stuff at hand on the field, or throw small rocks and the like with pinpoint accuracy. He can channel his powers into delicate and complex operations, like re-sorting the books on a bookshelf in alphabetical order. Like his MMORPG character, he can play offense, defense, or support with equal ease, and switch back and forth as needed.

What most people don’t get to see is that TK’s private life is the same way. He can be strong, or vulnerable; bold, or gentle; cultured and wickedly witty, or eager to the point of naivete. I’ve watched him pivot from a snarky sophisticate to a joyful puppy-like boy. He can throw shade and shine light with equal grace. Many people think he’s flighty or inconsistent. The truth is that TK, like so many young men at our age, is trying to find himself, to discover what he wants most out of life, and out of himself. He has so many options to choose from, because he’s been blessed with so much potential.

I’ve been privileged to be his friend, and more, for eight months. When I came to Halycon City, I did need a place to stay, and I wasn’t doing okay, and I did trust him. He repaid my faith, in full. He helped me find a place to stay, even imposing on his friends (which I regret to this day). I’ve worked hard to be worthy of that effort.

I got his permission to share this detail of our lives, because I think it wonderfully illustrates TK’s personality. When we are in the same room, he will exert his powers at their lowest strength, invisible to anyone else, to hold my hand, or make me feel that he’s touching me somehow. Science tells us that even imagining a hug for half a minute has the same beneficial effect as a real hug. I’m happy to tell you that having someone close to you all the time, providing that necessary feeling of human touch, has been a profoundly and beautifully moving experience for me. He does it not only to practice his own powers, to perfect his craft as a hero, but also to show me a loving kindness that I never thought possible before meeting him.

At first, I volunteered to help him practice his powers. He was worried - “what if I accidentally hurt you?” I assured him I was willing to take that risk, if it meant he could work with a living subject to develop his skills. I was dedicated to being useful to him, to repaying all the good he’s done for me. I know that he couldn’t exercise such fine control today if we hadn’t exchanged trust in that fashion at first.

When we’re out, he can be the MMO “tank” - holding attention, absorbing damage - if someone starts to hassle us. But he can become the “healer” - restoring harm, protecting people - when the danger is past, making everything better with a few words or a calming hug. He’s at his most entertaining when he’s a “damage dealer”, though. Being dragged by TK’s words is worse than being dragged around by his powers.

Like in the game, Telekinetian is a hero, and he has adventures with others like him. He plays many roles and wears many faces. People expect much of him because of his activism in the community, and it’s sometimes taxing on him to try and switch roles so frequently. He’ll do it anyway, to please everybody he can. When you look at him, and say to yourself, “TK supports my position” or “TK needs to do more about what I want”, look more closely. I hope you’ll be able to see the incredibly complex, compassionate man underneath, the man of many jobs. Even though we met in a virtual game world, I pray that we’ll be together from 16 to 70 in the real world as well.

author: Bill G.
url: Community Forums: Masks 31.4 - Job Change [Cutscene] | Roll20: Online virtual tabletop

“Stop hogging the vending machine,” a surly student mutters, but not directly to either of the people doing so. That’d take serious guts. Instead, they just keep walking, leaving TK alone with A10.

“… So he wrote this gushy emotional piece for QNotes, and now he - and I - are getting all these emails saying ‘OMG I wish I had a love like yours.’ Can you believe it?” TK gestures at the world at large.

A10 shrugs. “I can believe it.” Her voice doesn’t move the needle a bit.

“He… I… Well, he made me out to be some kind of like, Renaissance polymath superstar hero sent to Earth to guide humanity!” TK raises his arms higher, now seemingly calling on the gods themselves to witness this travesty.

“Holy shit, your boyfriend thinks highly of you.” A10’s voice is still flat, but sarcasm drips from it into the sea of sarcasm on which she’s already floating.

“Yes, but - but - but - he can’t just do this to me!” TK clutches his forehead. “Now, uh, now people are gonna assume I’m just amazing, and he’s just like, my acolyte or follower or something. Don’t people know how good Evan has been? He’s the Rock of Gibraltar, he’s the anchor that’s kept me grounded through all the craziness lately, he’s just… he’s the world to me. He didn’t say anything about himself! It’s not fair, Andi!”

The young woman feels a TK-shaped pain in her neck. “Why can’t you just appreciate that someone likes you?” she half-growls. Memories race through her mind, fast as a certain speedster. I was wondering if you wanted to hang out sometime. I was thinking just the two of us. Not like a date! Unless you want it to be.

Fuck you, TK, why do you have to be so unhappy about being happy? You’ve got a disgustingly adorable relationship. Shut your fucking face about it already.

She’s not actually angry at him, personally. But come on.

“I mean, I do,” says TK. “I… I really am grateful for Evan. He’s like a lighthouse, leading me home whenever I need it. I just wish he… I want him to appreciate himself more. He’s had a shitty life, Andi. He has self-esteem problems. I’m trying to help him, but it’s slow going, it’s so slow sometimes, I wonder if I’m reaching him some of the time, he deserves so much better, I…”

A10 loses a little too much patience. “Just tell him!” she bursts out. “Just be honest. Tell him your feelings. Don’t hold anything back.”

She realizes what she just said, works it back to her own situation, and stops talking. Holy shit, I hope that advice never comes back to bite me.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6219200

My version of Evan is a gay Southern Matthew Lewis, physically at this stage: https://i.imgur.com/p3PJ49n.jpg and potentially on the way to this: http://digitalspyuk.cdnds.net/16/22/980x490/landsc…

I’d like him to be a character who’s appealing due to a pure and good heart, rather than powers or good looks. He doesn’t make a direct appearance here in a scene, but could appear later (in sessions if we ever have a big Menagerie-Irregulators social event, or in further fiction).

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6219213

We have the best and deepest cast. I love it.

And thanks for this, Bill. I appreciate that the pieces you’re doing are all different just in terms of the … medium? Idiom? Something like that. You’re doing something different with each of them, and that ALSO gives the characters some difference from each other.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6219806

I take a lot of cues from books like Astro City, but in terms of pacing and tone, the MCU has been great. Strip the characters down to their essentials, highlight the humanity but don’t skimp on the action, keep the continuity clean, and adopt the tone that supports the character in the spotlight.

As it happens, I was lucky enough to have plenty of real world inspiration here. The game in Evan’s article is FFXIV, it works as described, there is in fact an LGBT-focused free company on Excalibur, and I’m in it (tonberries.net for the curious). Those folks have been amazing, and their personalities seemed to mesh well with TK as he’s been narrated to me, so here we are.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6220320

Very cool. (I know, I keep saying that. That’s because it keeps being that way.)

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6222178