Watching the Olympics [Cutscene]

“So beautiful!” Summer says, clapping her hands. The sound is almost perfect, which is a real trick to accomplish.

“Yeah, very cool,” Jason murmurs, glancing up briefly, then turning back to the game on his Qphone.

Summer rolls her eyes. “Is she not metahuman enough for you?”

“What?”

She nods toward the screen. “Women’s figure skating.”

He puts down his phone. “Well, yeah, they’re impressive.”

“But not as impressive as some super-human individuals.”

He shrugs. “Well, yeah, I can know some supers being able to leap higher, faster, more impressive. That’s why they test for metagenetics and energy auras and enhancing drugs and cybernetic components before the competition.”

“Do you think they should let metahumans compete, even if they would win everything?”

“You know – I’m not super-powered that way.”

“Have you ever ice skated?”

Jason snorts. “I once tried escaping from a band of Tamil terrorists in Leiden by skating down the – well, some side canal off the Rhine, never got the name.”

“That’s speed skating.”

“Not when people are shooting at you. There were triple-lutzes, I tell you.”

“And --”

“They were crappy triple-lutzes.”

Summer giggles politely at his joke, then looks at him, one eyebrow slightly raised. “So?”

Jason sighs. “What? These people are far more elegant, artistic, well-trained – and, no doubt, better to look at than me.”

She pauses for a moment. “So you can’t do that sort of thing. But the people who do are looked up to, admired, called heros. So why are you called a hero?”

“Because they, uh, achieve pinnacles of human achievement. And I punch out creeps like Troll. So we get different segments in the TV news.”

“But both of you are called heroes on the news. Who’s the actual one, and who’s hype?”

“Why do you ask?”

Summer pauses for a long moment, unusually long for her. “I seek to … excel. To be human, but at such a level that nobody can question my worth. To be the best I can be.”

Jason is sober, and puts down his phone. After a moment, he answers, “Sometimes people don’t like people who are … too good. Envy. And someone who’s …” He stops, turns more fully to Summer on the couch. “There are going to be people who want to pull you down because you can do so much, just because of what – of who you are. And there are going to be people who want to pull you down because they think you’ll never be as good as a hu–” He stops. “-- as a meat person.”

“So – are you saying I shouldn’t --”

“No!” He purses his lips, considers. His eyes drift, picturing what he wants to say. “There are people who are looking for me to stumble. I mean, I’ve had all the advantages, right? Genius father. Cartoon. Money. All the advantages. So I’m supposed to be a target to stumble, so that they can say, ‘See, someone with all the advantages, but still had feet of clay.’ It fits their world view that good fortune isn’t doled out just to the people lucky enough to have what I have.” Jason pauses, picking his next words. “Leo – if people knew about him – would also be a target. Criminal father, genius turned to madness. They want him to stumble because they think he should. That he deserves it. That it fits in with what they believe to be true about the world, that bad people end up badly.” He shakes his head, like twitching off a fly. “Some people want to pull anyone down who is doing better than them in some ways.”

“Then why would anyone seek to excel, if it makes them a target?”

Jason looks down at the bowl of pretzels between them. “Because to do anything less is to betray yourself.” He turns his eyes to her. “That’s what Dad used to say. When he wanted me to work harder.”

“That seems a negative way to look at it. Something designed to invoke shame.”

“Yeah. Like I said, Dad.” He shrugs. “So maybe – you excel because that’s what you want to do – and fuck the people who want you to fail.”

Summer smiles. “That’s still … sort of negative.”

“Yeah, but it’s a negative about the ones who want tear you down, not about yourself.” He leans back. “And we’re all trying to do that. Harry’s trying to become someone who is better than his parents expect, but I can see him trying to break out of that mold. Adam’s trying to become a good person beyond both his family and his cosmic handler’s ideas. Charlotte’s making her own place among the living and the present. Leo’s defying the expectations of the world, and his worst fears. Pneuma – and Otto, for that matter – are defining the world for themslves.” He stops.

She nods. “And Jason Quill?”

A crooked smile “He’s trying not to embarrass him–”

“Jason.”

A sigh. “He’s trying to figure out what it means to excel as Jason Quill.”

Summer smiles back at him. “Fair enough.”

“And what about --” He has to catch himself on the name again. “-- Summer Skye?”

She looks down. After a moment, she reaches down, grabs a pretzel from the bowl between hem, palms it into her hard light as she seems to pop it into her mouth. “Trying to figure out what it means to excel as Summer Skye.” She then throws the pretzel at Jason. It bounces off his forehead.

“Fair enough,” he says.

“But is that heroic?”

“Jesus,” Jason says, leaning back into the couch. “If I knew that, I’d be my cartoon character. It’s easy for cartoon characters to be heroic – they have music tracks behind them.” He lifts his head, looking at her. “I think being a hero is what others think of you, their perspective on what you’ve done, and what you’ve overcome to do it.” A soft snort. “That’s different from what you do yourself to be the best you. Sometimes a lot different.”

“Oh, that was an unfortunate move,” says the commentator on TV.

“Sometimes very different.”

“So why,” Summer says, “does everyone admire these athletes?”

Jason close his eyes, shakes his head. “Talent. Dedication. Effort.” Pause. “Results.” He opens his eyes, looks back at Summer. “All of which are admirable qualities. And all of them together are big headlines and gold medals. Miss any of the first three, you don’t get the fourth. And no headlines, or gold medals. So the ones we admire the ones who get all the pieces together.”

Summer nods, smiling. “The admiration of others is one level of achievement. The admiration of oneself is a different level of achievement.”

After a moment, Jason nods back. “Yeah, I guess. It’s – really easy to get the two mixed up. Believe me, really easy. I spent a lot of time trying to be the best Jason Quill my dad wanted me to be. I probably always will, to some degree, since that’s a lot of what I consider ‘best.’ But the paramaters are changing in my head.” He taps his noggin. “I don’t need his applause. Heck, at this point, if I got it I’d worry about what I’m doing wrong.”

“That’s … amazing.”

Jason shrugs. “Well, it’s almost a cliche, but I know I’ve --”

“No, that triple axle the she just did.”

“Triple? That’s – yeah, amazing.”

“Harry could do that.”

“I’m not sure he could.”

“He could do that.”

Jason considers. “It’s different.”

“How?”

Jason closes his eyes. “It just is. I’ll never win the Nobel Prize in anything, either. Even though it’s for the work, not the individual. Because I’m still ‘special,’ a Second Generation Hyper-Genius. Google it. Leo, too. Alycia. That gal in England who calls herself ‘Hermione Prime.’ A kid in Japan I’ve seen a file for. Some others. We don’t qualify, even if we invent a cure for world hunger, or solve climate change, or make cold fusion practical. Whatever.” A long breath in, and then out. “The achievement is its own reward. If I ever have the wherewithal to solve some major world problem, that’s the cool thing, not if I get a trophy for it. If Harry beats up some interdimensional djinn who’s trying to eat all the pickup trucks of Halcyon City, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t qualify for the Olympics.”

His eyes open, and he looks at Summer. “Dad talked a lot of shit at times, but this thing he said made sense. Whatever you choose to be or do, don’t do it because of the awards you’ll get. Do it because it’s what you’re striving toward, for the higher purpose you serve.” He lets out a deep sigh. “And, yeah, sometimes he was serving his own fame and recognition as the highest purpose, but I think what he said was right.”

He gestures at the TV screen. “Those people are amazing. Even if someone has some metahuman power that lets them slide on ice or do some inhumanly perfect acrobatics, it doesn’t take away from what those competitors do. Ultimately, I think we don’t get judged – or judge ourselves – based on how many gold medals we win, but on how we help others, how we inspire, how advance human achievement, the advancement of humanity.” Jason meets her eyes.
“You’re part of humanity, too. So it’s the same for you. What matters isn’t whether others think you’re a hero, but whether you do.”

She cocks her head. “Then how does Achilles Chin fit into that?”

Jason stares for a moment. “Um --”

“Or Alycia Chin?”

“Well, uh, that’s, um --”

“If the drive to excel and get satisfaction with the result is a purely personal matter, then any megalomaniac or devoted follower of same should be considered a hero, shouldn’t they? Just as you talked about with your father.”

“That’s not quite what I --”

“That was the point of that song in that video we watched. ‘Everyone’s a hero in their own way,’” she starts to sing.

“Oh my God, did you see that?”

“Yes, we streamed it last --”

“No, the – thing, whatever it was, that the Russian just started with.”

“Oh. No, I was looking at you. You weren’t looking at me” A raised eyebrow. “Are you trying to change the subject?”

“Mmmaybe.”

They watch the Russian finish her short run. At length, Jason says, “Polonius.”

“Hmm?”

“Polonius was full of shit, too, but his line pertains here. ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’”

“Shakespeare is cool,” Summer observes.

“Sooth.” He turns to her. “But it’s what I was saying before. Be what’s important for you to be. Be true to that. Become the best Summer Skye you can be. That’s the best thing you can do, not just for yourself, but for everyone else. So maybe that’s where the definitions of ‘hero’ come together. I don’t know how it works with folk like Dr. Chin, or Dad, but … well, I’m still working that out.”

She nods, smiles, turns back to the TV. After a moment, she adds, “Jason Quill is cool, too.”

He blushes slightly, and reaches for the pretzels.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6071825

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6071853

(Feel free to RP your own Olympics-watching (or non-watching) experiences …)

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6072077

I’m already enjoying seeing Jason skate on thin ice here.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6072084

The Quill Foundation man-cave has the biggest TV Otto has ready access to, so that’s where he’s parked to watch the Games. Leo has rigged a convertible mode for him, letting Otto function both as viewing buddy and improvised sofa. Aria is doing work nearby, but occasionally pokes her head in to remind Leo to take care of something or other, or just to check that the two guys aren’t up to something.

For his part, Leo has a notebook in his lap, and a pencil in his ear. Every so often he jots something down.

“You don’t have to watch this if you don’t want, boss.” Otto has been waiting for awhile to say this.

“What? No, I am watching it,” Leo replies absently.

“Well then what’s that?”

Leo flips the notebook around for the interior camera’s inspection. Sketches of the human body in motion, force calculations, and motion studies dominate the pages. “I’m watching how they move, studying it.”

“Pff. That’s awful, boss! That’s work. Just watch and enjoy it. All this stuff is going on the DVR anyway, you can freeze frame later.”

Leo rolls his eyes. “Inspiration strikes when it strikes, now whaddayawant? Just… put the pad down, and watch people do cool stuff? I’m inspired, I start planning, taking notes, figuring out how I’m gonna use it!”

“Yes, do exactly that.” Otto rumbles. “Here, listen to this. Okay, Google, what’s the history of the Olympics?”

A pleasant female voice responds to the car’s command. “According to history.com, the first written records of the Olympic games date to 776 BC, when a cook named Coroebus won the only event - a 192 meter footrace called the stade - to become the first Olympic champion.”

Otto grumbles at this inadequate summary. “Well there’s more to it than that. But the point is, it’s not a sporting event, team vs. team, that’s not what it’s about. The old games were a celebration. The Greeks used it like a time of truce. City-states would go wheelin’ and dealin’, people had safe right of passage, it was a way of bringin’ people together, but also exportin’ Greek culture to the rest of the region. The games had kind of a religious tone too. People thought it was important to tie the games to the gods. Olympics, Mount Olympus, home of Zeus and all those guys.”

Aria has peeked in and stayed to listen to this latter part. “Hey, I can see you!” Otto calls. “You’d like this. Women chariot drivers. You be the woman, I’ll be the chariot, I got two thousand horsepower under here. We’ll smoke everyone! Whaddayasay?”

“I’m pretty sure they don’t have that event in the modern games,” Aria says with a gentle smile. She vaults the side of the car, pushes Leo’s notebooks away, and reclines onto his lap in their place.

Leo shakes his head and rolls his eyes in mock exasperation at Otto, but Aria’s presence means he can’t really make an unhappy face. He settles for stroking her hair as he talks. “Alright, I get it. It’s a time to celebrate and be cheerful. That doesn’t mean the modern Olympics are like that.”

“Well, y’got me there, boss. But listen. You might like this.” Otto reads from some internal information source - no longer trusting automation to supply his answers. “'The advent of the state-sponsored full-time amateur athlete of the Eastern Bloc countries further eroded the ideology of the pure amateur, as it … ’ Never mind, this is really dry, I’ll sum up. Think of it like a superhero team, or vigilantes of any kind, right? You start out with the passerby who can help someone who’s being mugged, someone with powers or bullet resistance or whatever who can jump in and make a difference. Then the Russians start hiring guys like that full time, kind of like your low-rent low-end super-team. Like us!”

Leo aims a kick at the upholstery.

“Hey, you know it’s true, don’t be like that.” Otto sounds mock-hurt. “So that starts this escalation, right? It all goes commercial and corporate, and you get these professional athletes entering. That’s your JHHL with their stupidly good funding and support, that’s your HHL with their tower, that’s the whole thing. There’s doping, there’s bribery, there was even that 1972 thing. After the Olympics blows through a town, there’s probably millions in damages and cleanup. Just like the League’s recent unhappy business, you know. And y’know what? The Games still do what they’re supposed to do - bring people together, bring countries together, give people a reason to celebrate!”

Leo shrugs, but carefully, so as not to disrupt Aria, who’s as comfy as a kitten and smiling up at him with half-closed eyes. It makes it hard to be combative with Otto. Maybe that’s why she’s doing it. In fact, he’s certain that’s why. “Alright, I’ll concede that. So, you want me to just shut up and watch the games, right?”

“Sorta. But now that I think about it…”

Oh god, he’s got another clever Otto idea.

“… Isn’t there something you guys did recently? Some kinda training competition thing with the Menagerie and the Irregulators and the JHHL?”

Leo isn’t sure where this is going, but is sure he doesn’t like it. “… Yeah?”

“So you had competitors from different factions, some of them hostile, come together under flag of truce, even when were sure one group was gonna make trouble, and they still all competed fairly? Yeah?”

“… Yeah.”

Otto grins. “Well there you go. And everyone went out for pizza afterward, and you had a good talk with Concord and Stingray, then Concord flew off for his date. Everyone felt closer together. And you were stoked about that, boss, don’t even play like you weren’t. Now, the Olympics is that, but for non-super people. So if ya ain’t going to enjoy the sports stuff, you nerd, watch the faces.”

Otto sounds genuinely fired up. “Look at 'em. Everyone here knows what an honor this is. Even if they lose, yeah, you’ll see some disappointment, but that’s disappointment in themselves or their training or whatever. Nobody’s ever sad they went to compete in the Games, boss.”

Leo grins, at Aria’s loving smile, at Otto’s enthusiasm. “Alright, you two, alright. No more sketches. I’m watching. Because yeah, friendship and fellowship I get. I got some right here.”

[edit: fixed The Irregulars reference]

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6072765

Nice.

It’s interesting watching the parallels (and the differences) in the individuals in both tales.

Also, I’m jazzed that folk are using the Quill Compound for this. _Mi casa es su casa._

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6073279

It continues to be interesting watching Jason’s evolution. He seems fully on board with ‘Summer’ now, despite wanting to call her Numina, and having her explicit permission for him to do so. There’s no more “you aren’t human”, which was honestly a real sore point for her. He seems less emotionally on edge here, more ‘comfortable friends with a half-order of tension on the side’. I am positive that she’s very aware and appreciative of all the work Jason has put in.

Otto’s the good-hearted jock with the weirdo best friend who does work out, but has no interest in watching competitive sports. I’m glad Jason wasn’t around for the superteam practice. That way I got to write Otto tying it back to the Games for Leo, me, and anyone else who isn’t thrilled about sports most of the time.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6073350

Jason’s problem is most often awareness, not prejudice. He’s happy to speak through his assumptions and prejudices, but seems remarkably open to discarding them when presented with evidence to the contrary. Maybe being raised by a scientist helped him there.

I love Otto. He’s “the good-hearted jock,” but he’s got a lot more mind than his exterior and presentation would hint. As the above shows.

It’s been interesting watching Leo’s evolution, too, from the perpetually frustrated and angry guy. The breakthrough he and Aria have made has been to both of their benefit. The defusing of his tension when Aria lies down in his lap is very cool.

Teen relationships are very fragile (and, in a lot of real world cases, kind of dodgy), but what those two have is, so far, very special.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6073887