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Interlaced

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1 month 3 weeks ago #69983 by JulesMorrison
JulesMorrison replied the topic: Interlaced
# Part one hundred

Is it strange to get email while dreaming? Because now that I have an internal internet connection, being actually asleep doesn't stop me from using a background thread to poll my account. My academic adviser wants to see me tomorrow about new classes they want to add me to, the psychic ethics one, and a first aid course they're going to run, as well as a possible entry in an Exemplar Grace class. One from the Head, she wants to see me and Tansy before breakfast. Then one from Circe laying out her plans for the expedition. All of which is cool but will wait until tomorrow.

I actually do have plans for stuff to get done, tonight, while I'm dreaming. I want to construct that mental reprieve / base of operations inner world I've been putting off. Bellows was right that's a good idea to have. And I need to play with options to find what feels right to me.

Luckily I can do many of those concurrently, so I try a few. The one I settle on is a wilderness Earth-like world. Actually, not exactly wilderness, more like the way the world was when indigenous people did continent-scale horticulture. Lots of edible stuff. No actual people, because creating dream-people seems disrespectful. But if some want to move in, I won't complain.

Hmm. I want to talk to Donna, partly just to catch up and because she's lovely, but I want to check if they have any more info on the global effects. And if Tansy is okay with it, introduce her to ARC. Being fully influenced makes her a useful reference point. She probably could pick up a load of cash from it too, not that she needs it. But maybe the networking will be of interest?

**17th January, 2007, Poe, morning**

I'm up a bit early because I had an idea while I was asleep that I wanted to try for real. I've been switching outfits by deleting the old one and putting the new one on with tentacles, which is nice and fast, but not really fast enough to do publicly, there's an unavoidable amount of flashing. Not that I mind being looked at, but it's obtrusive. But what if I could just create the clothes? After all, it's what I do when I copy myself. Then I wouldn't even need to break step.

Turns out to be a little more complicated than it sounds. Making the clothes is easy, but the nuisance turns out to be, oddly enough, shoes. None of them are at exactly the same height, and I don't want to shave bits off my heel when I go from low to high. It's alright if I'm running, there's a point in that gait where both feet are airborne and I can make the shift. But walking keeps at least one foot in contact with the ground. In the end, I figure a way to do it that works, but is a little less smooth than I had planned - just bounce. A little upward bounce on my toes interrupts the gait of walking slightly but does the job.

Erin's peering down at me from her high bunk. "Figuring how to get dressed in a hurry?", she asks sleepily.

"Figuring how to duck out of needing changing rooms", I admit. "Sometimes they get unfriendly."

"Trouble with that is you'll end up in your uniform after, but all sweaty-sticky."

Oops. "Good point. Rats. How... oh of course." I just need to delete the old body and make a fresh one in the desired outfit, while keeping the position and momentum for continuing my stride. Once I have the idea, doing it is pretty simple.

"Rats where?... oho, you made a new self, your smell changes, did you know that? You smell fresh out of the box, not of bedsheets."

"Huh, I hadn't thought of that, that might be a vulnerability, thanks." I grin. "Technically I'm sparkling clean but I think I'll take a shower anyway, water is nice."

"And the company is... visually enjoyable", she agrees. "Hey, I'm with Sara, doesn't mean I'm dead."

I snicker in agreement. Then quick-change into my gown. "Might miss the show today, gotta go early, Head wants to see me about the Tansy thing."

"Good luck", she says, before settling back to get a bit more rest.

As I predicted, the showers are empty, so I just vanish the gown and dive in, enjoying the warm water to help me feel fully awake. And well, playing with my bits a little for enjoyment's sake, too.

"Hey Jules, you awake?" An unexpected Tansy over the link. I send her some sensations as a way to say yes teasingly, which makes her laugh and call me an ass. "Very awake, I see. I wanted to talk about the thing with the Head."

"Sure, go ahead."

"Well, this isn't about what we're going to say about you influencing me, I think we covered that. It's about the Hamper and Damper thing."

"I thought we couldn't use that?"

"I may have overreacted at the time, I was manic as hell. I know I did something bad, but the way Joanne has been hate-pranking me... I just want to hear the clip in full."

"I need to get the file from Paige."

Poking Paige gently over the link gets a sleepy "Mm, yes, what is it?" and I explain the situation. "Sure, I kept a copy just in case", and she starts streaming it over.

A few minutes later, we're all three appalled.

Tansy speaks first. "I... I knew they were rapists, or rather, I'd heard, they bragged, but... they would have done it right there. And they genuinely thought they killed Elaine. Damn. I just told them to rough them up, make sure security caught them stealing the codes. No wonder Joanne hates me. We... have to tell the Head. Even if it goes bad for me."

I send her the feeling of a hug. "I'll be there for you no matter what."

"Gonna be a bit of trouble for me for hacking security, but I'll take it", Paige agrees.

"What about the other clip?" Tansy says. "If we're doing one, I want us to do both."

Paige says, "You realise that one implicates you pretty badly. In knowing after the fact, if not in being involved."

"I do... I just feel she'll find out later. And ask me if I knew... if I can make a clean breast of it as soon as possible, it's more likely she'll be merciful."

I can't argue with that, but I send her a big hug.

No more time to dally in the shower. Teleport dry, quick-change to a fresh uniform and I'm ready to go. I leave a copy to do Tai Chi, and head off towards Schuster.

The Head's office is open, and she's standing by the door. Not doing the full doom and terror rigmarole, then? "Jules, Miss Walcutt, come in."

We do, and she closes the door. "Take a seat please. I've read Dr Carstaires' report. Do you both assert the matter was consensual?"

I nod, "Yes ma'am." Tansy does the same.

"And would you be willing to be scanned as to the truth of that by professor Louis Geintz?"

I remember that's Fubar's real name. "Yes ma'am." A wince and then Tansy follows suit.

"Well?"

And a familiar boy is just suddenly there. "They're telling the truth. And the reason they look more worried than they should, is because they have something else to tell you."

"Does it relate directly to this matter?"

"Not directly."

"Setting that aside for now, then. Jules, Dr Carstaires has insisted on a full hearing, which will happen tomorrow. I'm not sure why, perhaps he feels you need a lesson in seriousness, but I think this evidence will exonerate you at that hearing. However, please obtain clearance from me personally before doing it again for anyone else. Yes, I know it's only an acceleration of a process that is happening to all of us, but it is a big change with serious impacts. And the same goes for anything else of comparable magnitude. I don't want you cutting the school out of the loop again, just because nobody thought to make a rule that covers it, am I understood?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'll do that."

"Good. And you Tansy, I am honestly very gratified by the changes I've seen. But I have to ask, why did it have so much impact?"

"I was lying to myself, ma'am, lying to everyone else, living inside a fake life that wasn't mine. It was chafing, I'd been thrown out of the Alphas but I didn't know how to break loose from the pattern. I knew I was going to end up in the Don's faction scrabbling to get back something I never really had, let alone enjoyed. Something cracked, Jules saw it and offered a way out, and now, well, it just feels so much better being true to myself that I said, let the chips fall where they may. And I kind of saw myself clearly, that I had been a horrendous bitch, pardon me ma'am"

"Pardoned, I'd agree with that characterisation."

"And I decided to stop. That's about it, really. When I started feeling like I was my honest self, then I started caring about my work, of which you've probably heard."

"I have, from several bemused but positive teachers. Your attitude has evidently gone from dismissive to studious."

"I had been pretending it was all beneath me. That was part of the queen bitch look. But I realised that underneath it I just genuinely liked to learn things."

The Head nods. "I consider that a beneficial change. Please do continue doing that. Alright, for myself, I consider this matter over. Unfortunately, I can't halt the hearing, so you will both need to be prepared to go back over it. You can have representation there if you choose."

Tansy says, "We'll look into that, ma'am." I'm guessing with her resources she can swing a big-shot lawyer.

"Alright. On to this next matter."

Hoo boy. I pick this one up. "Ma'am, when I was... annoyed that the Don's faction had sicced Dr Carstaires on Tansy, and before I got it into my head that they were doing the right thing, and one shouldn't punish them for it, well, Paige did some digging for dirt, and found something. Two things. If I can bring her in on a link group?"

She nods. So I pull up a group with me, Tansy, Paige and the Head. "Okay, Paige, you're up, what did you find?"

"First one's a security camera capture of a conversation of Tansy's alphas with the Don in the hospital." And she plays the conversation.

When it finishes, the head's tight-lipped and clearly furious. "You knew, Miss Walcutt?"

"Ma'am, it was news to me when this conversation happened. But I've known since."

"I want that DVD. Do you have it?"

"No ma'am. I can tell you where I put it, but Cody will have moved it."

"I'll have a conversation with him about the matter shortly. Miss Donner, can you pass the location of that recording to security please."

"Yes ma'am."

"And there is a second thing?"

Paige sends a nod. "An incident with Hamper and Damper", and she plays the before and after. "We were curious what happened in the middle, but they hid from the cameras. However, we found this. It's a view of a nearby window, that has a street light reflected. Long story short, Jules was able to recover audio from the window's vibration. Rewinding... over to Jules."

I put the audio onto the group. When it has finished, it's clear that the Head is barely controlling fury. "They said you had put them up to that. Did you, Miss Walcutt?"

"Ma'am, what I told them to do was rough them up and make sure they were caught stealing by security. I'll swear to that and Fubar can scan me on it. I had no idea what they actually did until this morning. Yesterday when we looked at it we paused it before then."

"Why did you pause it."

"I was overwhelmed with guilt. Jules asked Paige to stop."

"Before the detail?"

"I knew they had hurt Elaine and Joanne on my order, it was enough."

"Louis?"

"She's telling the truth. At the time, it was negligent, but not intended to go that far. An act of ill-considered anger and desperation. And she is genuinely remorseful now."

I'm guessing Foob is tapping the link content out of our heads. He doesn't need to read the connection if the endpoint is wide open.

"Very well, Miss Donner, please pass these recordings on to Security, too. And Miss Walcutt, we will be having further conversations about this matter. Jules, since you're clearly ringleader here, for what reason did you not bring these to me immediately?"

"I didn't want to implicate Tansy, ma'am. When she had a hunch and we re-reviewed the audio all the way through today before meeting you, she changed that and decided we should show you both of them."

"I see." She pauses and thinks for a moment. "Alright. Because of that decision, I now have the evidence to throw two rapists out of my school, and a lead on evidence that will let me throw out a slaver. Jules, you say you aren't doing this as an act of retribution against Sebastiano?"

"I realised the impulse to do that was irrationally defensive. It was my impulse, although it swept the others up. But reporting me for messing with Tansy's mind was actually the right thing to do, even if it was done with spite. Therefore slamming back would be the wrong thing to do."

"You suggested earlier that you regarded it as an attack on Tansy?"

"It was, the Don doesn't know me from a goldfish. He was angry at Tansy suddenly snubbing his group. And I was angry at him for interfering with her."

"Very well. I will speak to Doctor Bellows about your impulsive anger there. You have made yourself very powerful, and that means you are going to have to learn how to be slow to anger. Thankfully, this time, good has come of it. That will not always be the case. And there are many situations, I speak from experience, where "oops" is nowhere near enough. Am I understood?"

"Yes, ma'am."
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1 month 2 weeks ago #70062 by JulesMorrison
JulesMorrison replied the topic: Interlaced
# Part one hundred and one

Mrs Carson ends up giving Paige an essay on the ethics of using her powers to dig up dirt on people she doesn't like, and another on the school rules that apply to hacking the security feeds without permission. Tansy has to go and swear out a statement at Security. Then she's going to have to apologise to Elaine and Joanne. But she was going to do that anyhow. Then probably some other punishment, after they close the trap on Hamper and Damper, but the Head hasn't decided.

As for me, well...

"I know that detention in Hawthorne is hardly a chore for you. And I know from Stan and Morrie that you can switch off your sense of disgust, so the sewers would be the same. Boredom, you switch off. Essays, you'd have done, flawless, and sitting in my inbox by the time I finished my sentence. You're making quite a lot of money from ARC but you've barely touched it. And the only thing you've used it on is clothes."

I raise a hand. "Yes?"

"Ma'am, I may need it soon again, I've had contact from my academic adviser that Lillian Dennon might want me for her class. I might need to get a dress."

She nods. "And if I were to confiscate it except for necessities like that dress?" A pause, then, "No need to answer, I can see from your face, it would barely inconvenience you. Hmm." She looks at Tansy, and seems to have an idea. "Well now, I have a thought, but I need to check with someone else first. So you may go for now, I'll contact you later. Dismissed."

Not like that's ominous or anything.

It's both a good and somewhat frustrating thing that the Head is smart enough not to fall for any Brer Rabbit, "please don't throw me in the briar patch, Brer Fox" flimflam. I'm pretty sure that most of the things I'd consider necessary reasons to touch my cash are also things she'd, reluctantly, consider necessary too. But our good relationship is honestly too important to me for that kind of sneakiness anyway. Which means I have to let her figure out some way to be beastly to me. Gah.

To be fair, I genuinely should try to rein in my temper. And not drag the others into it.

My down mood gets me hugs from Sara at breakfast. Tansy's off getting her statement recorded and the table feels a bit emptier without her. She really has become part of the family.

"Looking forward to chasing Chou's discovery?", Sara asks.

The obvious distraction is welcome. "A bit", I agree. "Hey, I'm curious, didn't you sense it since Christmas?"

"Yeah, I did", she says, "But I'm bound by my demon nature, I could go and look at it on my own, but I can't just volunteer it. And I wasn't sure I could take it out solo. So I've just left it alone until now."

"Lemme guess, that's a bit frustrating?"

"Boy is it ever."

I hug her. "Any way I can help?"

"Involve me in things. When I'm asked, or when I'm included, I can act."

"What if I could take the restrictions off you?"

She chuckles. "I've thought about that. It would mean tearing my demon nature out. Not a gentle thing. Probably incredibly painful. And a lot of people only trust me because they can use that nature to bind me."

"So how come they trust me?"

"Some don't. That sniper was originally sent after you, remember? But you've gone and made yourself hard to harm, and hidden in a very secure place, and are making the right noises about neutrality and friendliness. I think half of them haven't made up their minds and the others haven't figured out how to get leverage. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a level where kidnapping Paige was an attempt at that."

Paige smirks, "Which she comprehensively stomped."

"With a little help from her friends", Sara adds grinning. "Yeah, I think they've put kidnapping people on the don't try it list, after that and Donna."

"Good", I say with feeling. "Because honestly, I'm sick of it, it's scary and makes me do awful things, so if they lay off, yay for that."

"Anyway", Sara says, "Changing the subject a bit, I should let you know that I've been busy setting up the conference. Well, me and Petra, she's coordinating the ecumenical side."

It's an unsubtle swerve but I'm glad of it. "Oh? Do tell."

"We're going to kick it off in February. First day on the first, followed by a big party on the second, which is imbolc, one of the pagan holy days. Last day on Valentine's day. The entry and exit on Earth will be in Seattle."

"Why there?"

"Nowhere near here, and it's well connected in a number of occult ways. Also the Medawihla have contacts with the Duwamish people whose traditional land the city is. We've been able to get a pass from them too."

I nod approvingly. "I take it we won't have to be there continuously?"

"Well, two of your bodies already are, up to you how much you want to reveal them. But in terms of exeats, no, just a few, for the big announcement and a few panels. Mostly my cult will be handling the running. And of course, zero commute." Because the main part of the conference is off-world and accessible by door.

"Might take the opportunity to take a look around Seattle", I say. "I only really know it from Shadowrun."

Which makes her giggle. "Kinda similar, fewer flying cars."

"You've been over there already huh?"

"Daddy's doors do make it rather easy. Yes, I've been to and fro. We needed to set up the entrance, parking, stuff like that. The city would be annoyed if we caused a jam."

"Don't think I haven't noticed that the first is also a month after you picked me out of a snowdrift", I say with a grin, snuggling against her.

"Mhm", she agrees, stroking my hair. "I may also have thought of that."

The last bit of drama at breakfast is watching Hamper and Damper get frogmarched out of Crystal Hall by security guys. Goodbye forever to them I think, and no tears on my part.

Necromancy class has been cancelled for the morning, so I've got a four way split. One to my adviser, one to Tolman's class, one to Dyffud, and the investigation team is rallying at Kirby, so Sara and I head over that way. We're joined by Chou, Molly, and Molly's friend, who she introduces as Winnie or Geomancer. She's the one who can track the spell, but I think she's a bit scared of Sara and me, because she stays really quiet and hangs close to Molly.

Outside Kirby, we meet Circe, and a squad of security types in body armour with big guns. Circe has a short discussion with Molly, which results in agreement to have her come along to look after Winnie, provided the two of them stay back from any danger, as they're the most squishy of all of us.

Over the links, I say, "Circe, a moment?"

"Yes, what is it that can't be said out loud?"

"I want to give the security people links. More precisely, I want *you* to give them links."

She thinks about that, nods. "I see. Good thought. They'll take it easier from me. Worried about them?" Because of course, she knows what I can do with a link to someone.

"I just want everyone protected."

"Understandable."

A word to Chou discovers she has, unsurprisingly, given Molly a link. So Molly can give Winnie one, and nobody has to deal directly with scary me. Good, good.

Meanwhile over over in Schuster I knock on the door labelled "Terri Larson". A familiar voice says "Come in", so I do.

Our short discussion reveals that I'm assigned remedial psychic ethics on Tuesdays and Thursdays, fifth and sixth period. Which works. The first aid class, meanwhile, is extra curricular. That will happen on three Sundays in a row and run all day. And there will be adults mixed in. Not a problem, again.

The business of Lillian Dennon is messier. "She initially turned you down, at the start of term. Not enough known about you, she doesn't include the uncouth. But you've shown yourself polite, if unpolished. Now she has a hankering to polish you. It won't be gentle. I've had students break down from her class. And you'll be coming in late with work to catch up."

I say, "I've already heard the scare stories, fight a combat in heels and don't spill the tea."

"Or smudge your makeup. Which I notice, you don't use."

"My chromatophores are just black right now, but I could add colours?" I simulate black lipstick and eyeliner.

Which makes miss Larson giggle. "Oh dear me no. She will definitely insist on the sticky stuff, at least knowing how. And knowing where, too. Because if it's clear to me that you aren't practised, dear, it will be blatant to her." Oops.

I scrunch up my nose. "I can tolerate learning to paint myself with stickiness and goop. It seems useful to be able to mix in society. Even if the combat thing seems a stretch."

"It's mostly to test the rest of it, I'm told. You are assumed, already, to be capable of fighting. Or if not that's someone else's class. The task is doing it and maintaining decorum."

I nod. "Well, I'll meet her, and see if we click, but pencil me in for that, absent any major personality clash."

She nods. "Very well, I'll let her know. She'll want to meet you first, but the class is Fridays, all afternoon."

"That's going to be an interesting set of overlaps, but I can do it."

"She'll want to see you either later today or tomorrow for an introductory interview. Do you have a formal outfit?"

"Not yet, I may need an exeat to jump over to Dunwich and get one."

She considers. "See her in your uniform, then ask her what to get. Or you may end up with an expensive mistake."

Fair point. "Okay."

"I'll let her know. Expect a mail. It may be needlessly flowery. Try to be polite back."

I grin, "I'll do my best."

The group at Kirby has set off, and we're following Winnie's guidance, who's leading, with Molly beside her chatting away. So far, she's leading us towards the woods. Me, who's an idiot and evidently a makeup ignoramus too, decides it's a fun time to whistle the hi-ho song from Snow White. Which makes the security person who's walking beside me giggle. She has a nice voice. "So this link thing, you invented it?" Maybe she's asking to divert me from whistling. Which succeeds.

"I did, yeah. It's kind of an advanced version of the comms thing my friends were already using, but built out of spells."

"We've heard rumours about it, some of the brass have it, but suddenly, now we all have it. Your instigation, I think. Why?" She's smart.

I consider what to say. "It has a secondary use, that might let me protect any of you who gets badly injured. I kind of set this expedition off, pushing Bladedancer to tell Circe, so I feel responsible."

"Yeaaah... there's other rumours. That you brought some frogs back to life. That you did it with a human, but they're hiding who."

"There's personal secrets mixed up in that stuff, but yeah."

"I see." She sounds thoughtful. "Well, let's just hope it isn't needed."

I can only nod my agreement.
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1 month 2 weeks ago - 1 month 2 weeks ago #70080 by JulesMorrison
JulesMorrison replied the topic: Interlaced
# Part one hundred and two

Our trail leads us unerringly closer to the forest's edge, and the group reorganises, with security moving forward to take the lead. We swing around a bit, to triangulate how far into the forest the source is, it seems to be about a hundred meters in. Give or take, because it's resisting precise location.

After a short pause to plan, the group moves into the forest, Molly and Winnie in the center with Chou guarding them, we can't leave them outside since we might need guiding in. Security up front, Circe in the rear, me and Sara flanking, because we're durable and can fight. When we close in on the area, the idea is that security will split, a few stay behind on guard while most of them go ahead and make sure it's clear.

As we go into the trees, I shift to my super suit, which blends well with the white. The forest is quiet, fallen snow eats the sound of our footfalls, it should be calm but something about it is heavy with tension. Most of the others are making slow going in the drifts. Sara and I are trotting over the snow's surface, alert to danger.

When we get closer, I think even the security folks can feel the tension. Their radios are full of static, to the point they have to be switched off as a distraction, but the links are still clear. Whatever dark magic was done here doesn't touch the soul level.

"Alright, civilians stay put, squad move forward", the security squad's leader is a guy from his voice, they're all in the armoured suits so it's hard to guess much. "Stay alert, do not touch anything that looks magical, I want a perimeter. Nothing gets in or out."

I say, "Can you broadcast your vision on link, please, we might spot something important."

"Good idea, do it", the squad leader says. And we can see various perspectives of forest. They're coming up close to a clearing, and I'm guessing that's our destination.

There's something bothering me, and I have to turn my attention to figure what it is. "Where's the magic, we should be seeing it? Unless it's hidden from baselines."

Circe says, "It's probably a circle."

"Circle where... circle *under* the snow... you inside the clearing, mind where you step!", but my warning is too late and suddenly things are happening.

Over the link I get glimpses of sudden movement as humanoid creatures burst up from under the ground. Gun-chatter as the security squad opens up on them. "Bullets aren't doing anything! Fall back!" Sara and I glance, and we rush forward to engage. Circe is telling the others, "Circle up, Bladedancer, your sword may be able to cut these things. Don't disturb me, I'm going to see if I can break the summoning."

Tree boles flash past as Sara and I charge in. As soon as I can see the creatures I start throwing duplicates in teleports behind them, and lighting up sabers. Sara grabs one off a security person and slams it into a tree, and disembowels it with claws. I cut a half dozen of them down, happily they don't seem to heal from lightsaber burns. They're long-armed things with long, dripping slime-covered claws, wide mouths, short legs with spurs at the knee. The ears look feline, pointed and tufted. Teeth in rows, like a shark. Red eyes with no sign of a pupil, but they see well enough.

Several of the security people are in a bad way so I leave duplicates to do first aid, and jump back into the fray, sabers casting purple glows onto the snow as I slash, seeing Sara lift one into the air with tentacles and rip it in half. I think they're still coming because the numbers don't seem to be going down.

I can see one of them has a security person, it sees me, holds a claw over their heart. The meaning's clear, come closer and they die. I run down my options. Slipstream in or teleport? Gets me there fast, but I'm not sure the saber cut would finish the job fast enough to stop that claw touching the heart.

There is one more option but I don't want to use it. It was an idea I'd thought up and then set aside as too full of nasty potential. But needs must... timebase set high enough the world gets red and dim, I open out a tube of vacuum, create a sphere of atomically pure silver in the end, bend space inside the tube to give a harsh gravity field, and the sphere starts moving, even at this timebase it's moving quickly when I release the tube wall just before it crosses into air. I can see the creature's claw pressing inward, it's fast, but the sphere is faster, pushing a visible shock of air, passing through the creature's head, exploding out behind it in a spray of pink, and I vanish what's left of the sphere before it wreaks any more havoc on the surrounding forest. Timebase back to normal and CRACK echoes around drawing looks. The monster falls, claw only scraping the security person's uniform.

I call it my bullshit cannon, and I don't like it one bit.

Suddenly a hush falls over the clearing as Circe's voice echoes, she's speaking a language foreign to me but it makes all the monsters stop, and then dissolve into smoke and vanish.

And like that, it's over. Lightsabers off, and various of me take a look around for casualties.

Those claws had poison, but it's not particularly difficult for me to stop that and patch minor damage. Then I come to a body without a head - I recognise her, though, we talked earlier. One of the other guys says, "Shit, McGraw."

"What? Also who turned out the lights?" It's her voice over the link. Which is spooky as fuck when looking at a headless body.

Okay, I think this calls for a little more than first aid, and I don't care if Doyle is annoyed at me. "Miss McGraw, your head was bitten off, your body's dead, but there's enough life in it that I can rebuild and revive you. It has to be your choice."

"What, you can grow me a new head?"

"Yeah literally that."

"Well fuck yeah, do it, I never used the old one anyway." Which makes the others laugh nervously.

I strip back the uniform and put my fingers against still-warm skin. Close off and seal torn blood vessels, close the severed neck vessels, flow saline into her bloodstream, restart her heart. Push oxygen directly in. Start regrowth from the neck, rebuilding the smashed vertebra and then others on top of it, muscles, tendons, skull bones starting to form, I'm using her DNA to guide the shape. Skull curves and closes, brain growing up from the spinal cord, making space for it, fitting it to the skull. Face rebuilding. Skin, hair growing. She looks asleep, and her hindbrain comes active, she takes a gasping breath, and another. Now reconnecting her soul, painstakingly, point to proper point, and her eyes flicker open. She coughs, spits out blood, looks up at me. "Well fuck me if that wasn't a ride. Hi everyone, I'm back."

"Hey McGraw, check out your face", one of the others says.

"What?" She reaches up and touches her face, and then laughs. "Well damn."

When I look confused, one of the other guys says, "She lost half her face to a flechette grenade from the bad guys at Halloween. But you rebuilt it whole. McGraw, you're almost pretty again. Your mom won't recognise you." Which makes everyone laugh.

She tries to sit up, and with effort succeeds. "Ugh, this feels weird."

"You're using your soul's memories, the physical ones aren't there", I say. "I think you might have strange perspectives on some stuff, weird dreams. And driving a body again after being cut loose from one is gonna feel odd."

"Feels heavy, everything's a damn chore. So we beat those fuckers?"

Circe says, "I have sealed them, yes. The remainder, I can handle myself, alone."

We straggle back out, collecting Chou's group who had defeated a couple of the things, and as soon as the radios work again, they're calling in backup and medical vehicles. Which soon arrive, and everyone gets trundled over to Doyle, even the ones without injuries.

A lot of waiting and a short but thorough check-up later, I'm discharged. Although not yet free, as I have to get debriefed, this time by a familiar face, Lieutenant Forsyth. Which has its downsides as he's no dummy and immediately picks up on the cannon.

"Why do you hate it?"

"It's a stupid, violent, destructive, overpowered nuisance. No ammo limits because it's created matter, I can easily push the velocity up to hypersonic with a long barrel, and because it's gee fields, it's independent of the mass of the bullet. When my back of the envelope calculations started rating in megatons I drew a line under it. I am not some walking weapon. Also I can vanish the bullet which lets me assassinate people and not leave evidence, whoop-de-do. Another skill I do not want anything to do with."

He sighs. "A commendable attitude but you're still going to have to deal with having the ability. This time, it saved someone."

I nod. He's right, but it still bothers me. "Worth it, in the circumstances, but it's another reason for people to fear me. Still, that cat's out of the bag now."

"And it's not the only one. You brought back Robin McGraw. One of my own platoon, so thank you. The docs are still undecided if you put her back together right, but the consensus is yes. They're calling it a medical miracle, but it's more than that, isn't it?"

"If I'm doing things right, it's the start of a shift like we haven't seen since the dawn of science", I agree. "What I'm trying to do is get humans to see beyond the idea the soul is intangible. To view what I did as a technique, not a miracle. And to see the wide open world which that perspective opens up. As well as the risks that they are currently blind to."

He looks thoughtful. "I can't stop my people from pretty much building shrines to you, but I'll give that some thought."

I chuckle. "You know, I might not be completely averse to the shrines. Got a big thing coming up, I might be pushing the religious figure angle a tad. Technically, I *am* a life power."

"Watch yourself with that one", he says. "That can definitely turn and bite you very badly. No prophet is accepted in his home town. Wise words of warning."

"Duly noted", I agree.

As the bell goes for third period, I feel the circle's power dip, sputter and stop. Suddenly the air feels fresher, and the low sky a little less crushingly heavy.

Other me has a change of lessons to go to, but this me takes the chance to just snuggle with Sara, let out of her debriefing too.

"We did a good thing today", she says. "I can feel the place getting lighter, happier."

"Shouldn't you be grumpy about that, little miss evil?", I tease.

"Grr, yes, me grumpy", her attempt to fake it leaves us both in giggles. "Perhaps I'm coming around to your perspective a little. I may be a creature of lust and darkness, but I can enjoy a little happiness too. Besides, your kind of happiness seems to include a fair helping of lust." I giggle as she shares her Sara-o-vision over the mark, reminding me of our closeness with that most intimate connection, and I can feel half the buildings on campus lit up with purple flares. "Fraternisation in full swing."

"No lessons before lunch yourself?", I ask.

She shakes her head. "Absolutely free as a bird, darling." And grins. "Race you, no warping", and we're off, dashing through the snow towards Hawthorne.
Last Edit: 1 month 2 weeks ago by JulesMorrison. Reason: Fix a typo
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1 month 5 days ago #70152 by JulesMorrison
JulesMorrison replied the topic: Interlaced
# Part one hundred and three

If you're wondering how well I could manage two separate classes while all that mess was going down, it was okay while we were just walking over. But when everything went to hell, Dyffud stopped me and had me meditate, and Sensei Tolman told me to sit out and watch. I wasn't exactly distracted, but my chi was all over the place. I still haven't got that under control across bodies in a pinch. At least now I can feel it, though.

Luckily the actual battle was short, if very violent. Which now leaves me stuck benched and watching the others spar.

Sensei Tolman comes over and sits with me. There's a pause, as we watch the other students squaring off in their pairs. "You've been holding back a lot. I can see that when you fight."

"This class, I'm sticking to the syllabus", I say. "For the others as well as myself. If I'm using the stuff we've been taught, they get to see how to do it right."

She nods, looks at me. "Do you think you're too advanced for the class now?"

I think for a moment, then shake my head. "What I'm learning from Dyffud is... advanced, intricate, but patchy. I either know it or I don't. What I haven't seen, I know nothing about. Much I've seen but not used. Even if I've used it, it's been against him. As if I had grammar and vocabulary, but no experience speaking."

"Good answer", she nods. "Still, I'll be bringing in some more advanced students in when I can borrow them, and you can let your brakes off a bit. You do need to practise that stuff he's filling your head full of."

I smile. "I'd appreciate it."

"Also, blockhead, try not to get into pitched battles in the middle of my lesson" She raps me on the head, making me say "ow".

"Sorry. Wasn't planned, the security squad was supposed to be over-caution."

She sighs. "Well, judging by your chi, it's over now. Would you like to rejoin the class?"

I nod, "Yes, Sensei. Circe says she can take it from here, which means it stops being my business, I won't be distracted."

"Alright, next change of partners, I'll call one out for you." She stands and moves off.

Dyffud, meanwhile, is taking a different tack. "Why don't you run through what just happened, for me?" He sounds genuinely curious.

So I explain, and he listens, and then we go through the detail of the fight, and he has me show - with a lit lightsaber, even - what exact cuts and stances I used. I have to stop short of scarring the floor on a few that went through and into dirt. He nods. Then asks me about the fight with Lycanthros and Nightgaunt. So I show him my moves on that one too.

He doesn't look impressed. "Your moves were practical and they worked, against those opponents. You just moved the blade through where they were, and chop, dead. With a lightsaber, that's effective. With a more conventional sword, you would have bent the blade, jammed it in a shallow cut, or just not had enough force to cut at all. And meanwhile your stance was sloppy, too static, flat-footed and full of openings. You weren't even thinking about combined offence and defence. You didn't expect a return blow, or for your cut to be avoided and used against you. Luckily, both times, you were right."

I nod. "That's fair. I wasn't really thinking that way. I wanted the fight to end, I was taking the shortest path to that."

"Which is an important start, I'll grant you. Okay so, we'll be adding weapons, a jo staff should be a good stand in. Not actual sabers, Elizabeth would never let me hear the end of it if I let you cut up the floor. But some of the skills should transfer. And maybe some day, you'll prefer a wooden stick to a live blade, and that will stand you in good stead too."

"May all my fights be ones I can resolve so peacefully", I agree.

For the rest of the lesson, we focus on chi stuff. "This is something I've been talking to the other group about, but until just now, you didn't have enough ability to sense the flow of chi for me to be able to demonstrate them to you. But I think now, you can, and it should be a welcome distraction from the adrenaline jitters over on the other side."

So we talk for a bit about the Chinese five-element system, and how they aren't really "elements" so much as named reference points in a transformational flow, and how they connect to different styles of fighting. And he demonstrates their chi flow for me, with quite clear and obvious differences between them. Of course I'm now going back through today's training, and labelling stuff he did. Then guess-labelling other lessons, before I had chi sight. "Ah, I see."

He chuckles. "Well, let's try it", and we're back to sparring, except this time I have another layer to track. Not just in following him, but in attempting to make use of the transitions he's implicitly shown me.

Lesson ends with a warm-down and meditation, but I think I've made a substantial advance there. It should amongst other things help me de-escalate a fight. That's something I'm glad to have.

Third period sees a change-over. I have ranges, and flight license training. Both interesting classes.

As I make my way down into the range, Caitlin waves me over. "So what's this I hear about you using an unregistered weapon?"

Hoo boy. "Nothing so fast as scuttlebutt, huh? It's not exactly a weapon so much as powers stuff. I'm not sure how that gets regulated here. But I used it in a life threatening emergency, if that helps."

"It might, what is it?"

"You saw me make the saber by creating matter in a vacuum tube. And I've had experience with slipstreaming, opening them up real fast. So I open a tube for a barrel, create a bullet in it, add a gravity gradient, wait until just before the bullet hits the end, let the tube and the gradient go. High timebase lets me do it all under precision control. And I can vanish the bullet at any stage in its travel. Linear accelerator, no recoil."

"Maximum firepower?"

"I haven't found it, or tried. It seems very likely I could shoot as hard as a navy battleship. Possible I could stretch it into the megatons. Given I don't know my limits..." I shrug. "The worst case scenario is I could shoot the planet apart like a Death Star. I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of doing that."

"Minimum?"

"There's no reason I couldn't use it as a ping pong ball launcher."

She considers. "Okay. I got the life threatening emergency bit from security, too, they really don't want me going hard on you. They were pretty insistent about that. So just don't use the thing again until I clear you, capeesh? And don't get yourself into any life threatening emergencies. Now scram, get over to your station, we're learning plasma rifles today."

I nod. "Understood. Will do." and grin, and head to my station.

Billie meets me outside Laird, in her "space pirate" gear, which is kind of a white tabard belted with a sash over a red and black outfit. "We're over on the field today. That's just over there. You'll need your costume again. That's really just a precaution in case we get spotted in the air."

So I tease her by changing into mine without breaking stride. "This do?"

"Gah, how... no, I do not need to know." She laughs. "I swear you invent new powers by the day."

"I remix old ones. Should I include my instrument pack?"

"Can you read instruments?"

"These ones, yes. Direct data hookup."

"What do you have?"

"Mostly what you'd call raw sensors. I'll do the conversion to altitude and speed in my head. Terrain avoidance database, GPS, map. Also a very flexible radio. Transmit, receive, direction and distance. That works as a passive radar and I can pick up beacons with it."

"Rather you than me with the raw data. But yeah, include it, can't hurt and you'll definitely want the radio."

My pack appears and clings on to my costume, and I can feel the instrument feeds opening up. It's like adding another half a dozen senses. Like for example, I can hear WARS, and I can also feel precisely where the transmission tower is. With that and a few dozen other radio sources acting as beacons, it's going to be fairly easy to find my way around.

Mr Buttons is waiting in the field, and he's wearing what looks like some devisor jet-pack harness. "Alright, I don't expect to keep up with you, but I should be able to stay at your altitude. We'll be starting with communicating with the local air traffic controller, Tennyo, you can lead us through that the first time. And please remember, both of you, keep it to codenames on the air."

While I'm up there practising standard-rate turns ("three degrees per second, two minutes the full circle, *not* instantaneous, or you'll completely confuse the air traffic control") I'm also lounging on Sara's bed, watching my beloved play "good and evil online". I can tell from her villainous chuckling she's having fun, even if her victims are not. I've never been much of a one for games, but for her, this is her let-off-the-leash time, and it's sweet watching her enjoy it.

Unexpectedly I'm nudged on the links. "Hey there sweetie, it's Donna, are you busy?"

"Never busy for Donna-mama. What have you got?"

"Couple bits of news for you. First up, some feedback on influence. The formal indicators won't tick for another half month or so, but we've been keeping an eye on the informal day to day totals in places that record them. Same pattern everywhere, violence down across the board, hate crimes down, unsolicited confessions up. Also we're getting reports from our therapists on retainer, that they are swamped for business largely with people working through their guilt. And several millenarian cults popping up claiming that the worldwide biological breakthrough events on the 8th were advance warning of a new world dawning."

"They aren't too wrong there."

She chuckles "I know. But dear, it's not just dawning. All the signs we're seeing out there suggest a sharp rate of change. Without knowing how far we have to go, I'd still say it's going to be over in months, not years. That is going to create some serious social disruption."

"I may have something, or rather, someone, for you, there. If she agrees to become involved. Another student, but with her consent I've pulled her all the way through influence. She's your reference endpoint."

"Really? Please definitely ask her. We'll be willing to provide a very generous pay package."

"I expected as much. I'll pass it on. So what's news item two?"

"ARC has been contacted by a delegation of very high level wizards who want to get in touch with you."

I wince a little. "Donna, wizards are some of the relatively few people that could still potentially do me serious harm. Do you know what their agenda is?"

"To an extent, yes. They're members of an informal international council of wizardly types that, while it technically isn't in charge of anything, kind of rides herd on the world's less villainous wizards. Let's say, if we're talking alignments, they skew heavily to the lawful. We've worked with some of the people in this delegation before."

"I'm guessing they want to decide if I'm something to welcome or something to attack?"

"That's my feeling too. Meeting with them is risky, but it would show willing."

"Tell them I'll meet, but I'll need an exeat. And not Saturday, I'm scheduled for a meeting with a local bugaboo and I feel I ought to give it undivided attention. But with school permission, I'm clear any other day."
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2 weeks 4 days ago #70289 by JulesMorrison
JulesMorrison replied the topic: Interlaced
# Part one hundred and four

By lunchtime, I've covered the flight syllabus on following directions from air traffic control for take-off and landing, and waiting in the air for a runway. It's not quite exactly the same stuff planes use, because mutant flyers are usually more manoeuvrable, I certainly am. But it's still important to avoid making some innocent aircraft into aluminium confetti, due to being somewhere unexpected. The license I'm working towards won't qualify me to fly on instruments alone, but I'm still getting good use out of the things, they make it easy to be quite precise about things like heading and speed.

An email from Miss Dennon arrives as I'm headed to lunch. "Dear Miss Parallel. You are invited to an Introductory Interview for a placement in my class, Exemplar Grace, which will take place today, the Seventeenth of January, in the Venus Inc. Clubroom of Dunn Hall, during Sixth period. The favour of a Reply confirming your Intent to Attend is requested by Fifth period." It isn't actually in calligraphic copperplate, thank goodness. But whee. It sounds as if it needs a herald with a trumpet to announce it. How does one formally say "yes"?

A short web search later, I write back, "Dear Miss Dennon, I am delighted to accept your invitation, and will be there at the appointed hour." Let's hope the phrasing meets her standards. That should be interesting.

Heading into Crystal Hall, I catch sight of Tansy in the food line, looking a bit shell-shocked, and head over to meet her with a hug.

"Hey Jules, thanks", she says, leaning against me. "Sorry for the glum looks. It's been a hard morning."

"If you wanna talk, I'm all ears, if you wanna not, I can do quiet", I say, meanwhile filling up a tray (baked garlic mushrooms, yum), and other me comes in from the ranges and begins filling up her tray too. (Tortellini in tomato sauce, looks very edible.)

"Quiet, I think, for now", Tansy nods. "I've done enough baring my heart for one morning. How was yours?"

"Fighting beasties, saving a security guard who'd died, combat classes, and then zap guns and flying around in circles", I say. "Eventful, if occasionally terrifying. Although the third period was more restful."

She laughs. "If I didn't know you, I'd think you were exaggerating. Did I parse that right, you saved someone... who had died?"

I nod. "Got her head bit off. I rebuilt it from genetics, booted her body back up, and reattached her soul, she's fine." Yes, I am teasing a little with the deadpan tone.

Which makes Tansy giggle, and I can see the weight falling off. "No, seriously."

"Yes, seriously."

She pauses and looks at me. "You actually mean that."

"Anyone who has a link, I can do that. Rebuild a body that's mostly still functioning, or make a copy from a cellular snapshot, or just design them a new one. Congratulations, you're immortal, kinda-sorta, provided you want to be, of course."

"Huh." She has to take a moment to process that. Then, "I do want to be, of course, although I hadn't really thought about dying. It feels like that's a deliberate part of the design? But not exactly a public one yet."

"You know the hmm, secret information I mentioned having? One of those pieces concerns a friend, who's scheduled to get murdered."

"You made that impossible. I see." She's thoughtful, as we sit down. "Links are spreading. You're going to be in a position to save a lot of people. That wasn't an accident, was it?"

"I'm hoping to teach them to do it for themselves, rather than running myself ragged curing a hundred and fifty thousand people a day."

She looks down at her plate. "It just hit me. I was kinda, unconsciously expecting to grow up into a world that looks very much like this one, but that's not true is it? You're going to turn the place on its ear."

I nod, giving Sara a glance which she returns with a smile. "Kinda the plan, for a number of reasons. But I understand it's going to be a shock. I'm already expecting the influence thing to blow up some in the short term. People won't like being changed, and they won't all agree that what they're being changed into is better."

"H-one is going to pitch a screaming fit", Tansy says, with a forkful of tortellini. "Mutant mind control, they'll call it. And ungodly zombie resurrection for what you call saving people. They'll make you into some kind of Antichrist."

That gets a nod from Paige. "I know the type, all too well. They'll double down as soon as they realise the influence is forcing empathy on them. They already have ways to fight it." She winces at a thought. "I think they'll go on a killing rampage just to try and tamp it down with shared guilt. It's effective."

That gets a head shake from Tansy. "It was. It won't be. Guilt in me just... bubbles, wants out. Can't be hidden. When they get where I am, they'll confess, they'll have to. And empathy... it's different. It's richer, it burns. When I saw from Elaine and Joanne's faces, what they thought I'd done to them... it broke me, I was crying. Old me would have just taken it." She sighs, visibly pushes the feelings back. "But that won't save the people they hurt trying."

"Links will", Erin joins in. "Not just the hard way, although that might matter. But just being able to call someone, call the cops, call you, even. You can jump over to them and pull them to safety, at a pinch. Although they have to know to call."

That gets me thinking. "I could release a new version of links, put in an auto trigger on fear?"

Paige shakes her head. "Plenty of mental health conditions, that will trip all the damn time for no reason at all. And likely, *not* trip the one time it isn't crying wolf. There's a weird calm you get when it's real. It's like your mind goes, oh yeah, this is what we've been training for, we can handle this. No, the best answer is to get the knowledge out there that they can call you. And get the links out there too."

Sara says, "We'll tell the world at the conference. And Jules, my cult is busy with preparations, but they can spread links amongst themselves and to contacts and friends. Hmm, and Petra can pass them to the Knights. I'll get them started on that right away."

I nod. "I'm not sure the Catholic church is entirely the good guys, but, the Knights should be. Hmm, and we can get Eli to spread them to the... tribe, and their contacts." Shouldn't say wolves in public.

That gets a wince from Sara. "They're in active conflict with something that attacks at the soul level."

The Bastard and friends, right, good point. "You're worried contagion will spread over the links?"

"Or they'll fry everyone connected to them with class-X feedback."

A nod from me. "I've already built in a level of security, but I'll recheck the code with that in mind." I kick off a bunch of selves to do that. "We'll run into that problem sooner or later, the system needs to be hardened against it."

Tansy's looking at us with a worried frown. "What is it you guys are dancing around? Soul level attacks, class X... Oh damn, it's GOOs, isn't it?"

"Let's take it to links, I don't want to be overheard by half the school", I say, then on links, "Yeah, good deduction, it's GOOs. We, um, may be in a teensy bit of a war. Me, Sara, and her daddy are the ones on humanity's side."

Sara adds, "The others are split between indifference, predatory indifference, and enmity. But there's a particular one who's been attacking our friends in the tribe, and that one takes over the bodies and minds of people his minions attack. Avoiding getting that in the links is important."

Tansy looks thoughtfully at me. "Ah. I suppose that answers the question that's been itching in the back of my mind, what's the ungodly rush. Everything you've been doing implies hurry, but you haven't explained it. You're in a race to enhance humans because this whoever it is is racing you back, to harm them."

Sara nods grimly, "That one has been winning the race, inch by inch, and we couldn't do a lot more than dig in our heels to hold his speed down to a crawl, daddy and I. We do have plans, but things took a define turn when Jules entered the picture."

I say, "His pattern is bigotry, discord, dissolution. Look out at the world and you can see his stamp on it. What I did last week cut absolutely directly against his plans, and he knows he's on a timer now with influence eating away at his lead. He's certain to return fire. So the hurry is to build up a strategic position."

Tansy takes a pause to think that through, then, "I see. That business with attacking the base to get Paige, what you did to Necromancer, the links, saving people, it's a pattern. You're making allies, sowing fear and respect among your enemies, building up protection for your friends. Everyone else sees just a scary powerful kid who's close with her circle and neutral on the villains thing. But you're thinking like a general who expects to be attacked. You've even made yourself a nice cosy base here, surrounded by very competent and protective adults." She chuckles. "Dear fuck, I'm glad I didn't come after you. You're loaded for bear."

"I wish I didn't have to be", I nod. "It's no fun feeling like the sky's about to fall, and it's no fun twisting myself to become hard. Soft is really so much more my style."

She nods. "I feel you there." And looks thoughtful.

Sara smirks, "We do manage to fit in a bit of soft. As you've already experienced."

That gets a giggle. "Mhm, and hard in all the right places. Yes, I see. It changes the pattern, when I look at you through that lens. Like a group of warriors hugging before battle. Not that there's anything wrong with slutting around for the sake of it." Another thoughtful pause. "Sara, you were here before Jules, I understand you a bit better, now, too, I think. You carried the weight alone. And hid it behind that miss spooky demon princess act."

"I'll have you know it's not an act", Sara puts a pointed tongue out at Tansy. "I really am a demon princess."

"The unworried smile was an act, though." Tansy's not easily teased off course. A thoughtful pause. "The Kimbas were your first backup team."

"They still are. Rumours of our breakup were greatly exaggerated. Although, there are, hmm, ethical tensions."

"Namely they don't slut around", Tansy nods, amused.

"And several of them have difficulty handling the way I eat, yes. Also they don't entirely trust me. The demon thing is hard to get past."

"Ayla has come a long way, from when I knew him as Trevor, to even be in a room with you. Yes, I see."

The Kimbas themselves are oblivious to our discussing them. We've been talking out the morning's fight, with Chou's perspective of an interesting contrast to mine. That was mostly a defensive action, helped by Molly's summoned ally and the security folks who stayed behind with the group. I think it has brought them closer together, Chou was talking about forming a team. Then I got to go through my much more attack-oriented fight, and Dyffud's tear-down of it. Which gets me onto the five elements thing, and now Toni is hot to fight me. Spar, she says, but I'm hearing "challenge". Ah well, could be good practise. We can do that in lunch break if we don't dawdle over out food.
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