Rise Of The Mandarin Mandarin
  • Rand continues to be at work.

Alex: I'm gonna go grab a grub before game time.

  • Rand awaits the tech support guy.

Alex: Good afternoon and evening, Cynn, Alice.

Alice: Hey.

Alex: How ya doin'?

Remy: it rains

  • Alex sprinkles on Remy.

Cynn: Rain is beautiful.

Alex: Is Rand experiencing hollyhocknichal difficulties?

Rand: I'm still here with the fiber optical guy, yes. Could be a while.

Rand: Maybe somebody could volunteer to do an extracurricular activity?

  • Alex twerks.

Cynn: Everyone roll up a 500 XP Solar!

Remy: The bare-handed every-style master is go.

Rand: Or "the story of how we ruined Tempa's How to Host a Murder", or the Noodle Incident, or something.

Cynn: Okay, we're getting extremely meta now, but:

  • Cynn set the channel topic: "In Which Cynn Runs Exalted for the Gang"

Alex: Alex flips through the book. "This is just peculiar. Who wrote this?"

Cynn: "I don't know. Here, try this one."

Remy: "Huh. Something's going fucky with reality."

  • Cynn hands Alex the 1st Edition Sidereals book.

Remy: "Real fucky."

Alex: "This is weirdly accurate. A mortal person wrote this?"

Remy: "We're coming under meta-dimensional assault!"

Remy: "Extradiegetic invaders from beyond the fourth wall are trying to eat our internal reality!"

Alice: "…that's… news?"

Alice: Alice glances at the Sidereals book. "Oh, hey, I met her," she says, after glancing at the Scripture of the One-Handed Maiden. "I think. She was cool."

Alice: "I guess it could have been somebody else with one hand and a lot of fury."

Alice: "…have you ever noticed that people tied to Fury tend to lose one of something? Like, a hand, or an eye, or the clause of the example they're in?"

Cynn: "I mean, that describes a lot of folks I've met with one hand."

Cynn: "Kind of a chicken-and-egg thing, really."

Alex: "Seems like the sort of thing that would leave you grouchy." Alex starts sketching up a character—Joachim, Power of Restraint.

Alice: "Yeah, eggs don't have any hands, but chickens have two, so it averages out."

Alice: "Well, except for Humpty Dumpty, obviously."

Remy: "Recursive fractal… layers within layers… p-zombies…!!!"

Alice: Alice says, "Are we making a mixed group?"

Cynn: "So, in this campaign, I'm going to run you guys as a circle of newly-Exalted Solars. You're starting in the domain of Sigereth, a second-circle demon, who has offered you the opportunity to play a dangerous game of its own creation, called Call of Cthulhu."

Alice: Alice wrinkles her nose. "That's a little meta," she says. "But we can call him if you want."

  • Remy muses on what Remy's favorite system would be.

Cynn: "Nah, this is a different Cthulhu. It's a pretty common Squamodalian name. They don't all know each other, you know."

Alex: "Just to be clear, we're playing as other Nobles, who will be playing Solars in a game of Exalted, who will be playing mortals in a game of Call of Cthulhu?"

Alice: Alice ponders. "Can I be an Eclipse with Abyssal Charms?" she says. "Bang, respite! Respite! Respite to all!"

Alice: (Alice doesn't actually know about Abyssals but is able to deduce their existence from first principles.) (Lesser Divination of Respite.)

  • Cynn considers.

Cynn: "Yeah, I guess. You'll have to have had some kind of Abyssal mentor, though, or at least a connection to the Underworld."

Alice: Alice nods. "I'm thinking maybe the Slack Tubal Series of Doom and Gloaming."

Alex: Alex, playing Joachim, begins building Minus The Bear, a Solar musician who went insane in the Wyld.

Alice: "He's an Abyssal whose weapon is basically a series of tubes, thus, the name."

Alice: "So probably whatever Abyssal type gets Performance? My mentor, I mean."

Cynn: "That makes sense to me. Maybe some Linguistics, too."

Remy: "I'm playing a [REDACTED]. Their fatsplat comes out in the future."

Cynn: "You don't get to play notional splats."

Cynn: "Not unless you can send me their PDF."

Remy: "Gimme an irrational number."

Remy: "I'm sure I can find a string of numbers that match it exactly."

Alex: "Pi to the pi."

Alex: Alex, playing Joachim, has Minus go on a vision quest in the Wyld to consult the primal chaos and learn the appropriate background for his mortal investigator.

  • Remy does so, with Aspect 7 superspeed.

Cynn: "Fair enough."

  • Cynn spends some time statting out ishvara antagonists.

Alice: "My Eclipse is, um." Alice thinks. She squints. "Iolithae Septimian. She was Exalted after surviving a Wyld Hunt that targeted her by mistake."

Remy: "Now that's a superspeed hack I haven't thought of before."

Alice: "See, now, next time Iolithae Septimian tries to give herself superpowers, she might miss," Alice says, and giggles evilly. "To my character's benefit!"

Alice: Alice fist-pumps.

Alex: "Extremely cunning!"

Remy: "Well, it was, until she said it."

Remy: "Now it's probably a lie."

Alice: "It's true," Alice admits. "I've lost the unspoken plan guarantee."

Alice: "But!"

Alice: "But!"

Alice: "We don't know that we're on camera right now."

Cynn: "You are, but only to Oramus."

Alice: "It's possible that this is actually happening between scenes, rather than being a canonical part of our lives, in which case it could totally work."

Alex: "Wait, hang on. Be wary. What if Iolithae incarnates herself through the presence you've created?

Alex: "Or intentionally uses this new Iolithae against you?

Remy: "The gang beats up a Deceiver?"

Remy: "Or, the gang group dates?"

Cynn: "Exalted is not a terribly apt system for running dating drama. I mean, unless you all want to be just Performance-monkeys."

Remy: "Hey now, that social influence system is a work of art. You could totally run Betty and Veronica in Exalted."

Alice: "I think she'd get a lawsuit from a Deceiver that has IP rights over breaking the fourth wall," Alice says.

Remy: "It's just they end up cutting off Archie's head and riding off into the sunset as god-queen gal pals."

Alice: "Who would in turn probably get sued by the Deceiver that runs the RIAA for using their trick, so it all works out."

Alice: "It's the circle of life."

Cynn: "As I understand it, there's already a TV show for that, Remy."

Remy: "Jughead… Chosen of Venus?"

Alice: Alice draws a half-circle in the air with her finger.

Remy: "We don't talk about that channel." Remy sulks. "No regard for canon."

Cynn: "Too many pretty people, too, rushing breathlessly from one cliche to the next."

Remy: "All television is fundamentally an aspect of the gnostic self-conditioning machinery that operates on a downstairs frequency of reality."

Remy: "I have to punch weird guys in cosmic space every time a freshman wants a cable hook-up."

Alice: "Iolithae happily fills in all her skills on a character sheet disgorged by a giant ant demon specialized in disgorging character sheets and other documents," Alice says. "She's just waiting for the Dungeon Master to tell her she's used too many points so she can use the Eclipse anima against him."

Alex: "What, every time? I don't believe you," says Alex. "Joachim uses an Aspect 6 miracle to instantly complete all this recursive character creation."

Cynn: "…She's used… uhm… an unsatisfactory set of mechanics-governing demarcations."

Remy: "Okay, not technically every time, but it's worth it for the look on their face."

Remy: "My Noble is a telepathic dog from a secret city on the moon, enNobled as Thinghood. Her Solar is a sexy pirate guy. His investigator is David Duchovny."

Alice: "Oh, man," Alice says. "So Alex was right that we're doing the Nobles thing in between? I totally missed that and just wasn't telling him."

Alice: Alice ponders.

Alex: "I'm not sure either. Cynn was unclear."

Alex: "I lack Joachim's puissance—I can be confused by things!"

Alice: "I guess I can just play myself for simplicity," Alice says. "I've probably got, what, like 3s in everything?"

Remy: "A balanced spread? No one could be that average!"

Alex: "Can you even get to 3s in everything? That's 28 points."

Cynn: "I was not unclear. You assumed that you were supposed to make a Noble! And what kind of system could even reflect our infinite majesty and miraculous nature?"

Remy: "Dogs in the Vineyard?"

Alice: "True," Alice says. She ponders. "Hm. Aspect 4 is legendary, which is totally me. So that's 12 points. And obviously I'm a Komtesse, which isn't even a rank, but, like, Domain 3, so… I probably have Treasure 1 and, like, Immutable?"

Remy: "You're definitely mutable. I've muted you."

Cynn: "Oh!"

Alice: "Unsuccessfully," Alice says firmly.

Cynn: "Let's play Dogs in the Vineyard."

Cynn: "I'll go kidnap Vincent Baker."

Alice: "'Totally,' Iolithae agrees. But not, like, Iolithae the Eclipse, Iolithae the legendary actress she is playing in the demon's game."

Remy: "What if everything was the same as it already is, except that everyone of cosmic significance was a Mormon cowboy?"

Alex: "Couldn't we just bribe him?

Cynn: "We're bribing him by force!"

Remy: "It's a sacred trial—if he can run it to our satisfaction, he'll get divine power."

Alex: "I suppose that's fair."

Cynn: "Do we have a spare Estate lying around that fits him? Is Color still alive and kicking?"

Cynn: "Because we could gank that Rainbow-Brite-wannabe."

Alice: "Well, there's Destiny."

Alex: "I think we'll just have to endow him with our own miraculous power."

Remy: "Reaganomics!"

  • Cynn finds a note from Destiny. Or, actually, a completed character sheet for an Infernal, alongside a complicated flowchart describing theoretical actions and counter-actions to defeat the party by PVP.

Alice: "It's true that he ought to be easily bribed with a good enchantment or two," Alice accepts. "Unless he's, like, a super top operative in the Cammora or Cleave or something and has really high standards."

Alex: "Top operatives in the Cammora don't sell RPGs for beer money."

Cynn: "Wait… what are we playing, again?"

Alex: "…you're running the game, last I checked. Are you high again?

Alice: "Something called 'beer money,'" Alice says. "I think."

Alice: "It's probably set in Prohibition?"

Alice: "Like, maybe you're magic knights with money-powered magic working for the crime families or the FBI?"

Alice: "Oh, or maybe you can also get powers fueled by alcohol, that would explain the name," Alice concludes, in satisfaction.

Cynn: "We should totally write that one, Alice!" Cynn says, taking a long drink from a rather industrial-looking flask that sizzles audibly as he opens it and leaves faint burn marks on his lips.

Alice: "Shapeshifting," Alice decides. "You can drink beer and turn into, like, the malty falcon, or a polar beer, or a kangaroo 'hops.'"

Alice: "I'm sure it already exists," Alice says, dismissively, and waves her hand. "They can't all be Tolkien derivatives."

Cynn: "Nah, nah, I troll Kickstarter and I ain't seen anything like that."

Remy: "Butterscotch, Alice. You speak a grand new genesis unto the world of tabletop gaming."

Alex: "It sounds enticing."

Alice: Alice ponders. "Well," she says, and grins. "Maybe if I can find the right ghostwriter."

Cynn: "Should we have another seance?"

Remy: "Does reality not mind you doing those?"

Cynn: "Reality is my sub."

Remy: "Explain."

Alice: Alice ponders, then she makes a face. "Tumblr has totally soured me on Benjamin Franklin, and he's the only dead guy I can think of who I'd really want ghostwriting an RPG for me."

Alice: "Ooh, maybe that Indian guy who invented 0? But I don't know if he's good at, like, mechanics in general."

Cynn: "Y'all forget how long I've been at this game, Remy." He blinks, then notices. "No pun, right? Not like, a game game."

Alice: Alice wanders over to her computer and starts looking up possible ghostwriters.

Cynn: "Met Reality once. Lovely. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And that jawline. Cneph. It went on forever. Metaphorically."

Alice: "Jābir ibn Hayyān?" she says.

Alice: "He seems like he might know how to put together a good Beer Money RPG."

Alice: "But I'd assume he's reincarnated."

Alice: Alice's eyes go distant and sparkly as she moves on to imagining getting a proper angel to do it before she drags herself back to reality.

Alice: "Lizzie Magie technically created Monopoly," Alice says, thoughtfully, "but I don't know whether to give her possible ghostwriter points for making an eternally popular classic or to ding her because it's a terrible, terrible game."

Cynn: "I mean, it was terrible on purpose."

Cynn: "It was satire."

Cynn: "It was never meant to be played. Like FATAL or Synnibarr."

Alice: "Junta wasn't terrible and it had valid things to say about politics!"

Alex: "Synnibarr was meant to be played, sadly."

Remy: "Shaha… Shehere… Scheher… the Arabian Nights lady?"

Alex: "Scherezade."

Alice: "…only if you'll help it meet deadline," Alice says.

  • Alex sketches at Joachim some more, musing. "It's a good thing this isn't canonical, because I still want to try playing as this guy at some point."

Alice: "I mean, seriously, I know there's a problem with that in the industry, but that woman, I mean, damn." After a moment says, "At least, that's what I heard, abstractly. I don't pay any attention to RPG forums or anything."

Cynn: "Oh really? So if I check your browser history, dear Sister Caelestis…"

  • Alex raises an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

Alice: Alice says, "Sadly, I don't keep one." (Lesser Creation of the Reprieve.)

Alice: (Behind Alice, her browser flashes through the browser-history-deletion windows and routines.)

Cynn: "Not so fast."

  • Cynn sends the consequences of Alice's miracle several days into the future.

Alice: "Cynn! Language!"

  • Alice covers Remy's ears.

Alice: Alice is unperturbed by Cynn's miracle, since she knows that the reprieve will come at the darkest hour and make an end to sorrows. Clearly it is more important that my browser history clear itself then.

Alice: "Oops, I accidentally shot my computer, what a tragic waste," Alice sighs, not even actually taking out her guns, much less causing anything to actually happen. "Hm, maybe Al Capone?"

Cynn: "Huh. So, ghostwriter—how do you feel about the dude who wrote Puppies and Pawprints?"

Remy: "Something in the way reality's trembling suggests we shouldn't pursue that line of thought further."

Alice: Alice looks that up on the net. "Well, big points for the website name, but apparently reality is trembling, so."

  • Rand returns home at last.

Rand: It seems y'all have been very productive.

Alex: That's putting it very generously.

Alice: "Ooh, Gilbert & Sullivan!" Alice says. "I bet if you can do lyrics you can do an RPG. I mean, not that the skills are communicable, but lyrics have even higher constraints."

Rand: Patters & Penzance.

Alice: "Capone, Turing, Woolf, and Dorothy Parker," Alice finally concludes. "That's my dream team."

Rand: You'd have to make them immortal first.

Alice: Well, they'd be ghost writers.

Alice: It is too bad Alice actually knows they're all dead or she could just swing by and pick them up.

Alice: Well, she doesn't know for sure about Dorothy Parker and Al Capone but is pretty sure.

Rand: Hm, how hard is it to give someone a reprieve from being dead?

Alice: It's pretty hard.

Rand: Like, just for a day or a week might be Lesser.

Alice: I tried to define my miracle chart to rule out 'I reprieve from not X' as a way to do any X, and while I'm planning to adjust it a bit to match the things I actually try to do in play, right now it just doesn't undo death.

Alice: Like, her core competence is reprieves from ongoing suffering and easily defined or at least easily delimited physical processes.

Rand: I suppose you are the boss of reprieves, so you'd know.

Alice: So I guess if they're in hell she might be able to do it, hm.

Alice: But she can't just anti-death in general.

Rand: It seems like it would also be more possible if you had their ghost, like, right there.

Alice: Yeah.

Alice: "Physical" is kind of an ambiguous word in Nobilis once weird things get involved.

Rand: Hm, sadly, we probably don't have time tonight to run the Rise and Fall of the Orange Queen.

Alice: Mostly, the deal is, she can't give a corpse a reprieve from being a corpse, because the person isn't there any longer. It's kind of like she can't take the high school yearbook page for someone who is in college now and give them a reprieve from being in college and have them be in high school instead.

Rand: You might say that the condition that begs a reprieve has to be actively present, not just passively.

Alice: She can go to the person and give them a reprieve from being in college that's angled towards returning towards their youth but she can't do it from the high school side and may not be able to make the reversion that specific. (Not sure on the latter.)

  • Alex stretches.

Alex: What are we doin' now?

Alice: Yeah, that's reasonable.

Alice: Apparently we're running the Rise and Fa of the Orange Queen!

Alice: Or maybe the Ri!

Alice: Or the Rise and Fall of the Orange?

Alice: Not sure.

Rand: Which probably puts you in a position where your powers switch from "no" to "yes" the minute somebody says "Oh, if only I could be a kid again!"

Rand: The Fa and Mi of the Orange Queen.

Alice: Oh, deer.

Remy: Do

  • Rand considers making the Queen a female deer. I mean, I never said she wasn't.
  • Cynn goes pretty AFK.

Remy: Rey, a lost Skywalker, hun

  • Alex shoots Vance.

Alice: That is probably true. It's a big stretch to do it with just that but it doesn't become Major thereby and Nobilis doesn't have Obstacles for miracles.

Rand: Well, anyway, it's football season.

Rand: It also depends on circumstances. It's a lot easier to just youthen someone than to do a temporary rewind of reality back to their childhood.

Alice: Excellent, Alice knows many different ways to prepare football.

Alice: Football ravioli, football finger sandwiches, football pie…

Rand: Of course, you're all extremely invested in the Underbridge Serpents' victory this year.

Rand: Okay, well, probably you mostly aren't.

Rand: Maybe some of you are?

Alice: Alice certainly does her best to have school spirit, even though there's a strong undercurrent of tolerant amusement.

Remy: Remy has a giant speed-harvesting circuit built around the field, so yeah, he's invested!

Rand: I had figured Remy would be the one strongly invested, yeah.

Rand: Well, anyway, for most of you, it's just a thing that happens, unless you've made bets on it with some of the other twenty-seven universities that are secretly Chancels.

Alex: I'm going to go watch. Alex has always enjoyed sports.

Alice: Alice ponders. Hm. Yeah, she's happy to bet "do something not abhorrent to a civilized conscience that gets in the way of Veronica Hasseltine's chances of becoming President if you get the chance" against a similar favor or two here and there.

Rand: Anyway, as a result of these various attentions, you're actually paying attention to the first game against Incomparable U.

Alice: Obviously, she can't put all her eggs in one basket, so the mysterious masked Beatrice Begonia places a few bets going the opposite way just in case. But less than half as many.

Rand: So you can't help but notice that Incomparable is fielding a team of… well.

Rand: Generally speaking, you know the guy who's the golden boy homecoming king and is incredibly handsome and athletic and a straight-A student and has good teeth?

Rand: Generally Incomparable U manages to find twenty of that guy.

Rand: It probably has something to do with an apple a day; I dunno.

Alice: …I would think it would be money and pears.

Alex: "This is going to be quite a game."

Rand: This year, though, they seem to have surpassed themselves, because everybody on the football team seems to be noticeably superhuman.

Alex: What's our own team like?

Rand: As far as I know they're just guys.

Rand: Like, unless you're making bets there's no real benefit into making the football team into a hotbed of miracles.

Alice: I made bets! But I didn't think in terms of cheating. Baka Alice! Though I imagine there'd be at least some faeries of various types on the team.

Alice: Trolls, I guess, because flying is probably illegal.

Rand: But there are definitely miracles happening on the field today. The other team is still vaguely deniable, but they're uniformly above what college athletes can do and your guys, even the fairies, can't really compete.

Remy: Seems fishy.

Remy: I'm gonna spend 1 MP and do a Greater Incarnation of Speed, in every member of their team's speed.

Rand: Hm, you have a velocity look-see.

Remy: Remy exists in their movements like a watchful quantum god.

Rand: Hm, yes, they're normal athletes in themselves, but someone is pumping power into them.

Alice: (Like a watchful bird. A hawk, perhaps. Some kind of veloci-raptor.)

Rand: Kind of a lot of power, really. You get the feeling that it's not something they can do casually, like if they had a lot of Treasure and some Aspect.

Rand: Somebody is burning mana over this.

Remy: Can I try to suck some of this power into myself?

Rand: Hm. How?

Alex: I assume our team colors integrate dye made from the bark of an oak?

Remy: Merging deeply into the spiritual nexus of the team until I am one with the part of them that is super-empowered, and letting that corrupt me.

Rand: I guess you can get a bit of it that way.

Rand: If you say so, although that seems like a lot of brown.

Alex: Brown is a fine color. It also means I can Anchor our football team, thanks to my Bond: My oath is to hold sacred the color of oak bark dye, and things marked by it. (1)

Rand: You might need a bit of time for that.

Rand: Ultimately, though, this doesn't have to be a drawn-out conflict.

Remy: Mostly I just want a sample to examine, for analysis.

Remy: I'm not really trying to steal much power for myself

Rand: Oh, well, that's simple enough.

Rand: You sink down into their speed and get a sip of that power for yourself.

Rand: It tastes like… yeah, that's orange juice for sure.

Remy: Huh. Well.

Remy: How much disruption can I cause to their team's athletic performance from inside their speed, before it counts as cheating?

Rand: None.

Alex: So are they already cheating?

Remy: Then Remy withdraws from the incarnation. "They're juiced up on oranges!"

Rand: Oh, yeah, they're totally cheating.

Rand: I mean, maybe the players haven't noticed, if nobody told them.

Alex: Could we negate the existing miracle?

Rand: If you have a way to do that, yeah.

Alice: Alice meditates on the matter. Strictly speaking if the Reprieve gets involved it should be at the darkest hour. It's hard to take a definitely lost football game and turn it into a won football game in one stroke, though.

Rand: I mean, the real question is, why?

Rand: You don't actually lose anything if Incomparable U wins, except, of course, for not having won.

Remy: "Orange-tainted speed—that can't properly charge my Harmonic Rift Grid!"

Alex: This is a genuinely peculiar situation.

Rand: And you haven't heard of anybody else getting involved, gambling-wise or otherwise.

Rand: So somebody is burning power to influence the outcome and you aren't really sure why.

Alex: "It just seems unfair to let this fly without getting involved in some way. Let's bring it up at half-time."

Remy: "If we let them win this way, it'll disrupt the machinery of the cosmos!"

Alex: "No, it won't. I don't believe you."

Remy: "It'll disrupt a machine, which is technically cosmic."

Alex: "Which machine, exactly?"

Remy: "My speed-harvesting siphon."

Alice: Revealing the cheating dramatically when things seem darkest, Alice muses, might represent a turnaround, but it's hardly a heroic moment.

Remy: "It's siphoning up all the speed the football players are using up."

Alex: Alex is just going to talk to the opposing coach at half-time if no one else minds.

Rand: The coach is a pleasant sort. His name is Rob and you have met before.

Alex: Alex uses a totally non-miraculous action to go meander to the coach and be like, "I'm afraid that someone is meddling with your athletes in a legally-actionable way."

Rand: "It is the new jerseys? We kind of have a lot of budget lately."

Rand: He does not seem to understand your meaning.

Alice: Alice nods to herself. What needs to happen is that a missing super-player who was delayed by personal drama needs to show up when things seem most hopeless. Problem: such a missing super-player probably doesn't exist. Reconcile a benched player with a dramatic trope? …seems rude. Reconcile the team with the dramatic trope? Aha, the missing super-player is the Reprieve. "Remy, how do the rules work on adding players to the lineup?"

Alice: (Is this a home game, BTW?)

Rand: This is a home game, yeah.

Alex: Alex politely explains that his players appear to be benefitting from unsportsmanlike miraculous assistance.

Remy: "I have no idea how sports rules work. The boys just… go real fast."

Remy: "And a sports happens."

Alex: "We don't send our team out on the field filled to the brim with the ageless resilience of the oak or the terror and thunder of speed."

Rand: "Are the drugs really good in this town?"

Rand: "I mean, yeah, these guys are pretty ripped, but Incomparable U is just kind of like that."

Rand: "Even I'm kind of ripped, and I only tell people how to work out."

Remy: Is this guy… mortal?

Remy: He sounds like a case of dementia animus.

Rand: This coach is not a magical wizard coach, yeah. He's just a football coach.

Alex: "Have you gotten a new team sponsor lately or something?"

Rand: "No, just a lot of budget. Which is kind of nice, but… I'm not really sure what we're going to do with it? We don't actually need a second new stadium."

Alex: "Well, you could probably hire nutritionists for your team, but it looks like they're ahead of you. Where's the extra budget coming from?"

Rand: "The school handed out a bunch of extra money this year. They didn't say why or what to do with it; they just told me to buy new jerseys and a bus and stuff, and win a bunch of games."

Rand: "Which… seems to be happening? I'm not comfortable leaving half a billion dollars in the team piggy bank, though."

Alex: Alex furrows his brow. "I'm sorry, did you say half a billion dollars? With a B?"

Rand: "Yeah, I dunno either. I'm just keeping it in the bank until somebody realizes they made a rounding error or something."

Alex: "Sensible," deadpans Alex, texting an update on the situation to Remy about as fast as he can type.

Alex: Alex has no idea what the heck, but it's clear that the 500 million dollars and the supernatural puissance are related somehow.

Remy: TXT: ask him bout oranges?

Remy: TXT: players drink oj?

Rand: "We drink a lot of stuff."

Rand: "Or is this another drug reference?"

Rand: "I keep telling you, everybody in our town looks like that."

Remy: TXT: something's in the oranges

Remy: TXT: or the oranges are in something?

Alice: Alice meditates. The first step, assuming that the team is already losing badly as of half-time, is a ghost miracle of a vaguely possible but not really expected reprieve in the form of a back bencher being on the rolls for those allowed to show up in the game who isn't actually on site. Hm. Name, name, name.

Rand: Firstname "The Bridge" Lastname.

Alex: "Not a drug thing, we're just, y'know… trying to figure out their secret sauce. Which is also not a drug thing."

Alex: TXT: he knows nothing of oranges. go audit their books plz

Alex: TXT: 500mil dollars only used for jerseys? money magic afoot

Rand: "The secret is going to bed at eight-thirty sharp every night."

Rand: Anyway, the outcome of the game isn't super important unless you decide it is, so it's up to what Alice decides to do, I guess.

Alice: Kasuka "The Bridge" Shepard

Alice: (A ghost miracle of the Reprieve.)

Rand: "Oh! Oh!" cries the team. "If only Kasuka 'The Bridge' Shepard was here! His prowess could stop even this improbably-skilled team in their tracks!"

Alex: "Eight-thirty? Your training regime is positively draconian."

Rand: "It's restful!"

Rand: "Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and built like a brick wall."

Rand: "Hm, maybe that's where the money came from."

Rand: "…nah."

Alice: Alice waits a bit to see if anyone replies to the miracle, and then, if no one does and when things are darkest, performs a Greater Creation of the Reprieve (4 minus 3 MP) as Kasuka Shepard arrives.

Rand: Hm, the Underbridge crowd is pretty depressed.

Rand: A straggling few get up to go in deep despair. The rest cling to the hope that springs eternal in the human breast.

Rand: They think "If only Kasuka could get a whack at that!"

Rand: "We'd put up even money now; he'd have it all down pat."

Rand: Then from five thousand throats and more there rose an elvish yell.

Rand: It rumbled through the horseshoe and it rattled in the dell.

Rand: It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the weald.

Rand: For Kasuka, mighty Kasuka, had strolled upon the field.

Rand: 『Your football numbers rise exponentially!』

Rand: Uh, what does he do, exactly?

Alice: You can fight like an ogre or run like a leopard, but you'll never be better than Kasuka Shepard!

Remy: He receives a destiny upon his speed: to win us that game! (Lesser Motion of Speed)

Rand: These are all useful powers!

Alice: He sparkles like Akio Ohtori but most of all he just has protagonist aura to him. (And, to keep the Shepard theme, an unnaturally fast burst of speed charge now and then.)

Rand: So, Kasuka Shepard takes the field, and immediately the tide begins to turn as the team is inspired to follow in his wake. You score a couple dozen goals and inspire a few people to make better life choices as Kasuka waves his mighty left hand (clad in the famous blue glove) at them.

Alex: Alex goes ahead and fills him with a strength that could hold up the world, why not. (2 PMP)

Alice: (Kasuka was probably the wrong first name—got the wrong Durarara character—but it's OK, Emiya Shepard or Clark K. Shepard would have been too obvious anyway.)

Rand: So, right now it's impossible day-saving all-star Kasuka Shepard and his team versus Incomparable U's generically superhuman male models.

Rand: Kasuka is unstoppable, but the Incomparables have higher athleticism per capita by far.

Rand: It begins to look like a stalemate, when the Incomparables pick up steam.

Rand: Remy, incarnate in their burning collegiate speed, senses that whoever is funnelling power their way has raised you.

Remy: Like, communicationally?

Rand: The Incomparables actually seem a little worried as their feats of prowess start to go beyond what they can rationalize as "wow, my training program is paying off."

Rand: No, they're just upping their investment.

Remy: Ah.

Remy: Can I set the Motion aside for now and leave it to play out while I take other miraculous actions?

Rand: You can sustain it and take one other action.

Remy: My one other action was gonna be a Greater Destruction.

Remy: I'm not sure if I can maintain both at once.

Rand: Well, we may as well call it to a halt; it's not meant to be a whole night of football.

Rand: The mysterious presence channels even more power into the football team, which winds up bringing the game to a close.

Alice: Alice meditates on this. She closes her eyes, nips into abstract space for a moment, and starts pulling threads around, latching a cilia of the… oh, hm, too late.

Rand: Incomparable #37 leaps ten feet into the air over a Serpent player's head, and then hits the ground, curled into the fetal position.

Remy: "Ooh. Oops. Sorry, #37."

Rand: That wasn't you.

Remy: "Aw."

Rand: He appears to be having a minor freak-out as his body starts doing things he can't explain, like jumping ten feet into the air.

Rand: His team breaks off to rush to his side, and the game ends in a tie.

Alice: Alice experimentally tangles the influx of power to the other team to saved number slot 6 on her cell phone with the reconciliation force before it dissipates.

Rand: Okay, is that just you saving their contact information for future study?

Alice: Yeah, that's her aim.

Rand: Okay!

Alex: Alex texts Surolam's hotline. "It happened again. Send a therapist; Underbridge U."

Remy: Remy gets the team's financial info off the coach.

Alex: "And here I thought Oak punched above its weight. Why is Orange getting involved?"

Remy: Maybe a bank account keyword, even.

Rand: Do coaches just hand that information out?

Remy: Not normally.

Remy: But the speed at which our relationship is taking form is vastly accelerated.

Remy: Greater Creation of Speed.

Alice: Alice meditates. "What in the world," she says.

Rand: Remy once again just barely manages to learn someone's name before they start dating, and exchanging bank account information.

Alice: "Alex, we're not supposed to be cheating fervently, right? I wasn't supposed to fight them to the last there or anything?"

Rand: Through this minor act of identity theft, you discover that yeah, they pretty much do have half a billion dollars.

Rand: There's not really a rule so much as you theoretically have a budget and you only want to get into an endless cycle of football miracle escalation if you get something out of it.

Alice: "I mean, I could probably have shifted around all the tackles, but that seemed really tacky, and I feel like something has gone wrong that that was even on the table, and wronger that I'm concerned that they would have escalated."

Remy: With hyper-accelerated cognition, Remy collates all the raw data available on the source of the money into fact.

Alex: No, I think you did everything right.

Alex: Excellent dramatic timing, in my opinion.

Rand: It appears to have come straight from Incomparable U's… I don't know. The place where all the money is before they give it to a department.

Rand: It's not from a mysterious angel investor or anything like that. They just have a pointlessly inflated budget from the school this year.

Remy: Bursar?

Rand: Or their bank account, but yeah.

Remy: Using just basic Sight, does the money have any significance to speed and speed-adjacent sports?

Rand: It appears neutral to your mystic vision.

Alice: "I guess someone is betting heavily on the team," Alice concludes. "Or there's a flower rite involving, like, colleges, which Incomparable would hopefully have noticed."

Alex: "Should we call around?"

Alice: Alice considers. "Oh, no, your institution of academic excellence has been subverted to serve athleticism or capitalism and as such is degrading to institutional integrity and academic excellence? …something like that? …except that that's a flawed argument and the underlying problem has been going on a long time."

Alex: Alex pokes around on his phone to see if Orange has a website with contact information.

Rand: Well, you know her brother, anyway.

Alice: Alice closes her eyes. "Tuition for classes gets money, money instead buys perfection for athletes, athletes… um. People want to be perfect, they give money to a college to be more perfect, the money funds football, the football makes athletes perfect… um. People want to rise above others, they give their hearts and dreams and money to college, the college gives their hearts and dreams and money to the athletes, the athletes rise above them?"

Alice: "I guess it could be a flower rite against university education as a marker of social status," Alice says. "But I don't think that's an Estate. Yeah, calling around is good."

Alex: Alex calls Apples.

Rand: That doesn't apply as well to Incomparable U, because "an entire campus of sort-of-perfect people" was already their schtick, anyway, just like elves is yours.

Rand: "Evening," says Ahanu. "How goes the imagineering?"

Alice: "Hm," Alice says. "Maybe it's something targeted at perfection. Like, perfection going… out of balance, through dedication to perfection … becoming imperfection…"

Alex: "Pretty well. Listen, do you know if your sister put money on the football game between Underbridge and Incomparable?"

Rand: "I can't imagine that she could have won back more than she already spent."

Rand: "We've been, um, expanding the athletics department?"

Alex: "Yes, it came to our attention when we noticed her pumping divine ichor of the orange variety in to the players in medias res. Which, like, it's fine, they're clearly better at football than our team anyway, but why?"

Rand: "Uh… I think she said something about a status symbol?"

Rand: "You know, to be a household word, something like that."

Alice: "Don't compare them, Alex," Alice calls out, from the side.

Alex: Alex furrows his brow. "Wait, she just… wanted to win the football game? For prestige?"

Rand: As you have learned through bitter experience (bitter like orange peel), it is only impossible to compare Ahanu and Onyeka when they're in the same location.

Rand: "Uh… prestige is useful? Yeah! We'd like to have prestige."

Rand: "That is correct."

Alice: Alice considers that, mostly only getting Alex's side of the conversation because even in the Chancel she can only really fake her way to Eavesdrop 2.

Alex: Alex goes ahead and puts the phone on speakerphone. "Well, I suppose that's fine. Good game. Good luck getting all that money back; you'll probably want to find the coach something to spend it on, though."

Alice: "Ooh, you could get football made of high-tech polymer plastics," Alice says.

Rand: Ahanu makes a noise like people make when they're squeezing either side of the bridge of their nose quite hard. "Yes. Won't I."

Alex: "He seems willing to return most of it, if that's of any comfort."

Alice: "And you could make a tower to reach Heaven with them!"

Rand: "The yearly budget is final… apparently."

Alex: "I'm sure we could find you a reprieve from that little problem."

Rand: "But, anyway, I'm sure some kind of emergency will turn up before the year's out. You know how it is, sprained ankles, new shoes."

Rand: "Good luck on the rest of your season!"

Rand: Ahanu bids you adieu, somewhat hurriedly.

Alex: Alex hangs up.

Alice: "He must not be on board with it," Alice says wisely. "Otherwise he could probably just make it so everyone knows that an Incomparable football player a day keeps the doctor away or something."

Alice: "Or that 'A is for Incomparable University's Awesome football Team.'"

Rand: Maybe he's just a baseballs guy.

Rand: Sorry, baseballs.

Alex: "Indeed. Apples are well known." Alex puts his phone away. "That was all truly bizarre. Great fun, though."

Alice: "I don't really object to their team having a lot of prestige," Alice concludes. "Though I guess we'll have to fight them, like, twice more this season, right?"

Alice: Alice ticks off on her fingers. "The dramatic heartbreaking loss, then struggling our way back up to catch up with them for the championship game?"

Rand: The exact schedule is muggy, in case we ever actually need to look at a game later.

Alex: "Hopefully it'll go by the numbers just that smoothly."

Alice: "It's probably not a problem if they're super-powerful for the first one. Being crushed and having to rise up again works OK too."

Rand: Well, for the next two games, I can summarize.

Rand: Incomparable U achieves a smashing, ridiculous victory over Toad and Corner.

Rand: Then, for their next match, against Limitless Virtue, Incomparable forfeits.

Rand: This story is a bit garbled, but it seems like the entire team quit?

Alex: Oh, my.

Rand: Another story says that the entire team exploded.

Alex: That's much worse!!!

Rand: It's definitely not ordinary football practice, although no exploding football teams appear on the news.

Alice: "I don't want to have to micromeddle in the championship game, though, so I guess probably, hm. Maybe some sort of…" Alice's musing, as she sits in exactly the same pose some weeks later, is brought to a close by the sudden change in affairs!

Alice: "What a terrifying flower rite," Alice says. "Seeking not to explode, a person aspires to perfection, but that very pursuit of perfection… no."

Remy: "Where there's a flower rite, isn't there supposed to be an Excrucian?"

Alice: "Under the bleachers, probably. They like to kiss people."

Remy: "Yeah, I know."

Alice: Alice has no actual information to this effect.

Remy: Remy probably does.

Alice: Alice has theoretical work on the subject, however.

Rand: You should considering offering a study program to students!

Alice: "Honestly," Alice says, "I don't really think there's a flower rite. I just like to test troubling things against that model just in case."

Remy: "Masterful foresight!"

Alice: "I suppose we should investigate Limitless Virtue, since if an Excrucian didn't cause the team to blow up to make a subtle philosophical point about American football, we might be in trouble when our team is about to go up against theirs."

Rand: It wasn't LVU that forfeited/exploded/quit; it was Incomp U.

Rand: Sorry if that wasn't clear.

Alex: That means they won't be going up against us later, yes?

Rand: Wow, too soon, Alex.

Alice: Right, but cui bono? Limitless Virtue."

Remy: "Household name."

Remy: Oranges benefit.

Remy: This is an attempt to make them a byword for athleticism.

Alex: "By exploding?"

Alice: "I… honestly feel like if anything it increases my respect for orange-based cleaners."

Alice: "They can make even athletic teams go away!"

Alice: "…you know, instead."

Rand: I do enjoy the citrus scent.

Alice: "I also don't think you need half a billion dollars to make an explodi… well, OK."

Alice: "If you wanted to install really good explosives in them, maybe."

  • Rand wonders what the Power of Lemons would be like, and exactly how far this campaign's fruit theme is going to go.

Remy: I was just about to suggest calling them in.

Remy: The, uh, Fraternitas Fructatis.

Rand: I suppose Jeremiah Clean is one option.

Rand: Or somebody from the Enchanted Forest books.

Alice: "But if I were going to kill a team off, I think I would actually reduce their budget."

Alice: "Or at least give them a normal budget and have them spend more of it at the front end than usual!"

Alice: Alice flags down a graduate student in theater arts and has them robocall a thousand random phone numbers in the U.S. to ask if they've heard about the exploding football team.

  • Alex approves of this strategy.

Rand: A lot of people have! football talk is popular, hence "popular culture."

Rand: Eventually, however, you determine that the football team did not explode.

Rand: Or at least not most of it.

Alex: Good!

Rand: Everybody on the football team seems to have quit, with the exception of one member, Trevor Paradisi, whose status you are unable to confirm.

Alice: Alice realizes about fifty calls in to add "would you say they are a symbol for modern athleticism?" to the calling script.

Rand: The most common answer to that one is "wut".

Alice: (Wow, this rain sounds a lot like sizzling oil. I panicked trying to figure out why my oven which is warming up sounded like sizzling oil until I got between my kitchen and the window and realized which direction it was coming from.)

Rand: Ah, so it's white-noise-maker rain.

Alice: Hm, hm, Trevor Paradisi. "I see, I see, so we seek Paradise, but we find only the absence of perfection."

Alice: "Wait, that's not a flower rite, that's a cynical observation."

Rand: It's actually a reference to grapefruit, although I think my ability to run with this motif is probably limited.

Rand: It turns out the Latin for lemon is "limon."

Rand: Hm, maybe an NPC named Bernoulli Monarda?

Alice: "I still blame Limitless Virtue," Alice says, ignoring the narrator completely, "but the river of destiny appears to be pointing in the direction of Mr. Paradise, who is probably a fallen angel."

Rand: Or a fallen grapefruit. The grapefruit doesn't fall from from the tree, you see.

Alice: Hey, what plays football and commutes?

Alice: An Abelian Paradisi!

  • Rand determines that this is a math joke.

Alice: What plays football, commutes, and kills the rest of his team?

Alice: A Cainian Paradisi!

Rand: Anyway! Some nonspecific detective work determines that Mr. Paradisi is currently "location unknown", and that the entire football team has quit for reasons they don't want to talk about.

Alex: They just got pushed too far, probably.

Alice: Alice decides that she cares deeply! Are any of them currently off campus?

Rand: You could probably locate one via the power of synchronicity and narrative convenience.

Rand: We can call him Ian Idaeus, currently vacationing in Idaho on the down-low.

Alice: Alice visits his home with a relatively small entourage of either interested Familia or a couple of bodyguards, personal photographer, assistant, public relations manager, nutritionist, and emergency alternative medicine consultant. She knocks on his door.

Alice: Oh, and a driver, of course.

Rand: It's important to be prepared.

Rand: For the sake of dramatic economy we will say that the door is opened, cautiously, by a football-looking fella who, although handsome, has evidently been sleeping poorly.

Alice: "Hi!" Alice says. She tilts down her sunglasses to give him a dazzling smile. "I'm Alice Acacia, and I'm wondering if you're interested in a future in politics."

Rand: "It's an honor," says Ian, recognizing you as a world-famous actress in accordance with natural law.

Alice: Alice attempts to breeze into the house with Superstar 3 + 1 Will (+ Bond 2: "I can't be kept out" if he objects.)

Rand: Seems reasonable enough! Alice chutzpahs her way through the door, accompanied by the manager, nutritionist, etc.

Rand: Chutzpah isn't a fruit but it should be.

Alice: "So," Alice says, seating herself and waving for her nutritionist to pour her and Ian sparkling water (from Alice's supply.) "You're not in football any longer, which means that your current career plans are off. But that's no reason to be down, because frankly, look at you. And as it happens, I'm trying to help a few kids like you get started on a productive future."

Alice: "What actually happened, by the way?" Alice asks, eyes gentle, as obviously and openly worthy of being confided in, of being unburdened to, as that amazing WWII nurse she played once.

Rand: Incidentally, how old is Alice to the eye?

Alice: 38.

Rand: Okay, so outside flirting range for a college-age footballer.

Rand: I mean, I guess? Maybe if somebody is a famous actress you'd flirt a bit to be polite?

Rand: Oh, well, I'll just have to worry about heterosexual representation later.

Alice: She is dazzling, but old enough to be his Mom, so it's really a matter of personality.

Rand: Ian considers his response, partly because he worries that you might be recruiting him for the Evil Party, but mostly because the whole experience was very traumatic.

Rand: "Well," he says, "we all got incredibly good at football."

Rand: "Like, wow. And being really good at football has its perks, but then we got, like, really good."

Rand: "Like, Derek actually scored a field goal by jumping through the goal posts."

Alice: Alice nods gently. "Like your life was suddenly one of those sports movies," she says.

Alice: "Only, it's not nice when it actually happens, it turns out?"

Rand: "Kind of? Like, I'd see I was doing something it didn't make sense to do?"

Rand: "You wouldn't actually try to jump through the goal posts, because you'd know you couldn't and you'd just hurt yourself."

Rand: "So then I'd do something like that, and not know why."

Rand: "It happened to everybody."

Alice: "Ah," Alice says, her voice suddenly empty of affect.

Rand: "But I think what really turned us all off was when Trevor turned into a giant monster."

Alice: "…really?" Alice says, after a moment. "Let's say I believe you, but I don't see the progression."

Rand: "Well, the causal link isn't perfectly clear, but, like, after the first two uncanny things happened I didn't want to wait for the third thing."

Rand: "Anyway, we were at the gym, and Trevor was all 'check out this sick pump I've got going on' and I was all 'whoa'."

Rand: "Only, his arm didn't stop from getting bigger."

Rand: "It just kept on going until he couldn't stand up, and also I think he turned orange?"

Rand: "By the time we got him to the hospital he was just kind of randomly expanding different body parts like a cartoon character, which is actually horrifically disturbing when it happens in real life to one of your bros."

Rand: "So, you know, I figured we'd been entered into a supersoldier program without our knowledge or consent, or possessed by football ghosts."

Alice: Alice lets some of her anger show on her face and in her eyes.

Rand: "So the next day we all decided to join the academic decathlon team, which is actually kind of rad."

Rand: "And, uh, I don't actually know of anything I can do for Trev, so I guess we're all kind of trying not to think about it."

Alice: "Thank you for being willing to talk about that," Alice says. She rests her hand on his for a moment, then pulls back away. "I assure you, exactly what happened will be determined."

Alice: "So, the future," she says. "Would you like to go into public service?"

Rand: "Lately I've been feeling like the world isn't going to get any better unless I, like, make it? So, uh, yeah!"

Rand: "Somebody should put a stop to all this college weirdness. Just look at Churchill U and the thing with the tattoos."

Alex: (I am still paying attention. This is fun.)

Remy: (Ditto.)

Alex: (If a deep fear of leaving me out fills you, let it pass away!)

Alice: "Excellent," Alice says. She clears some space on a table and sets down some paperwork she prepared earlier. It's very simple, because she's not asking much of him. "What I'd like to offer is access to confidential therapy if required for this matter, tickets to up to six not-completely-closed political dinners a year along with travel assistance—for building connections early as well as getting travel experience, a small salary principally for making occasional reports to me on your evolving readiness and the local and state political situation where you are, and some early funding once your first few campaigns are launched. I can also provide small opportunities in film, which is unfortunately or fortunately surprisingly useful in politics these days if you're good at it."

Rand: "Wow, that's, like… I'm not actually qualified."

Rand: "I mean, people will vote for delts like these, but they shouldn't."

Alice: "I'm well aware," Alice says. "I'm also not really qualified to help young people get their start on life. But we all have to start somewhere."

Alice: "Here's what's going on," Alice says. "Sometimes I have information on confidential and dangerous matters, some of which are problematically unbelievable. I need people who are willing to trust an occasional serious warning from me to reach the security clearance level where I can give such warnings. I'm also absolutely furious about what happened to you and would like to do something, and this was the first thing I could think of."

Rand: "I should probably finish my maths degree first. I appreciate the offer, but… I feel like this equation has a string in it somewhere."

Rand: "That metaphor got away from me and I apologize."

Rand: "I think right now I have to work on growing as a person. And, like, not into a giant orange monster."

Rand: "At least everybody else got away safe."

Rand: Which is, predictably, when the TV begins talking about how Incomparable U has just announced that they will not be cancelling any more games this season and intend to play next Friday as usual.

Alice: "You're sure?" Alice says. "Because right now, I can walk into any office in Washington and stay as long as I like and talk about people turning into giant orange monsters, but I don't have anyone there who'll believe me, and it's a problem worth addressing."

Rand: "That's a pretty big guilt trip to drop on somebody. 'Take this job you aren't ready for or innocent bros will turn into orangelos.'"

Alice: "Oh," Alice says. "I'm sure that particular issue will be taken care of long before then, so you may feel free to assume that an urgent need for your assistance would never actually come up."

Rand: "Well, I mean… I guess I could finish a political science degree."

Rand: "For the orangelbros of the future."

Alice: Alice shuffles the papers together. "It's merely illustrative of what the string is. That is, that now and then, when I say something very strange, I might ask you to believe a bit more than you might've. But, you've said no, so that's—oh," Alice says, as her ears catch up, and returns the papers to the table.

Rand: Do you want to go into details about this arrangement?

Alex: (It occurs to me that we're re-inventing the Cammora.)

Rand: I'm sure the Cammora would be all over orangelbros if they'd thought of it first.

Alice: Nah, the details aren't really relevant, we probably won't get to the future where this matters. But Alice does whammy the papers with a lesser enchantment of the reprieve to make the prospective deal between them an end to sorrows, a matter that cannot be consumed by darkness, and a thing that at least has the dharma of stopping the ongoing consolidation of fate, although it's probably too small to actually stop it.

Alice: And then she lets him choose whether to sign, because she is, of course, a Power of the Dark.

Rand: Let us assume, then, that he does, and move on to… well, probably to next week, since it's eleven o'clock here.

Alice: Alice stands. "A thousand things to do, of course," she says. "But I hope I'll be hearing from you, Ian." She'd actually say Mr. whatever but she's forgotten his last name, as have I.

Rand: Raspberry.

Rand: Something about raspberries.

Rand: Then we end on a handshake, and the glint of shiny teeth as we fade out.

Alice: Plbbt

Alex: Fantabulous.

Rand: Next week: Rise of the Orange Queen, Part Two.

Remy: So that's who was behind it all!

Remy: We solved your antagonist puzzle

Rand: Sadly, Ymerical dictat forbids her from calling herself the Tangerine Empress.

*Alex ponders moving some of his Bond to his cell phone, since he keeps trying to use it to solve problems.

Rand: The Bergamot Baroness.

Rand: Blood Orange Overlord.

Alex: No.

Rand: The Pomelo Pasha.

Alex: https://twitter.com/dril/status/922321981

Rand: The Citrus Caesar.

Rand: The Key Lime Kaiser.

Rand: The Valencia Viscountess.

Remy: Raspberry Royalty

Rand: Raspberry Rajah.

Alex: nooo

Rand: Clementine Rex.

Rand: Hm, apparently the "Imperial lemon" is an actual thing.

Alice: Imperial Orange doesn't sound bad, but it is hubris.

Rand: Oh, and of course, we mustn't forget the Mandarin Mandarin.

Alice: Heeheehee.

Rand: Hm, what other fruits have the necessary conceptual breadth to support powers?

  • Rand considers the strawberry.

Rand: Pumpkin Kings have precedent.

Remy: Hmm.

Remy: Fireworks going off.

Remy: Celebration? Riot? Who knows!

Rand: Well, thank you all for tolerating my tardiness.

Rand: At least I got paid overtime.

Rand: Instead of resolving this plot, next week we will jump twenty years into the future where Alice and Nsiya are having a battle royale with teenagers as the weapons.

Alice: Tangerine Dynast. The Good Samaritangerine. The Sacristangerine.

Alice: Thank you for running!

Rand: "After ten thousand years, I'm dead! Time to make the Earth a better place."

Rand: "Remy, Nsia has escaped. Find me five teenagers with service-minded attitudes."

Alice: Using teenagers as weapons is very traditional.

Alice: Presumably they have battlesuits.

Rand: I can't actually imagine any other reasons for using them.

Alice: Or at least political action suits.

Alice: They leap up into the air and yell, "PAC ON!" and a political action committee swirls into being around them, political action sword in hand!

Rand: You may need to tweak Underbridge's admissions standards so you start getting the really attractive elves.

Rand: Or I guess you could just have them wear sidhelder pads.

Alice: We have unattractive elves from a version of elves that includes attractive ones?

Alice: I didn't know that was even possible.

Rand: Right now I think you have like every possible thing that's been described as "fae."

Rand: So, you've got a few Titanias but also some Jenny Greenteeth.

Rand: Jenny is not electable.

Rand: Nobody wants to have a beer with her.

Alice: In fairness that's probably the wrong approach. "Jenny Greenteeth: she'll eat you if you vote against her" might work.

Rand: Hm, brownies have amazing logistical powers, but vanish if thanked.

Rand: They… actually might have a future in politics.

Alice: I think they probably get pro forma thanks frequently.

Rand: Surely there's somebody in government nobody ever thanks.

Rand: Hm, what can we do with one of these?

Alex: I guess we can wassail.

Rand: Is that politically astute?

Alice: A will-o-wisp might be able to lead voters to the desired conclusion.

Rand: Hm, the erl-king lures children away and kills them.

Rand: I don't really see a future there.

Alice: So a strong pro-military stance.

Rand: Hm, a peri has been denied paradise until it does penance.

Rand: That sounds like a perfect civil servant.

Alice: A bäckahäst has actually won the Presidency before.

Rand: Hm, a banshee knows when you're going to die.

Rand: Just consider how useful they'd be in the Supreme Court!

Alice: "Writing for the majority in a controversial death penalty case, Judge Bean Sidhe explained that the prisoner could not be executed as if they were executed they would not die."

Alice: "Dissenting, Judge Emiya Shirou protested, 'People die when you kill them.'"

Rand: :|

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