The Hunt For Bad Apple

Rand: Hm, so, who's here tonight?

Remy: Vance is!

Cynn: Eli am!

Cynn: Hmmm.

Cynn: Anyone got any cool off-the-beat cosmologies that haven't been mined to death by RPGs yet?

Rand: A universe where magic is all done by lawyers submitting paperwork to the Celestial Bureaucracy.

Remy: I think the Navajo cosmology?

Rand: So, I think we have three people, but no kukla.

Cynn: Navajo cosmology is awesome.

Cynn: But it seems kinda… off-limits.

Alice: I didn't realize that "three people but no kukla" was how Navajo cosmology worked, although it makes sense with what I know of magma dragons in general.

Cynn: My personal philosophy vis-a-vis cultural appropriation is: Once members of the culture itself start to export it, it's fair game.

Rand: Mine would be closer to "if you use a foreign culture, you're obligated to make an effort to understand it instead of just using random bits of it out of context."

Cynn: That's fair.

  • Alice sadly puts away her silver katana, "Ramadan."

Rand: All right, I guess we can get started. Somebody who has the Kukla's personal address can try to summon away his thirteen spirit guardians and then wake him up if they like.

Cynn: His thirteen evil exes.

Rand: So, you're doing Noble things! Speedy things! Twilit things! Things to help keep your accreditation!

Rand: When suddenly, Emmony Leith arrives, in his characteristic manner.

Rand: Fayola will have to fill me in on what that probably is.

Alice: I imagine it involves giant shears, but if flying on on top of them or cutting open the world to step through are too gauche he might just splice some destiny so that he's foreordained to be there in a few seconds and wait for time to catch up.

Alice: (It depends on desired game feel, and I don't want my first reflex to tilt the game more flashy if you're looking for more subtle.)

Rand: I'm not really in a position to forbid people to open magical portals after allowing your flower-edged shenanigans!

Rand: So, Emmony shears his way into your… office, probably?

Alice: Sure!

Rand: "Alice," he says, without additional preamble. "It appears the world is in danger of being saved again."

Alice: "Oh, good," Alice says, and hands him a stack of papers to grade.

Alex: Oh god, I forgot. I'm at the gym.

Alex: I'll have to join you later.

Cynn: You forgot you're at the gym?

Cynn: You're lifting too much, then.

Rand: I can't allow you to discourage people from getting swole, Elliott.

Rand: That cuts against my HG style.

Cynn: I mean, there are healthy limits to how much one should lift to avoid causing irreparable damage.

Rand: "No, it's bad," says Emmony, attempting to cut away the un-graded-ness of the papers, but finding that there's no dignified way to hold shears while you do this.

Rand: "Partly because the world is a lie and should be destroyed, but mostly because once again, some poor unfortunate soul has been seized upon as the one who's got to do the work."

Rand: "At least, that's what I heard."

Rand: "A rumor, a legend, a mystery… a mere whisper of the possible."

Alice: "Oh, sure," Alice says. "That part is bad. I just was glad you showed up because some of these people have terrible handwriting."

Alice: "Do you know which unfortunate soul?"

Rand: "As I said, it is the merest rumor."

Rand: "But yeah, here's an extensive dossier."

Rand: Emmony produces said dossier from his sleeve, which has grown inexplicably tighter in order to counteract Elliott's anti-fitness agenda.

Alice: Alice smiles briefly at him and glances at it.

Rand: The dossier concerns one Veronica Hasseltine, currently a pre-law student at Stanford.

Alice: "There was a paper one of the English students wrote that actually cited Ms. Angelou's motives as 'a mystery,'" Alice says. "I criticized his insufficient citing of sources, but possibly it is just that you spoil me in such regards."

Alex: (Assume Alex is off training in some martial art with a tree spirit somewhere, or maybe just at the university gym.)

Rand: It also concerns a possible future in which she becomes president and ushers in a new era of equality, prosperity, and clean energy.

Rand: What kind of martial arts do tree spirits practice?

Cynn: They tend to try out lots of different style. They enjoy branching out.

Alice: Alice presses the intercom button that connects to her Familia's offices. "Visitor of interest in my office, no killing him," she advises.

Cynn: Cynn is there. No flash, no spectacle. Just there in an instant. And, perhaps, the faint smell of jasmine.

Remy: Nyoom. "Hey, Alice. Hey, Mr. Scissors."

Alice: "I can see why it'd be her," Alice says. "From her name alone, it seems obvious that she was the spirit of a secret decoder ring found in Ovaltine before some sort of transformative event."

Rand: "I have no information on this point, although I believe she's from Illinois."

Rand: "But it's the present that matters, not the past."

Alice: "They still do that? Or did one of you lot kill Ovaltine secret decoder rings off?"

Rand: "Not the rings. But…"

Rand: "Let's just say that a certain scene in A Christmas Story used to end in a very different way."

Cynn: "I hear tale the leg-lamp wasn't always a leg, either."

Alice: "Yeah, I'd heard it was originally based on Tolkien."

Alice: "'You'll put your eye out!' warned Aragorn, ranger and king, but Sauron's hunger for the ring grew ever more."

Rand: "But anyway. Certain ancient powers—Destiny, Foresight, those types—have seized on this child as the spearpoint of their will."

Rand: "And certain other powers have determined to prevent that future by bringing her life to a premature end."

Alice: "Unfortunate," Alice agrees. "Kant's categorical imperative strictly forbids both saving the world and murder."

Rand: "Indeed. So, I came to offer my alternative solution. Of course, you're familiar with it."

Remy: "Is it cutting her out of the world?"

Rand: "Wow, what a violent child."

Rand: "No, we need merely snip her destiny off with these here shears."

Cynn: "Why, precisely?"

Remy: If Remy knows enough of Alice's backstory to fill in the obvious inferences, he makes an "a-ha" face.

Alice: "Mm," Alice says. "I believe he's implying that if this Hasseltine's destiny is given sufficient time to mature it may bind the world into the chains of a charted future, which seems rather dismal, all things considered."

Cynn: "That's more an issue with Destiny and Foresight than the girl in question, though, isn't it?"

Alice: Alice is reasonably open about her backstory, although she doesn't invade your offices and exposit it every Tuesday or anything.

Rand: "Indeed. More importantly, can a future, however bright, be considered just if this girl is obligated by fate to make it happen?"

Rand: "Or, to be murdered to make it not happen?"

Alice: "It is, in fact, more on the shoulders of Destiny and Foresight," Alice agrees. "But in practice when someone goes on a shooting spree, it is of little virtue to track responsibility back to the Power of Guns."

Rand: "Anyway, such questions are not for me; I am but a wandering hedge-trimmer."

Rand: "I just came to give you a little push and also to loan you my clippers."

Remy: "Alice, would you have gotten your destiny snipped if you knew it would've made everything great for people?

Alice: "Of course," Alice agrees. "People deserve better than to have their lives 'made' great."

Alice: "Might as well kill them and write, 'and they lived happily ever after in a secret Heaven.'"

Alice: "Thank you, Emmony," Alice asides, and blows him a kiss if he goes.

Rand: Emmony is already sneaking out, Batman-style, but he pauses to snag the blown kiss on one pale cheek.

Remy: "That makes sense. We—humans—run on story. And story runs on conflict."

Alice: "I'd have said exactly the opposite thing," Alice notes, nodding, "but, ultimately, it's a dialectic, so, I agree."

Cynn: "Eh," Cynn says, looking out the window dramatically. "Destiny's a big story."

Remy: "So if we cut her destiny, would she turn into a Noble too? That seems unlikely, and all of that fate is gonna have to go somewhere."

Remy: "That seems like a reason a Deceiver would want to help us."

Alice: "I doubt it," Alice says. "She would probably become a prime candidate for enNoblement, but there are many, many fewer new Powers commenced than prime candidates, and at least half of them are sort of random."

Remy: Remy picks up the shears and attempts, experimentally, to cut back the prose in a copy of the university newspaper.

Alice: "The fate would kind of float around in a weird invisible cloud," Alice says, reaching over her shoulder to pinch the air and for a moment reveal what seems to be a fog of n-dimensional entangled misty purple strings before not being that again. "In general 'severing' is bad at 'ending.'"

Rand: The ink falls right off the page!

Alice: Alice ponders. "What I would have said," she adds, "for clarity, is that a person must have choices to not be a story. Those choices must be the source of their fate. Otherwise they're just words on a page; we may imagine that Ms. Gale and Mr. Wonka have internal lives but how can that be anything but a tragedy when their destiny is immutable?"

Alice: "Leaving aside the fact that I'm almost certain that getting into narrative worlds is possible," Alice admits.

Alice: Alice considers that thoughtfully. "Or possibly I am thinking of getting into character."

Alice: Alice looks in the file for details on what this Veronica's destiny actually is supposed to be and how it is supposed to work.

Rand: It looks as though various Powers, if the dossier is actually correct, have pencilled her in as a future President who'll enact various nice things, including the introduction of technology that can reverse catastrophic climate change and other things pleasant to behold.

Rand: Part of this is a destiny similar to what you used to have and part of it is just them planning to intervene when necesssary to nudge things along.

Alice: "I see," Alice murmurs. "I see. The 'ozone layer' is probably what seals Earthly destiny in."

Remy: "Sorry, ecosystem. You're gonna have to take one more shot for the team."

Rand: It seems like it's all pretty on-the-down-low, though. Obviously, if somebody hits her with a car before she even finishes law school, all bets are off!

Rand: Of course, if Emmony Leith is to be believed, the secrecy didn't work.

Alice: Alice ponders. "Do we have a law school?"

Cynn: "It might be worth confirming with the girl that she doesn't want to be a story about the President Who Fixes It."

Alice: "Oh, wait, pre-law."

Rand: Ultimately, it is for you to determine whether you have a law school.

Alice: "Enh," Alice says. "I am a partisan who prefers a President to say 'yes, we can' than to intone 'IT IS DONE'."

Cynn: "Well, if you shan't—"

Cynn: Does the dossier include her likeness and address?

Rand: Sure, it's a very comprehensive dossier.

Alice: Alice tosses it over.

Cynn: Yoink.

Cynn: Blink.

Rand: It's got everything right down to the time of death, tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 PM PST.

Cynn: Oh snap.

Cynn: Is that the Shymalan Twist?

Rand: No, I already told you someone wanted to kill her.

Cynn: Oh. Did I miss that somewhere?

Alice: Though making her undead would be an amusing Shamalyan twist on our part.

Rand: I'm pretty sure I said it out loud!

Rand: Although, technically y'all can't hear things I say out loud.

  • Cynn blinks out of the office. Presumably, to ask this girl if she'd rather die or become president or something else.

Alice: "Hmm," Alice says, pondering the idea. "Making her a vampire."

Alice: "I don't actually know any vampires," Alice admits. "I don't even know for sure that there are vampires. Maybe when Cynn gets back? Hm. But it'd be a great way not to get caught up in any crossfires at 2:45."

Rand: Just being out and about at 2:45 in California is a hard sell for a vampire!

Rand: Just let me know when you're finished with this conversation and we can move on to Cynn manifesting at Stanford.

Alice: Alice rings up the Forbidden Knowledge department to find out if there are vampires, but Cynn is fast enough that he may get through a lot of the conversation by the time the FKD secretary can get the phone unwarded.

Rand: It appears that vampires are real, and are mostly Anchors of the Baroness of the Night, who is playtesting the Penumbra Attribute.

Rand: Cynn, how do you want to play this?

Alice: Alice is done with the office conversation for now, then.

Cynn: Hmmm.

Cynn: It is not a conversation that Cynn is particularly adept to have, but he will try, anyway

Cynn: He appears basically in front of her.

Cynn: It's probably a good thing his teleportation isn't fancy.

Rand: You behold the child of destiny!

Remy: Rude!

Remy: You're supposed to knock.

Rand: Veronica is about twenty years old, dark-skinned and with complicated ringlets that people will laugh at in twenty years, like the pictures of Bill and Hillary as twenty-year-old hippies.

Rand: I guess you appear before her… where, exactly?

Cynn: He appears to her in her favorite place in the park! It is a remarkable dossier. Cynn holds out a strange old treaty, writ on purple vellum in incandescently gold ink. The dossier is underneath, but he points to a passage on the treaty. "I am so sorry to spring this on you, but I you do have to listen. It says so, right here, in violet and redgold. But I'd rather this not be…I don't want this to be frightening. I know it's going to be world-shaking. It might help to know: Do you believe in magic? Gods, I sound… 'clap your hands if you believe,' right? But it works, actually. You'd be surprised."

Cynn: Is dementia animus still a thing?

Rand: It is.

Cynn: Does it apply to normal, nonmiraculous magic?

Rand: No.

Rand: I mean, just appearing in front of somebody probably won't break their ability to believe in the Ordinary World.

Alice: Bosses, advisors, and teenagers' parents do it all the time!

Rand: It's like, if you saw Cthulhu doing it, would it be dramatically appropriate to realize that all human values are meaningless?

Rand: Like, if it's just Cthulhu breathing fire at people, that's one thing.

Rand: But if he reaches out with his dread appendages and eats the stars out of the sky, that's another.

Alice: (Though, it has never been scientifically proven that stars are not shiny cakes suspended on the interior of a crystal sphere and awarded to sufficiently large amphibians as prizes for accumulating certain numbers of points.)

Cynn: All right, then. So Cynn is there, spinning up a brief but wistful tale that's basically: Magic is real. I'm so so sorry, but magic is real, and you've got some magic in/on you.

Rand: "And you've got some violet ink on you," notes Veronica.

Rand: "I mean, really? I hope this isn't some kind of formal contract."

Cynn: "Between the Creator and the World and Everything," Cynn says, somewhat deflated by her critique.

Cynn: He squints down at the treaty, which is named Reconciliation.

Rand: "God writes important documents in purple ink? That explains so much."

Cynn: (Other way around!)

Cynn: (The paper is purple. The ink is gold.)

Rand: "That's even tackier!" says Veronica, adjusting to this retcon.

Rand: "Have you come to make mysterious gnomic utterances, too?"

Cynn: "So… I know that this is one of those big, Narnia-is-real moments, but… if I do something to prove it to you, is that going to be the sort of thing that might shatter your connection to reality?"

Rand: "Not at this point, no."

Cynn: The only thing he has that fits the bill for that is his Elemental Gift, which shapeshifts him into a creature made of red-purple clouds and early moonlight, two bright stars for eyes.

Cynn: "So," he says, his voice like the end of the summer, "I've got this."

Rand: "Yes, I see," says Veronica.

Rand: She has clearly mastered the "make snarky comments instead of going mad" technique for avoiding dementia animus.

Rand: "Is there, like, a point to this? Because you are the third person in two weeks to appear, say mysterious things, break a few laws of physics, and then leave."

Cynn: "Oh," he says, becoming normal again. "Oh, oh, oh! So… I guess that's the whole point. Have they told you the deal? Where Destiny is trying to take hold of your life, and someone else is trying to end it?"

Alex: (I'm on my way back from the gym now. Thank you for your patience.)

Rand: "No, they didn't mention that. There was the guy with the book, and he was saying something about… being the vanguard of something? And then there was the woman with the glasses, who came out of a tree and said I had good prospects and then turned into a bird."

Rand: "But please explain, or I'm going to pepper spray you."

Rand: "It might not work, but I'll feel better."

Cynn: "I'd love to say I'm the kind of demigod who would be unaffected, but I'm not."

Cynn: So, Cynn explains.

Cynn: Montage montage montage.

Rand: "Oh. Well."

Rand: Veronica considers this.

Rand: "Well, somebody has to fix the world. I don't want to be murdered, though."

Rand: "See what you can do about that part, all right?"

Cynn: "Okay. Good. Affirmative consent to the saving-you-from-murder-bit, but afterwards maybe we pick up on the Destiny thing and really discuss what it entails."

Cynn: blip

Cynn: "Alright, Alice, let's say we want to stop the murder first. Because we do. Because we do that, sometimes."

Alice: "Sure," Alice agrees.

Alex: (I am now in front of a keyboard. Someone pray to an oak and get me in.)

Rand: Just wander in like you own the place!

Alice: "It makes an ugly corpse, I think, when you murder someone without their consent."

Alex: (Please, HG; I must offer at least lip service to causality.)

Alice: Alice flicks the intercom. "Alex? You back in the office yet?'

Alice: "We have a sitch."

Alex: (How pedestrian!) There's a brief pause, before a slightly winded Alex replies: "Yes, I'm back. What's going on?"

Alex: Alex gets up to speed, etc, meanders in.

Alice: "A future President is expected to usher in an era where people are nothing more than happy puppets, and Cynn and Remy might say that's a slanted presentation. Also, someone wants to murder her."

Alex: "Oh, no, a president," deadpans Alex. "How alarming. I'll be right up." He scrambles in to the scene with all the miraculous haste of an anime schoolgirl with toast in her mouth.

Remy: "Destiny's-Regal is apparently not our best friend."

Alice: "I'm thinking we make her non-human," Alice says.

Remy: "For a value of 'our' that is 'folks who enjoy free will and self-realization.'"

Alex: "Hasn't this happened before? It must've, in all this time. You'd think we'd notice if we were ensnarled in an engine of inescapable fate."

Remy: "Comes and goes, apparently."

Alice: "Something that can survive her planned death without our actually having to interfere in those events, plus, non-humans are just kind of generally cooler and it would be neat to have a black female nonhuman President for once."

Alex: "Oh, I could do that. It's been a while since I endowed someone with the ageless, deathless power of Oak, but, I mean, it's doable."

Alex: "Kind of a pain in the ass, though."

Remy: "Trees aren't undead."

Remy: "They're plants. Totally different types."

Alice: "Technically I didn't say undead when presenting the plan this time because I thought Cynn might have something in his pocket. Surprised it was Alex, instead."

Alex: Alex makes a noncommittal 'eh' gesture. "They're rather stubbornly alive, which is what we're really looking for."

Alex: "I could also, more practically, play bodyguard. If you just want me to keep someone alive, I can almost certainly do that."

Alice: Alice checks whether we know what kills Veronica. For some reason she thinks it's a car wreck but maybe that's just because that's what always dramatically kills people.

Rand: I referenced a car earlier but it wasn't a binding statement.

Alice: "Oh, I'm sure we can keep her alive, it's just, it's always better to skip past the big miracle fight straight to the victory lap if possible."

Remy: "Wasn't that's what the shears are for?"

Remy: "I feel like agreeing to get a destiny cut off is going to be more palatable than getting turned into a vampire, now matter how rad being a vampire is."

Alice: Alice ruminates on the shears. "It is in fact what the shears are for," she agrees, finally.

Alex: "Of course, then we've got this big numinous cloud of destiny… Hang on a second, has this hit the news?"

Alex: Alex takes out his smartphone and navigates to the hidden back page of reddit where the Nobilisers gossip, then further in past that to where the Nobilis gossip, to see if there's any word of this whole 'golden destiny Veronica' bit.

Remy: "Probably not? Destiny is hard to catch on film."

Alice: "I can't actually cut off her destiny without permission," Alice says. "Well, I can, and probably would, but I'd have to agonize over it dramatically first. So getting into her good graces by saving her life first is best."

Alice: "And screwing up the whole process while still leaving a good President in the future is even better."

Remy: "As a Family, we're pretty well-suited to playing defense."

Alice: Alice wanders to the window, shears held pensively behind her back. "If I rip her destiny from her," she murmurs, dramatically, "am I stepping on a person's choices and a person's life even more than the great tangle of destiny itself? Have I become what I most despise?"

Alex: "Causality reigns illimitable over all," deadpans Alex.

Alice: She shrugs. "Like that. And then eventually I get over it, because, like, billions of people, and one person, or something."

Alice: "Pfft, causality."

Alex: @Rand, any word of this whole affair in the digital gossip of the Nobilis and the Nobilisers?

Rand: Not that you know of.

Remy: "There's a 50/50 chance you won't even have to deal with that. I think a real ideal young president would agree to sacrifice their destiny to save the world."

Rand: Destiny and whoever probably didn't really want everybody and their Excrucian gardening buddy to know about it, much less whoever is scheduling the assassination.

Alice: "Nobody else seems enthused about turning her into a vampire or a… changeling… or dryad or whatever, anyway, so I'm fine with playing active defense."

Remy: "Unless she's, like, a Calvinist."

Alice: "Oh, I like those comics."

Remy: TXT CYNN: does she look calvinist?

Cynn: I'm right here.

Remy: "Oh, right." Remy says, looking up. "Well, did she?"

Cynn: "Not really."

Alex: "I was actually totally into making her a dryad, if I'm being honest."

Cynn: "So she can grow the economy?"

Alice: "Woo!" Alice makes a small fist-pump.

Alex: "Remy, ask her how she feels about having been old before mankind was born, and still being young when all she knows have succumbed to age."

Alex: "If she's down for that, make an offer of dryadism."

Remy: "Kids these days… I think the better sales pitch might be, 'hey, want a rad new plant body?'"

Alice: "It's the green choice!"

Alex: (Oh, dang—I need to use a Word of Command in order to dryadize her proper with a Greater Enchantment. If only I had Persona 3 instead of 2!)

Alex: (Still totally worth it. Let's do it!)

Alice: "I could probably skip 2:45 but I'm not sure how to make someone else do it," Alice says, thinking.

Remy: (We could bring her into the Chancel?)

Alex: (Miracle points aren't the issue—it's a level 7 miracle and my Persona is 2, so I need to add 5.)

Alex: (And I can't add 5, only 4 or 8.)

Alex: (Again—I'm still totally down for doing it.)

Remy: (Oh, right. Arithmetic.)

Alex: (I actually have enough PMP to do it, it'll just hurt.)

Rand: So, what do you do, then?

Alex: First we see if she consents.

Alex: If she does, I'll miraculously endow her with the great amaranth of the oak.

Alice: "Let's visit," Alice says. "I'd like to ask her forthcoming death what exactly impends."

Alex: Probably by giving her a tincture made of one of my teeth, or something else that clearly symbolizes the immense effort of the Word.

Rand: You visit.

Alex: "Hello."

Rand: "Hey."

Alex: "I'm Alex, god of Oak."

Remy: "Cynn says you made fun of him, so I won't bother with being dignified. Remy, the secret wizard of Speed."

Rand: "That's cool."

Alice: "…and Alice," Alice concludes.

Alex: "Thanks. We've been brought on board to the whole 'stop you from getting murdered' thing. Sorry about all this hassle."

Rand: "It's cool. I'm no fan of murders."

Alex: "We've been looking in to it and we think one of the most direct fixes here is to just make you a non-human person. That should make the destiny that requires your death, ah, moot."

Alice: Alice looks a bit not-all-there, because she is busy peering around in the mythic world for a reprieve-spirit attached to the oncoming doom.

Rand: "That seems like it would involve complications. Unless it's a non-human person that's like being a human person, but better. Otherwise, how could I run for office?"

  • Remy vanishes into superspeed as he runs interference around Veronica, all like the Flash in Kingdom Come.

Rand: Hm, what would a reprieve-spirit attached to a doom be like, do you think?

Remy: Out of the air, a voice calls out: "Nothing in the Constitution says you have to be human."

Alex: "It does have some complications, I won't pretend it's all upside. But I've done it before and it's mostly upside. As I said, I'm the god of Oak; I can make you a dryad."

Rand: "Yeah, that definitely seems like it would be a political vulnerability. People would make jokes about roots and ask questions about whether I'd be able to deal with problems during the winter!"

  • Alex gobbles protein powder.

Alice: Probably polite 20-something scholar in spooky black robes and spectacles and a black non-college cap if it's a reprieve-spirit of the death, and a pipe fox if it's the reprieve-spirit of people-not-getting-tangled-up-in-destiny-because-death, or both.

Rand: Okay, but I really meant, what does a reprieve-spirit do? Is it a representation of the possibility of future death not happening?

Alex: "Yes, it would probably get out eventually. I'll give you a minute to think it over."

Rand: "Thank you, but no."

Alice: Oh, no, she's looking for the spirit of dying in the sense of death is a reprieve, or a spirit of the reprieve of the world/pollution/her political opponents because of the death.

Alice: It's possible neither exists, but she thinks it's likely that one or the other does.

Rand: "In a society that profits from my self-doubt, liking me the way Iam is a rebellious act."

Alex: "No worries. We'll see about keeping you in one piece the more old-fashioned way."

Alice: If she's sufficiently happy with her life that death being a reprieve is plainly wrong, and if the destiny thing is totally Noble stuff and inaccessible to mundane reality (including mythic reality), neither spirit's there.

Rand: Hm, I'd have to think about that, but it's more like that the second kind of spirit might exist in terms of "the representation of the other potential track that history might take."

Alice: And the spirit would typically just be… circling, and waiting, probably?

Rand: Yeah, probably.

Rand: I can't really imagine that the spirit of things that might happen has that much power on its own except in very specific circumstances.

Alice: Oh, sure, Alice just wants to ask it, "Hey, what actual event-form are you evolving into?"

Rand: "Hm," says the tiny fox, although it's really more like a pipe-seahorse. "These things are clouded, being the result of many actions by great powers far into the future. But I see in myself the potential for rising oceans, and great cities beneath the sea, and the birth of a new world in the drowning of the ancestors."

Alice: "That is truly majestic," Alice agrees. "But, like, what about at 2:45?"

Rand: "Oh, I think she's going to fall into a pond and drown?"

Rand: "It's kind of an ongoing thing, though; I'm pretty sure there's going to be multiple murder attempts if the first one doesn't work."

Alice: "Thank you," Alice says, and pets the pipe-seahorse's head.

Alice: Alice switches her viewpoint back. "Sorry," she says. "Was it a go/no-go on the dryad thing?"

Alex: Alex is just shooting the shit with Veronica at this point. "It's a no-go. For now it's looking like we'll be doing old-fashioned bodyguarding."

Alice: Alice, behind the times!

Rand: "That is most kind."

Rand: Veronica goes back to her calculus, having determined that everything is handled for now.

Alice: "That's really unfortunate," Alice says. "Really, really unfortunate. But it's all right, I suppose."

Alice: "First murder attempt: drowning, 2:45. Then a series of others."

Remy: How many ponds/pond-like bodies are within whatever swathe of area you can cover with Aspect 7 speed?

Rand: Oh, you know, some.

  • Rand isn't actually sure what the pondness level of California is.

Alice: "I figure that if we stop three they'll get frustrated and yell at us over the phone but I don't quite know what to tell them. Bad Power, no murder, I guess."

Alex: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." Alex raps his stave lightly against the floor.

Alice: "I don't know that we can intimidate everybody with our amazing punctuality," Alice notes.

Alice: "Though I certainly wouldn't want to fight us."

Alice: "I could clip away your destiny?" Alice asks Veronica. "It wouldn't actually stop you from continuing to exist and take actions into the future, but it would render things murky enough that nobody would intend on killing you. On the other hand, it's a pretty good destiny, so you might want to cling to it with both hands until a tragic but glorious death rips it away."

Rand: "Well, the thing is," says Veronica, "that I actually would quite like to become President one day. In fact I was planning to have a go at it even before people showed up to tell me it was my magical destiny."

Remy: "Just because you aren't destined to do something doesn't mean you can't still do it."

Rand: "Yeah, well, if I have a huge advantage I don't really feel like giving it up. Those don't come around every day!"

Alice: "Arguably it's fruit of a tainted tree," Alice says. "No offense, Alex."

Remy: "So, how would you feel about trading a huge advantage for a larger number of slightly smaller advantages?"

Alex: "Oak aren't fruit trees, Alice," replies Alex, wearily.

Remy: "I can grant my power to those I judge worthy, and I'm the god of Speed. I'm sure you can imagine the applications that could have during a final exam, or trying to get something through Congress."

Rand: "I'm not really sure what the difference would be?"

Remy: "My siblings are all arguably better gift-givers than I."

Cynn: "I can secure for you a Seelie law clerk. I assure you… they are really good at getting around laws."

Rand: "I mean, maybe I'm missing your perspective here?"

Alex: "They're bored. They like meddling. And we just finished saving Christmas; we're all still in the habit of giving gifts."

Rand: "It seems like you think it's wrong for me to become president because nameless divine powers are tipping the scales of probability in my favor, but not wrong for me to become president because other divine powers gave me helpful magical powers."

Remy: "Your destiny is problematic. If you ascend to the presidency on the back of it, we risk the world falling into total predetermination as dictated by some shady backroom gods. We don't want that to happen, but like you generally."

Rand: "I don't actually see a meaningful distinction between the actions of these two interest blocs, both of whom I'm not meaningfully capable of evaluating productively."

Cynn: "I like you," Cynn says, guile-less. "You're thoughtful, measured, and nonpartisan. Is the presidency really for you?"

Rand: "Well, there seems to be some debate about that."

Rand: "But, that's the plan."

Rand: "I mean, good lord, just look at absolutely everything. I don't see how I could make it worse."

Alex: "At this point I'm inclined to just run interference and stop the assassination attempt."

Alex: "I want to know who's behind it and I want to know why."

Alice: "I had the chance to make everything better, once," Alice says, thoughtfully.

Alice: "It was a bit more theological, though. A bit more, lo, you shall be made good."

Alice: "I admit that if I knew where exactly the line between political and theological change was I'd be making an incredibly compelling argument instead of hoping you change your mind."

Rand: "Well, I'm not going to judge your decisions about your own life," says Veronica.

Alice: "That is an option you retain, albeit one you will eventually remove from others," Alice agrees.

Rand: "If I choose to relinquish my destiny, they will acquire complete control of their own lives?"

Alex: Alex politely refrains from going on again about how free will is a vacuous concept.

Alice: "Oh no," Alice says. "The progressive politician might have to face a scenario where even after a single victory one has to keep fighting."

Alice: Alice sighs and looks away. "Whatever," she says. "If you want to evaluate the blocs, anyway, probably just evaluate Destiny and Speed and such and don't worry too much about the people in charge. They're all doing their best."

Alice: "Er, I mean, the people in charge of Destiny and Speed and such."

Rand: "I admit I am a bit interested in finding out who wants me dead."

Remy: "Also, consider the difference between having shadowy patrons manipulating things in your favor, and having friends who introduced themselves to you that can solve your problems with miracles."

Rand: "If the Patriarchy has literally come for my blood, that would be pretty boss."

Alice: "That is an interesting question," Alice agrees. "I'd guess some sort of water god, between the lake thing and the possibility that the seas will rise if you don't get elected."

Alex: (I vote we accelerate to the moment when things heat up.)

Rand: Right, then.

Rand: I see no point in delaying the cycle of escalation.

Rand: Do you want to just sit in a dorm room or shall we actually go out to a pond and see what happens?

Alex: Let's go get lunch at the campus student center.

Alex: I want a sandwich.

Rand: The Kukla hungers for protein!

Alice: Alice is down for that. She's never had Stanfood.

Remy: Superspeed is hungry work.

Rand: Hm, my cousin went to Stanford, but he didn't mention the food.

Rand: But then, he's the guy who spent a year in Paris eating only frozen vegetables.

Alice: It's probably very individualistic.

Remy: I imagine your burrito-type meal would be the prime lunch spot

Rand: Anyway, you discover a nice little sandwich place, and also a Chik-Fil-A.

Rand: Maybe there's a Marble Slab? They had one at my school.

Rand: Anyway, the destined hour arrives, and while Veronica and Alice are politely arguing philosophy, a bit of water from a nearby fountain slithers slyly out and attempts to grab Veronica by the ankle while she grandstands and pull her backwards.

Alex: Alex does the 'point at both his eyes with two fingers, point at the water with both fingers' gesture, frowns, and shakes his head. "Do not."

  • Remy runs around the fountain to waterspout all of its contents out, suspending Veronica safely in mid-air.

Remy: Aspect 7.

Alice: Alice shoots the water, action hero style, with the guns that make people forget what they're doing. She's not quite sure what they do to water.

Alice: (They're extremely considerate guns, as compared to guns that make your insides come out.)

Cynn: Cynn sits back with an ice cream cone.

Rand: …probably one of those things worked.

Alice: Alice spins and holsters her gun.

Alex: Alex watches the mortals scatter and flee from the sudden explosion of motion and gunfire. He sighs and starts counting bills out of his wallet on to the table, mentally mathing out how much to tip for something like this.

Rand: The water abruptly loses animation, as though whatever person was controlling it had gone away to rethink their approach.

Alice: Alice considers hosing down the crowd with bullets to make them forget about running away, but they're not considerate AK-47s.

Remy: "How're you holding up, Veronica?"

Alex: Alex stands, slides his chair back under the table, wipes his mouth. "So, that's one."

Alice: "…um, you're holding her up."

Remy: "Active defense!"

  • Remy gently decelerates her downwards.

Rand: "It's all good."

Rand: Veronica looks at the screaming crowds and makes a tick mark on some secret mental checklist.

Alex: "Remy, can you try and find the Stand user?" Alex just assumes Remy knows what that means.

Rand: Seems like a safe bet.

Remy: "Just like in Alice's Japanese animes." Is there anyone suspicious looking within range?

Remy: If not, probably time for a Greater Divination.

Rand: What counts as 'within range'?

Alex: I whip my attention through all oak trees within a few hundred yards, looking for likely characters.

Remy: Probably less than the maximum of Aspect 7 superspeed. Let's stick to a few city blocks.

Alice: Alice frowns a little at the screaming crowd. She murmurs, "Veronica, you may wish to close your eyes a moment." Then she stands up, posing with the gun, fires a second shot into the air, and turns Glorious on for a moment. There is a shooter, but she is also the most amazing, most compelling person anyone who glances back at her has ever seen. The star on the stage; the center of it all; the thing the world is about. Then she reholsters the gun and it fades away, that was wrong, she's just an ordinary legendary actress.

Rand: In that case, no.

Alice: Alice re-seats herself.

Remy: I'll spend 1 MP to divine, then. What does Speed know about the culprit(s)?

Remy: (This probably takes the form of Remy running even faster and having flashy visions.)

Rand: Hm, my default answer is "surprisingly little, they're really not in a hurry," but that seems like a disappointing answer to a Major Divination, so.

Rand: (I'm not sure what Alice is trying to accomplish.)

Alice: (Alice is using a Major Creation of Emotion [the emotion for her Glorious probably "Awe" or "Being Rapt," I'm still fine-tuning] to cause people panicking to reprocess the situation as a wonderful event instead of a frightening one, hoping that the conclusions they draw after that are neutral or helpful.)

Rand: Let's see, Remy has an adrenaline-induced vision of… hm, some people in an air-bubble somewhere underwater.

Remy: "I think they're hiding underwater somewhere, in a giant bubble."

Remy: Remy makes another surveillance sweep, going out much further, looking for likely bodies.

Rand: You discover a giant ocean!

Alex: (Oh yeah, the ocean!)

  • Rand checks and determines that Stanford is not actually near the ocean.


Alice: (Someone probably adjusted that at some point.)

  • Rand fecklessly sinks whatever parts of California were in the way.

Remy: Time to swim, then.

Remy: Assuming their range can only be so far, Remy gives the coastal waters a sweep.

Rand: Honestly, they could technically be in a body of water on Europa as far as the game mechanics go, but for purposes of drama we can assume they're somewhere in the same county.

Rand: So, Remy finds them reasonably quickly.

Alice: There's actually stuff about range in the game!

Rand: Yeah, but they could still be on Europa and just be using a mystic link or whatever.

Alice: True.

Remy: I guess it's time to…

Remy: …burst their bubble. B)

Cynn: Cynn goes to the water and begins singing the Undine-Summoning Song. Need some search parties.

Alex: If there's a mystic link, we can find it.

Alice: Although we could then have hit them back, I think.

Alice: Yeah.

Rand: You discover two people lurking in a bubble a little ways off shore.

Rand: One red-headed fellow with long, unkempt hair and extremely kempt regal robes, and one lady with gimlet eyes.

Rand: They seem to be having a villain conference while peering into a crystal ball, as you do.

Alice: "Do you want to come to the shore with… I guess me and Alex?" Alice asks Veronica. "It's an extremely dumb and dangerous option but it's also both empowering and convenient."

  • Remy swims head-on into the bubble at superspeed.

Rand: "Well, apparently they have ranged drowning capabilities, so I guess I might as well."

Alex: "You're safe-ish with us. We're very good at defense."

Rand: "Oh," says the lady in the bubble. "It's the fast guy. I was thinking you wouldn't be here this quickly."

Rand: This entire sentence appears to be in massive sarcasm quotes.

Remy: "That's what they usually say."

Remy: "Do you want to explain yourselves, or should I just start punching?"

Alice: "Absolutely," Alice agrees, heading in that direction.

Rand: "N—" says the man, but he gets shushed.

Rand: "Well, it's been a long day," says the woman, "so let me introduce ourselves and explain our intentions in a straightforward way, and then we'll fight."

Rand: "I am Jean Farigoule, Domina of Guilt, and this is Alessandro Piccinnu, King of the Waters."

Rand: "We became aware that the mortal Veronica Hasseltine is now destined to become the future leader of the free world, so we decided to stop it in the simplest way possible, by killing her."

Rand: "We decided that because we both want the planet to flood, because of reasons."

Rand: "…I guess that pretty much sums it up."

Alex: "So courteous."

Remy: "Would it save us a fight if I told you that we're trying to stop it in a slightly more complex, but much less lethal way?"

Rand: "I have become aware of this, but I have already analyzed the target and I've determined that you aren't going to change her mind."

Rand: Meanwhile, the bubble moves graciously towards shore so that other people can take part in this conversation.

Remy: "That's not a very good justification for doing anything. And, while you may be right about the flood thing, it doesn't leave a great first impression."

Alice: "Technically," Alice says, "we probably don't have to change her mind, just ensure that she gets large sums of money from agents in the employ of America's enemies for Christmas every year."

Cynn: Cynn stands beside Veronica, finishing his ice cream cone slowly, resigned to the knowledge that all things are impermanent.

Rand: "That is a really terrible way to promote self-determination," says Veronica, who is probably more annoyed by Alice than by the various people trying to kill her.

Alice: "It's totally in line with your established willingness to accept magical advantages from any party," Alice argues.

Alex: "This is all stupid," declares Alex. "Why the fuck do you want the earth to flood? Just to increase your own petty power?"

Alex: "You're an immortal god with dominion over most of the earth. Isn't that enough?"

Alex: "What more could you possibly demand of this world that it hasn't already blessed you with?"

Alice: "Don't worry," Alice adds. "We can pick enemies of America that you don't actually have enough information to make an objective judgment against."

Rand: "No," says Alessandro. "Also, human civilization is ugly, so, I'm going to raise the oceans and drown it."

Rand: "Yeah, fuck 'em," says Jean.

Remy: "Okay, screw you, guy."

Rand: "That's the spirit!"

Remy: Lesser Destruction of his speed.

Remy: All of it.

Rand: Alessandro slams into the planet as it suddenly moves on without him.

Alex: (Dang! :open_mouth:)

Rand: He, uh, splashes.

Alex: Alex moves between Veronica and the shitstorm which is rapidly unfurling.

Rand: At first this is a really unpleasant way to die but before he really gets gross his body turns to water.

Alex: Water elemental, thinks Alex, quickly. Alright.

Rand: "That's right," says Jean. "Time to give you the beating you probably deserve for some reason which I will check into later."

  • Evulphias stalks towards Cynn from wherever the Abhorrent Dog had been. He and his master look on at the fight, but stay nearer Veronica and Alex.

Rand: "Standard rules apply, obviously; losers agree to let the winners resolve the situation as they please."

Rand: Jean raises one hand and brings it down flat on the sand.

Rand: You didn't think she was hitting it that hard, but apparently you were incorrect!

Rand: There is a localized sandstorm.

Cynn: Cynn becomes the stuff of the evening, an elemental of fading light and stars.

Alex: Alex's dense foliage and thick bark provide him and those in his lee with protection against the torrential sand.

Rand: Meanwhile, there is a noise.


Alex: Alex hopes that's Evulphias…!

Rand: Dogs go wuf, Alex.

Alex: Alex's eyes close. When his eyelids part again, there are no eyes behind them, only branches that rush out and pour in to the world, wrenching his human body apart as he expands in scope and grandeur, a great green and barken thing. (4 pmp for a Greater Emulation, to become an immensely durant tree-god, dozens of feet tall, impossible to kill. I'm probably going to be leaning on this trick a lot, frankly.)

Alice: Alice is pensive, thinking, taking full advantage of the few moments' reprieve she has before the sandstorm hits her. There continues to be a few moments' reprieve before the sandstorm hits her for… some time. [0 DMP Preservation of Reprieve.]

Rand: That's a really useful trick, because a great seven-legged serpent just emerged from the ocean!

Rand: Although, if you aren't twenty feet tall you probably can't see it yet.

Alex: When Veronica looks at Alex, her first thought is 'Ent', but an Ent would have a face, or something like a human face, and walk as a man walks. Alex is simply a great tree, and he moves not as a human moves but as a tree moves—growing in to new places, shuffling along root, expanding to fill a new space and leaving the old space behind. Except, obviously, he does it much, much faster than an ordinary tree. "Beast over there," says Alex, pointing out the serpent for Evulphias.

Cynn: Evulphias looks to Cynn for approval, and the Power agrees with a shrug. The loping mongrel apocalypse-dog rushes forward, growing… but not nearly so much as the ent-Alex. It leaps atop the Power of Oaks, no bigger than a dire bear or so, and howls with hunger. That's the creepy bit. When Evulphias smiles, the smile is wider than its head.

Alex: Alex goes up, to ensure that the horrible serpent remains appropriately intimidated and also so that Evulphias can jump on it.

Rand: Kaiju stack!

Rand: So, basically, we're dealing with a World of Final Fantasy situation here.



Cynn: Cynn looks to Guilt. "I think you should call off your friend. I assume that is your friend, or at least his kraken. I don't want Evulphias to get a tummy ache."

Remy: If the monster is Waters, I'm still destroyin' his speed.

Remy: Or rather, I'm maintaining the miracle, which is incidentally bad for the monster if it is Waters.

Rand: Whatever you're doing, it doesn't seem to deter the serpent.

Rand: Meanwhile, Jean uses some quite impressive speed of her own to grab Remy by the throat.

Remy: "—!"

Rand: The serpent looks for targets, but what with the sand and all, doesn't see anything but Alex.

Alex: Alex throws Evulphias at it. Fetch, he creaks.

Rand: The kaiju stack is flipped turn-ways!

Cynn: Cynn looks surprised and a little worried.

Rand: There is, for a time, some confusion as two entities that are both quite hard to draw grapple with each other, and the Artist retreats, baffled, to events elsewhere.

Cynn: Evulphias looks ravenously hungry, his grin extending as he opens his maw to reveal a star-filled expanse within. This is a dog that has eaten a universe.

Rand: I'm gonna need some numbers on that one if you want him to eat a universe now.

Cynn: It was a very small universe, and done in pieces.

Cynn: But nonetheless, this is a Treasure miracle, level 5.

Remy: Cheating puppy!

Rand: Okay, so, let's him and your dog fight.

Alice: Alice slips over behind Alex, eventually, to stand near Veronica, and opens a portal to a good place behind where the enemy Powers were when last sighted at her end of the beach, and about 8-12 feet up, so she can see what's going on back there. [Treasure 4, 2 TMP]

Cynn: Cynn seems nervous and fidgety, and starts to sip at his flask, still full of sizzling something-or-other.

Rand: As the stand starts to clear, you get a decent bird's-eye-view of Jean wrassling with Remy and Alessandro frozen in place, although probably still able to do plenty of stuff.

Rand: Speaking of which, Alessandro summons a rather large wave to grab everybody.

Rand: Well, everybody who isn't a giant tree. That would be asking a lot.

  • Cynn is still immaterial.

Rand: That's a great trick!

Remy: Remy lets Alessandro have his speed back, and instead tries to do the thing where he vibrates his molecules to phase through a thing with super speed.

Alice: Alice, in the process of thinking through some sort of reprieve where the choking hand somehow passes through Remy's neck without directly fighting the choking Intention, switches to taking mental credit for what Remy is doing instead.

  • Rand considers how much speed force nonsense he should let Remy get away with.

Remy: If it doesn't work with Aspect, I can use an Emulation of Speed.

Rand: I'm going to go with "force the player to justify it" for 200, Alex.

Remy: I'm using my legendary speed to individually accelerate the molecules of my body so that they can move through her arm without being impeded.

Remy: The improbability of quantum tunneling doing that is a logistical issue that often faces the use of superspeed, and I have an Affliction to ignore logistical issues.

Rand: Curse you, ignored logistical issues!

Rand: You probably do have to use some kind of miracle, though.

Rand: I don't think that's included in the base Lightning Quickness gift.

Remy: Okay. Lesser Emulation, combining properties of "speed is lightning" and "speed breaks the limits."

Rand: Fair enough!

Rand: You manage to wiggle your throat out of Jean's grasp.

Alice: Alice sees the wave go past the portal, frowns, attempts to estimate whether it'll get past Alex, and drags Veronica through the portal if it will.

Rand: Jean is irritated, but makes a motion with her head as if to say "I don't want to spend the next ten turns wrestling this guy, do something magical to him while I go strangle Alice instead."

Alex: Alex grows heavily towards Jean.

Rand: I'm going to assume that Alex shelters Veronica from the wave because that's his thing.

Rand: And if I don't he'll be sad.

Rand: Anyway, Jean leaps for Alice's throat, to get her strangle on.

Rand: She's quite leap-y!

Rand: Apparently, Alessandro takes the hint, because Remy starts to cough as his lungs fill up with water.

Rand: Alex, if you're going to interpose yourself upon that leap, I'll need an action on your part.

Alex: Alex is going to interpose himself through a good old fashioned Aspect miracle. 2 AMP to bump to Aspect 4 and hurtle my enormous self on her like a thunderbolt.

Alex: Actually, you know what, I'm just going to punt her in to space with Big Stick.

Alex: I am the stick!!!

Remy: Remy channels the built-up friction of his speed aura inwards to boil the water filling his lungs, expelling it in a gout of steam. [taking a Wound]

Rand: Remy whistles like a teakettle and expels steam.

Rand: And more steam.

Rand: And some more.

Rand: It, uh, the steam pile isn't stopping from getting taller.

Rand: You appear to have some kind of everlasting breathstopper going on.

Alice: Alice steps backwards through the portal as Jean approaches, closing the portal, and forms an Intention to shoot the heck out of Alessandro as she falls. [Treasure 3, 1 TMP, 4 Will, 6 Intention.]

Rand: Okay, so Alex is in a good position to give Jean an excellent whack with the Big Stick.

Rand: It's level 6, right?

Rand: I guess that's technically enough to send somebody into orbit.

Rand: I guess the main benefit of having a Fairy-Tale Feat to send somebody into orbit is that they might actually land safely.

Rand: Jean, in an astonishing piece of presence of mind, grabs onto your limb as you smash into her face, and holds on tight.

Rand: The immense impact of the blow carries you both away.

Alice: (heeheehee)

Rand: Meanwhile, Alice shoots Alessandro, considerately.

Alex: Alex and Jean are blasting off again.

Rand: He's made of water, so it's just as well you didn't use inconsiderate bullets, because, they'd just have gone straight through!

Rand: Alessandro forgets what he was doing.

Rand: Remy finally manages to empty his lungs.

Rand: Alessandro remembers what he was doing!

Alice: Alice has not abandoned the Intention!

Remy: "Just like being in college!"

Rand: Can you keep on making him forget what he was doing while you're still fighting him?

Alice: Additional bullets are additional, increasing shocks to memory and awareness until the target passes out. Though, obviously he's a Power so Intention 6 probably isn't enough to actually knock him out.

Rand: I guess he'll wind up with a Serious "Forgetful" Wound or something.

Rand: Alice continues shooting.

Alice: (They were built with the knock-out feature to prevent endless loops of forget-remember-shoot-forget-remember-shoot.)

Rand: Alessandro wonders what's going on?

Alice: Sadly, Alice has no actions left to land smoothly from 10 feet up, so she can only manage as many midair bullets as would be Really Impressive.

Remy: Before Alessandro figures out what's going on, Remy accelerates towards him, getting as close to escape velocity as he can in the limited distance between them, and headbutts him right in the face.

Alex: Meanwhile, somewhere above the atmosphere on a ballistic arc which will eventually intersect the earth again, huge tree monster and huge jerk are engaged in violent grappling—which unfortunately makes Big Stick difficult to use. So instead, Alex doesn't take any shortcuts. He just does the hard work of slowly overgrowing, grappling, and crushing in to submission Jean. [Level 2 Aspect miracle for a +5 Intention, total of Intention 8.]

Rand: Y'all are really doing a number on Alessandro's brain today.

Rand: It won't make him any nicer!

Remy: Once you find out your enemy's immortal, you stop feeling so bad about inflicting cosmically awful amounts of violence on them.

Rand: Anyway, between the two of you, you manage to beat him into temporary unconsciousness even though he's made of water.

Alex: ("I want to kill every human!" "I suddenly feel less bad about ruining your nice day.")

Rand: Meanwhile, above the atmosphere, Alex is losing his fight rather badly.

Alice: Alice lands hard on the beach, most likely taking a Bond 2: Ow Ow Ow or an Affliction 1: Sand and Pain Everywhere.

Rand: The second one is much funnier.

Alex: Oh, shit!

Rand: Jean is terrifyingly strong.

Rand: You punch her, and this time, she's ready for you and just snaps the limb off.

Rand: Then she starts going for your other limbs.

Remy: Hmm.

Remy: Would a Lesser Creation be enough to accelerate the decay of the orbit?

Rand: I don't see why not!

Remy: But only Alex's orbit.

Rand: Ah!

Rand: Smart.

Remy: Time to bring him home.

Alex: Huh. That's gonna be a problem. But if I survive the first de-limbing, the rest won't be a huge problem.

Alex: After all, 'It is my nature that, if I survive it once, it can never kill me. (4)'

Rand: Alex begins to fall faster.

Rand: A gap grows between you and Jean.

Rand: But it also starts to get rather hot.

Rand: And you are made of wood.

Alex: I'm okay with this—I'm still Durant. I might cook, but I shouldn't conflagrate.

Rand: Anyway, Deadly Wound for Alex, "One of my best limbs is missing."

Alex: Fair!

Alex: Wait, we're passing through the upper atmosphere, right?

Rand: And one for Remy, probably, something like "Can't talk, lungs busy regenerating."

Rand: That's so.

Alex: Okay. I 'call the lightning to myself, and endure it, and grow strong despite (1).'

Rand: Meanwhile, a dog is fighting a sea serpent and Cynn is eating ice cream.

Cynn: Cynn is actually more zoned-out, sending his own miraculous energies through Evulphias, growing more and more concerned.

Alex: Whatever electrical energy is gathering in this part of the world is about to ground itself in to Jean and me.

Alice: Alice struggles to her feet, probably firing another shot or two at Alessandro to belatedly justify the HG's previous declaration that both of us were involved in taking him out before she has to stop to shake sand out of the gun. (Obviously it didn't clog until Alessandro was already down, it's a very considerate gun.)

Rand: Oh, I feel it, coming back again!

Rand: Like a roll of thunder chasing the wind!

Rand: Forces pulling Alex back down to the Earth again!

Rand: I can feel iiiiiiiiiiit

Alex: I feel the cosmos!

Rand: Lightning comes, to strike the beloved oak.

Rand: This is a really good striking position, so there's plenty of lightning.

Alice: Alice ponders the sea serpent.

Rand: Jean reconsiders her "swim through the air and chew through your bark" plan.

Alex: Alex is glad of it, because for all his bigness he can't cope with her strength, any more than an oak can cope with a chainsaw. Her power-to-volume ratio is way higher than him!

Rand: She is pretty much like a murderous French chainsaw, yes.

Alice: Alice realizes she has absolutely no choice, even though she's about to run out of TMP. She has to reconcile Evulphias and the sea serpent because if a growing connection between them turns into a friendship or romance she thinks that would be the best thing ever.

Rand: Okay, yeah, I can't argue with this.

Cynn: I can! He is the Abhorrent Dog, whose name is Enmity.

Rand: Meanwhile, Jean is struck by some lightning.

Alice: Alice reaches out to the cloud of destiny that still lingers around her, gathers up the Reconciliation Force, and reconciles. [Unless Elliott was objecting OOC to adjustment of his prop, in which case she doesn't.]

Rand: It likes her less well than it does Alex, and it's less like a kiss and more like being electrocuted.

Cynn: (I'm fine, I'm fine.)

Rand: Instead, Jean does something else.

Alice: [Treasure 3, Passion 3 "People (in this case, friendship/love/dogs/serpents) shouldn't be contained)" + 2 Will + Bond 4 if anyone or anything fights it.)]

Rand: Evulphias and the sea serpent, who you can name at your leisure, I guess, since Alessandro didn't, continue to wrestle, but now it's more like wrasslin'.

Rand: Puppy love conquers all!

Rand: Except the mass of students pouring over the dunes.

Rand: They're running, weeping, for the sea.

Rand: Meanwhile, Alex continues falling; Jean continues falling somewhat slower.

Alex: Alex grows in to something more aerodynamic and leaf-shaped, and arranges to land farther away from Jean, who is painful to be near.

Alice: Are these, like, a Major mass of students or a Lesser mass of students?

Rand: Probably lesser.

Rand: So it honestly isn't really that impressive. Just, like half-a-dozen freshman determined to drown themselves.

Remy: Remy can take freshmen duty, unless Alice has a cool solution.

Rand: "I spent all semester getting high instead of studying!" one wails. "Just let me die!"

Alice: Alice glances back at them, winces, shakes sand out of her hair, and offers them a reprieve from any guilt that is haunting them in the form of a sudden blinding realization of the beauty of the world; in the form of the sand and the sea and the wind and the sun and the giant monster and the evil dog and the sandstorm filling their hearts with sudden peace and the realization that maybe, just maybe, they have been forgiven. [1 DMP.]

Rand: But then, they are distracted, and reconciled, by the beauty of sand and sea of evil dog.

Rand: "You know what, I'm probably high still. Never mind."

Rand: They tramp away. Distraction failed!

Rand: I guess Alex can land now.

Alice: Alice looks up thoughtfully at the sky, having a philosophical moment, possibly interrupted by a giant tree falling out of that sky. If that's happening nearby, which drama says it is and math says it almost certainly isn't.

Rand: "Huh," says Veronica.

Rand: She's really been keeping a pretty admirable poker face all this time!

Alice: Alice rubs sand out of her eyes and then arranges for the sandstorm to fortuitously cushion Alex's fall if it is nearby and the storm is still going.

Alex: Alex lands somewhere in… shit, this was California, right? And he was punting kind of parallel to the coastline. So… Chile?

Rand: Chile's nice this time of year.

Alice: (Curses, can't think of any puns.)

Rand: Meanwhile, Jean decides to land on Alice.

Rand: Girl's got follow-through, anyway.

Alex: Alex lands, retracting back in to his human shape shortly after, staggering away from the impact crater, nursing the ragged stump of his right arm.

Cynn: Cynn is weary and worried, and so he pricks the fingers of his hand with a nearby shard and lets a drop from each fall into the water. "Come to me now, across the Eighth Wave, O Children of Danan."

Alice: Alice looks up at the approaching Jean. "<bleep>," she mutters. All she can think to do is to look up and hit Jean with Glorious before stepping out of the way. (If she can't step out of the way, she probably can't dive out of the way either, is what she figures.)

Cynn: (Treasure 7, 2 MP to summon up some of the faeries bound into his service—whoever is nearby—as an armed host to subdue Jean.)

Rand: Let's do both!

Rand: Jean is distracted in the middle of her pinpoint orbital bombardment calculation by Alice's sudden appearance in the role of The Thing That Makes The World Good (2017).

Rand: This results in her missing and smacking teeth-first into the beach.

Rand: Then the fairy host rides forth from the sea, clad in coral and pearl.

Rand: Then, they jump on her!

Rand: Jump, jump, jump!

Alice: (Lean, lean, lean! Lean on Jean!)

Rand: Then, they tie her up with seaweed and such and bury her up to the neck.

Remy: "So, we win, right?"

Rand: Having taken around two Deadlies and one Serious at this point, Jean is looking pretty subdued.

Rand: She looks about at her unconscious comrade and his lovesick sea serpent.

Rand: "I think… I think I have to tap out this time."

Alex: Alex is nowhere to be seen, but… probably not dead, given his general difficult-to-killness. If anyone's cell phone survived all that, it's ringing.

Rand: "Damn that waterlogged fool for not holding up his end of the fight."

Remy: Remy picks up. "Be right there."

Remy: Nyoom there and nyoom back.

Rand: Jean uses her powers of guilt to make this definitely Alessandro's fault.

Cynn: Cynn whistles Evulphias back from the sea, the Dog dwindling as it bounded back.

Alice: Alice, shining with slowly fading glamour, scrubs sand off her tongue with the back of her hand.

Alex: Alex definitely looks like he lost that fight, what with the being half-naked, clothes torn off, and his shoulder leading to awful ragged mass of torn flesh, bone, and wood instead of an arm. He leans on Remy pretty heavily, relaxing in to defeat.

Alice: "Blargh," legendary star Alice Acacia mutters. "Blah."

Alice: "Go us," Alice cheers, finally, after some experimental vocalizations and a successful swallow. "We won the hot potato!"

Cynn: "Yes. What a valiant achievement."

Remy: Remy scoops Alex up in his speed aura, whisking the both of them back to Stanford campus. He lets Alex down gently onto the ground, and, with a touch, reaches into his brother caelestis's cells, speeding the rate at which they heal. [Lesser Creation of Speed]

Alex: Alex makes a variety of undignified sounds as he explores the unique sensations of several years of healing crammed in to a heartbeat.

Rand: It's gonna take more than a Lesser Creation to grow back a whole limb in a second.

Rand: But it will make it an order of magnitude faster.

Remy: Works for me.

Rand: Veronica walks over to Alex, concerned.

Alex: Nice try, Veronica! Too slow!

Rand: "Wow, you really took a beating. Let me call a doctor."

Alex: Alex lies down and yells a lot for a couple days.

Alice: Thus a campus legend is born!

Alice: If you listen sometimes, late at night, you too can hear the Wailing Oak.

Rand: "Wow," says Veronica, upping her poker-face Intention.

Rand: "So, does this mean it's over?"

Remy: "That was just round one."

Rand: Is what Remy would have said, if he could talk.

Remy: Squeak!

Remy: He settles for shaking his head no.

Remy: Lousy goshdarn lungs.

Alice: "It does probably mean you get to live," Alice concludes. "Which is really kind of a waste, since your dying here would have been amazingly heroic, but what can you do."

Rand: "All I can do is make the best I can of my life with the options presented to me," says Veronica, who's clearly been thinking of what to say for a while now.

Rand: "So, I hope you'll let me do that. It's obvious I can't stop you from doing anything you feel like doing, but…"

Alice: "I mean, someone else could and probably will decide to take a shot at you," Alice says, "But that's not really any different from anyone else at any time, particularly politicians."

Remy: :confused:

Alex: (Call it there?)

Alice: "That's a very pretty and well-aimed statement," Alice says. "It would probably do a good job at keeping me from forcibly attacking you and cutting your destiny off, if I were planning to do that. But I'm not sure how it's meant to keep me from fighting in more legitimate ways to stop you from ruining everything."

Rand: "Well, I can actually fight legitimate things under my own steam, so that's fine."

Rand: "I guess I will just have to… not ruin everything, maybe?"

Rand: "There's a strategy we can all live with."

Rand: @Remy: Jean and Alessandro agreed to call off their murderplot if you won the fight, which you did.

Rand: I mean, their honorable-word-keeping batting average remains unknown.

Alice: "You've already decided to ruin everything," Alice points out. "That's implicit in accepting a weight of destiny from a PAC with a vested interest in doing so."

Remy: :slightly_smiling_face:

Rand: "That seems like a really slanted take."

Rand: "Although I do need to find about more about these mysterious persons."

Alice: "…you've consented to essentially bringing an end to the era of choice," Alice says, "in exchange for a much improved shot at political power and the ability to stop catastrophic changes to the climate that will drown human civilization. There's nothing slanted about it."

Rand: "An end to the era of choice? Says who? That's the exact opposite of the policies I plan to run on."

Alice: "Who cares about your policies? That's the power you're accepting to achieve them."

Rand: Veronica slants an eye at Alex and Remy and Cynn to see if they're on the same page as Alice.

Alice: "If you found out that instead of getting a magical destiny to be President, you were getting a magical assassin who would kill everyone in the way of your being President, would you grab hold just as hard?"

Remy: Remy nods in support of Alice.

Alex: Alex is here in the form of a convenient oak, as his internal body is deep in a healing coma.

Alex: The oak, however, offers a non-committal shrug. "I'm not as heated up about these questions as Alice is," it says, letters forming on its bark. "But it's important to her, and she's a good friend, so I'm happy to help."

Cynn: Cynn blips out and then returns a moment later with a little western flower, purple as a wound, which he hands to Veronica. "I don't know if anyone will have choice in the future—if tomorrow will snare us in Destiny or Foresight. But I know that you, at least, have a choice. What you choose, I will hold fast."

Rand: "No, but there is no such assassin. You'd have said if there was."

Rand: "It seems like you'd have me give up assistance from this divine SuperPAC and rely only on the regular kind."

Alice: "I'm saying that a magical destiny guaranteed to tangle everyone else up in it is, like a magical assassin, an immoral means."

Rand: "At which point they'd presumably retire from the field rather than finding another candidate."

Rand: Veronica thinks about this.

Rand: "If you aren't willing to make choices that tangle everyone else up in them… you really can't run for office at all."

Rand: "…and if you step back and do nothing, you're still entangling them, because you could have acted differently."

Alice: "That is an excellent argument," Alice says. "Who can say what destiny really means? Who can say what it really does or implies? What does it mean to act in the world at all? What is life? What is death? What are words of wisdom and what is talking out of your butt?"

Alice: Alice kicks a rock down the beach, thoughtfully.

Alice: "All I can say is, you seem to be holding a bomb with a lit fuse, but, in the end, all is illusion."

Rand: "Fair enough," says Veronica. "I suppose we both need to find out what destiny really means."

Rand: "Have you a phone book or similar?"

Remy: "This isn't the 1800s. We have cell phones." Remy indicates with gestures.

Rand: "But is this Destiny fellow in your contacts?"

Remy: "Probably?" shrug.

Alex: "We'll let you know when we find them."

Rand: "Excellent. I would like to know more than I do."

Alice: Alice stares at her, then shakes her head. "That's a line," she says. "You're feeding us a line. You haven't been saying, 'Alice, what if you've been misled?' You haven't been saying, 'Alice, what if you're mistaken about the particulars of this destiny?' You've just been denying that something that gives you an advantage could possibly be morally wrong."

Alex: "That's because she's a politician, Alice."

Rand: "I… honestly get the impression you don't really know any more particulars about it than I do."

Remy: Remy shakes his head remorsefully,

Rand: "It seems like you just kind of dislike the idea of fate in general. Which is totally reasonable, obviously."

Rand: "But I'm not going to mysteriously sign away a mysterious advantage I mysteriously have without knowing a lot more about mysteriously why."

Rand: "Please imagine that I just said 'mysteriously' a bunch more times."

Alice: "You're holding a lit bomb," Alice says again, "and telling an experienced sweeper that they just kind of dislike the idea of technology, because she's not actually an explosive technician. But it's fine. I'm not an explosive technician. It may very well just be a block of C4 with some fake blinking lights on it. I wouldn't know."

Alex: "To be honest, all of this is a bit over my head as well."

Alex: "I don't know as much about this destiny as I'd like."

Rand: "If you're trying to tell me that gods don't drop out of the sky to offer help to mortals like me… well, it's a bit late."

Alice: "I agree that we should talk to the power of Choice or something," Alice says, turning her attention to the group, "just in case Emmony deceived me." She fishes out a very sandy dossier and tosses it to Veronica. "After that, we can deal with the destiny indirectly."

Rand: "Still, if you aren't satisfied, then I won't be either. Let's meet with this Destiny and see what they have to say for themselves."

Alex: "Just because Emmony is nice and polite doesn't mean he's trustworthy. He's an Excrucian; their cause is bad for all of us."

Cynn: Cynn demurs.

Remy: "We know we can't trust him," Remy conveys with an eyebrow. "That's almost reliability."

Alice: Alice closes her eyes for a moment, then she opens them. "I'm not really interested in talking to Destiny with you," she says. "You may ask for a reprieve from something, if there is something you need a reprieve for. Then I am going to go talk to… Choice, or somebody, and then I will do what I will do."

Cynn: "Alice—"

Cynn: Cynn seems smaller and uncertain, looking from his sister to the girl.

Rand: "Then I'll also do what I'll do."

Rand: "Thank you for being forthright."

Rand: "Only," she looks at Remy, "do please send me that contact information."

Rand: And with that, she shrugs. "So… anyone want tapas?"

Remy: Does Remy actually have Destiny's number?

Rand: No, but I suppose you can figure out a way to get it.

Remy: I'm not sure if I actually want to.

Cynn: If you don't, Cynn probably will.

Remy: I do give her the number for our Chancel's law school admissions office.

Alice: Alice accepts that as disinterest in the offered reprieve. She returns Cynn's look, gives him a moment to say something more, and then shrugs. "I'm off."

Cynn: Cynn doesn't really respond. Just blips out.

Alice: Alice departs on foot, wincing now and then because ow.

Alice: At the far end of the beach, Alice gets in a cab that drives by exactly as she limps up and is gone.

Rand: Veronica, abandoned by all, goes off to eat tapas by her own dang self.

Rand: Anyway, don't say I didn't give you a chance to use your crazy powers this time!

Alice: It's true! Many crazy powers were used.

Rand: Although I may have gone too far on the "let's not make all the antagonists basically nice people who can be talked down."

Remy: It's good to have someone you can just pound the everloving heck out of, every now and again

Alice: They got points for explicitly treating the conflict as a contest.

Alice: Well, those two did, anyway. ^_^

Cynn: Looks like Team Moist-Guilt's blasting off again!

Alice: Alice feels very conflicted about the whole catastrophic climate change thing because there's the Song of the Dark in her heart telling her that that wouldn't actually be a problem but she still feels sufficiently obligated to past-Alice's scruples that letting it happen is a problem.

Cynn: twinkle

Cynn: I'm still trying to get in Cynn's skin. Figure out how to be strange without being camp.

Rand: Ah, well, some people have sea wizards who want to drown the world as their arch-enemies, and some people have aspiring politicians who want to stop billions of deaths!

Rand: And I guess Alex has that girl who tore his arm off because she's a jerk.

Alice: She has this thing in the back of her brain telling her, "yeah, yeah, it actually sounds OK to have that happen, but, maybe if I make a choice that kills everybody that's a sign that I'm not thinking clearly."

Rand: Political arguments do tend to make everyone uncomfortable.

Alex: I can't hold her against it that tremendously.

Alex: I did try to punt her in to space, and not in self-defense.

Rand: Next time I'll have Veronica confront you at Thanksgiving dinner.

Rand: Allesandro peaked early, though, so I did not get a chance to follow up on his characterization as Ponyo's Dad, But With Follow-Through.

Alice: Alice is not planning to invite Veronica to Thanksgiving dinner!

Rand: Well, that's just unAmerican.

Alice: I suppose that one day when Alice and President Hasseltine are forced to room together and solve crimes due to circumstances there can be a Thanksgiving dinner and reconciliation, but probably not before then.

Rand: Crime-solving solves a lot of problems.

Rand: Such as crimes.

Alice: It's true!

Alice: It can turn Crimea… into an a! Turn a corpse in the den… into something that pays!

Alice: …I've made better doggerel.

Alex: It's true, you have.

Rand: The bit about honest men was pretty good.

Alice: In fairness, they don't commit crimes.

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