Too Many Cooks Spoil The Pie

Rand: Man, I want that Heptagram book.

Rand: I really want to see the "hubris" section of a sorcery manual written for Dynasts.

Rand: Anyway, I leave it to Cynn and Remy to explain exactly what went on last week.

Cynn: I think something with Fate?

Remy: We made friends with Foresight and decided not to muck with her Elect Veronica scheme.

Remy: Also we totally didn't kill Destiny.

Alex: "So, while you were off filming, we had an, ah, series of meetings with the people responsible for, or at least connected to, this whole thing with Victoria."

Alice: "Of course," Alice agrees.

Alex: "We did some legwork to track down the power of Destiny, or, uh, tried."

Alex: "We found their P.O. box, sent them a gorgon head as a prank and a 'please call back' message, but it looks like someone else sabotaged their ability to not be killed by a severed gorgon head prank, and as a result, they may have died. We can't really be certain either way, lots of disinformation on the ground."

Alice: "Stone cold killers," Alice murmurs.

Alex: Alex lets that pun go. "What's important is that the power of Foresight—who we think is responsible for sabotaging Destiny's ability to not be killed by a severed gorgon head prank—tried to use it to blackmail us in to an asinine fetch quest and, more importantly, to keep Victoria alive and well so she could be president someday. That… didn't really work out, but we negotiated a meeting by anchor in London to talk things over."

Alex: "Their name is Tempa… something?" He Ctrl-F's through the logs.

Alex: "Tempa Surkhang."

Remy: "Yeah, Tempa. And it's a guy's name, apparently."

Alex: "Although, again, we've only communicated through anchors and cut-outs."

Remy: "Although we've been using so many bodies to have this conversation, we could just cut out gender entirely."

Alex: "Honestly, yes. Anyway, as far as we can tell, Tempa's actual motivations regarding this whole numinous destiny thing are… pretty benign."

Rand: For clarity, as far as you know Tempa is male. The onomastikon tells me the name is Tibetan.

Alice: "…you were expecting them to be sinister?"

Alex: "Given the general level of skull-duggery and skulking about he was engaged in? Frankly, yes."

Alice: "Hm." Alice considers that. "I suppose that makes sense. That does seem to be a fairly convoluted method of handling things."

Alice: "It's probably an occupational hazard, even if one assumes that one cannot see too far when plotting out an interaction with Powers."

Alice: "Do his motivations matter?"

Remy: "He does genuinely want to help people, and his plan seems sound. That counts for me."

Remy: "I defer to your expertise on destiny, Alice, but this seems pretty straightforward to me."

Cynn: "Moreover, he does not seem to be…vainglorious as Water or Guilt. Not all problems can be resolved by Noble combat."

Alice: "Mm," Alice says. "Did you have the chance to speak to a neutral party? Choice, or… somesuch?"

Alice: Alice looks around for a directory of Nobles to see if there's a Choice.

Cynn: "Choice hardly seems neutral in matters of fate."

Alex: "Not yet. Mostly this was a fact-finding expedition that got out of hand."

Rand: I don't think there's a Choice per se, but there might be somebody.

  • Rand considers who might eventually appear who wouldn't actually resolve the dilemma all on their own.

Remy: Arbitration?

Alice: "Not necessarily so," Alice says. "Consider: if Choice were neutral, it would mean I was factually wrong."

Remy: Objects?

Rand: Volition?

Alice: "Whereas if Choice were as offended by this plan as I, then it is a strong mark against it."

Rand: Eventually the campaign reaches its climax with a giant robot battle between Liberal Freedom and Conservative Freedom.

Alice: Volition, Freedom, Options, Paths, Will, the Wishing Power of the Heart, …Meaning? though I don't know if we can get Firstborn's ear, um.

Rand: Hm, these are all interesting options.

Alice: Autonomy is probably opposed to Fate even if Fate is compatible with Free Will

Alice: Expression.

Alice: Art.

Remy: Causality.

Rand: But! Instead of worrying about that immediately, you instead receive an invitation.

Rand: Handwritten on sedra paper and blacker-than-black ink.

Rand: "YOU ARE INVITED TO DINNER AND A MURDER*"

Rand: "* not your murder" is pencilled in.

Remy: "That's from Tempa."

Remy: "I really want to bail on it."

Rand: Various details point you to an island called The Cusp at a certain time, and the whole is stamped with the double superimposed eye of Foresight."

Alex: (Oh god, right, it's game night.)

Alex: (I totally forgot.)

Rand: You were already playing and didn't know!

Rand: That's the power of my game mastering.

  • Alice ponders whose existence wouldn't immediately establish free will as a thing while still embodying it. Origination? Autopoiesis? Breath?

Rand: Identity? Entelechy?

Remy: Dogs.

Alex: "Identity? That guy's a weirdo."

Cynn: "Bailing is good."

Remy: No, cats.

Remy: Cats embody free will, but are unconcerned by predestination.

Alice: Alice writes, "I don't want to go to a murder," on the back of her invitation, if we each got one, and drops it out the window. If there's only one she uses a Post-It and drops it on the desk.

Rand: A cat can look at a king, but what if kingship is abolished?

Remy: That's why Sakhmet is the eye of Ra!

Alice: Self-Destruction, but he's almost as important as Meaning.

Alice: Well, OK, no, but on Earth.

Alex: (Cats sounds good.)

  • Rand goes away to think of another plot for this evening since the first one was universally rejected.

Alice: Entelechy is solid, Identity might not know anything.

Alex: (Is Alex's arm healed yet? I assume by now it's either healed or down to a Surface wound representing his arm still being like 40% tree branch.)

Rand: I suppose it's at least somewhat healed.

Rand: I should probably make a rule that it isn't completely healed until you run into a situation where you really wish you had two arms.

Alex: (More of a Tough/Serious wound then, still?)

Rand: Yeah, something like that.

Alex: (Tough/Serious Wound: My Favorite Arm Is A Half-Finished Wooden Graft)

Remy: (Remy's also got a wound of undefined level from boiling his lungs.)

Rand: That was probably Serious and I'm less inclined to be a hardass about you healing it between sessions because not letting you talk would get annoying.

Alex: Yeah, because it'll take him so long to write things down. :smile:

Remy: I do have Durant.

Remy: And could use a Greater Creation for free on my healing in the Chancel

Alex: At any rate, what is our actual agenda tonight?

Alex: I'm inclined to cede the initiative to Alice, given that she was off-camera all last session.

Remy: I think Rand wants us to go the murder mystery dinner.

Remy: Remy's protagonistic ideals tell him to cleave strongly towards narrative structure.

Alice: I'm fine with going if it makes things easier on Rand. Alice is inclined to look for a Power who is not destiny-associated whose Estate gives them insight on whether she is correct to believe there is a problem, or, if she can't find one, to proceed with the Veronica destruction and start actual argument rather than mild-mannered waiting for less biased information if the Familia intervenes.

Rand: I was going to think of something else, since it seems that strong enthusiasm for the age of classical detection is unique to myself.

Alex: Oh god, no murder mysteries, please. :tired_face:

Rand: People are making tired faces at me. I must knuckle under!

Remy: We could just collectively decide to bail on Foresight.

Remy: Since we were already close.

Alex: It's not like he didn't know it was likely!

Remy: And if we do that I agree with Kukla on ceding the spotlight to Fayola.

Cynn: Indeed.

Rand: It must be very depressing to see the future and know how many people won't come to your parties.

Rand: "Okay, but what if I have a clown? No? Really?"

Alex: If it was just a party I'd be inclined to go.

Alex: But apparently he's going to kill someone or have someone killed or just gawk while someone is coincidentally killed and either way that sounds like a downer.

Remy: I assume he just used Foresight to pick out a naturally-occurring murder.

Remy: That, or set up a bigger mystery

Alex: Yeah, same. But even then, that sounds like a huge downer of a party

Alice: "It is told," Alice comments, "that once upon a time, humanity would have been Imperial; the breath of God, cause uncaused for every action. But their gift was lost to the Dark and the Light and now they are machines, puppets on a clock enacting nothing more than the steps of a dance wired into the machinery of the world. No choice, no freedom, no meaning, no life, no hope, no point, no power, no song, no heart, no will, no gifts; except."

Alex: "Oh boy, I get to watch someone die." Alex glances aside at Alice. "Remind me again how long you've been Ennobled? Because sometimes it feels like you've been in all this for hundreds of years."

Rand: It was actually going to be more of a comedy night.

Rand: I might read the wrong mysteries.

Rand: But we can do Alice's investigation, too; I just wasn't sure how many weeks in a row people wanted to follow the Veronica plot.

Alex: Perhaps we can stop in on the murder mystery another night. Surely Tempa knows how to schedule.

Alice: Alice shrugs. "Except there still a music arises from within; I know, as I can hear it. Except that there are times that… they echo what they should have been. Except, except, except. Whatever."

Alice: "Should I offer to go if he's willing to give this whole locking up everyone's destiny thing?"

Alice: Alice ponders. "I mean, I am excellent company at dinner."

Alex: "Maybe? I don't think the 'locking up' is as solid as you've been thinking it's going to be. Assuming the destiny works at all like it seems to, it's much fuzzier than that."

Rand: There are probably some Nobles who would abandon a century-long project to get a firm RSVP from a choice dinner guest.

Rand: Maybe not this one, though.

Alex: "Frankly, it might be worth going just to network. Meeting other Nobles can be hard."

Rand: It seems like even if you're being polite the feeling is against it. (Unless you want to run it as a heist where you plan to ruin whatever he's doing.)

Rand: So, we should probably figure out which person Alice wants to consult with and how she finds them.

Alice: "See," Alice says, "this is why we need an outside opinion, because I can't imagine that Emmony or Foresight are trustworthy on how solid this will be."

Alex: It's not so much about politeness, but if it IS a big party with more people there than us, then it IS a rich networking opportunity, and the person we're looking for—or at least a useful go-between—might be there.

Alex: "I'd ask Destiny but they're either dead or in hiding."

Alice: Certainly their being there would show keen WAIT FOR IT…

Alice: …Foresight.

Alice: "Ooh," Alice says. "That's a good idea. Necromancy."

Rand: A flower-edge portal between the realms of the living and the dead!

Remy: Can Speed do necromancy?

Remy: Surely it governs the boundary between the quick and the dead.

Rand:really, Vance?

Cynn: Twilight is always in the in-betweens.

Rand: Fayola, he's trying to step to your bad pun crown.

Alex: Alex looks perturbed at this prospect, but also intrigued.

Cynn: "I once drew up a flowchart about which problems were worth conjuring the dead," Cynn says. "No idea what I did with it, though. This was before Google Drive. And paper."

Rand: I mean, I'm not saying Remy can't; I'm just groaning generically.

Alex: "I suppose it's worth a shot. I've never actually been to hell. I understand it's ferociously dangerous even by the standards of our godly tier."

Cynn: "Hell? Not really. I mean, if you're really afraid of their curiously oppressive brand of love, maybe?"

Rand: Also there are demonds.

Rand: And, flames!

Rand: Also, I like that you're automatically assuming that Destiny is in Hell. Clearly Alice's opinions have swayed you. ^_^

Alex: "I fear to tread in the gardens of the fallen angels, I'll admit it quite casually."

Alex: Well if they aren't in Hell, we aren't getting at them. We certainly aren't getting in to Heaven.

Alice: "The nice thing about calling him back from the dead to inquire is that dead Powers are mostly like dead humans, which is to say, really bad at resisting even gentle interrogation. The bad thing is that he may not even be dead, or he may be, like, mostly dead, or Noble dead, which isn't really dead at all."

Rand: I feel like Cynn could probably do a seance of some kind without too much trouble.

Alice: Yeah, between faeries and Morticiamperator.

Rand: Really, some kind of Emulation of "I stand in the in-between" should do it.

Cynn: "There is a reason so many of our folk lived beneath the barrows."

  • Cynn ushers them all into the Comfitorium. It's an entire room full of chairs, each more comfortable than the last. There's also the smell of delicious pie. Because you can't wake the dead without baking pie. That's just rude.

Alex: "Every time I think I've seen the end of your treasures, Cynn, you surprise me yet again."

Cynn: He rolls his neck with a nice little crack. "So, do we know anything about the allegedly deceased at all?"

Remy: "Made of stone."

Alex: "Their post-office box number."

Rand: Well, you have their murderers right here!

Remy: Nope!

Cynn: Oh, right!

Cynn: Those are all good things.

Alice: Alice rummages around in her purse for a copy of his death certificate. (Lesser Summoning/Animation of the Reprieve.)

Rand: How does that work, exactly?

  • Cynn transforms into his Elemental form, a man cut from a twilight sky.

Rand: The dying embers of a night, a fire that slowly fades till dawn?

Alex: Alex appreciates the primordial grandeur of this spectacle.

Cynn: "So, there's probably going to be some involuntary ennui when I get this started; don't be afraid, that's natural. It just means that you rightly recognize the ever-present specter of death that haunts even the immortals."

Remy: "It's a little-known fact that death can't travel faster than the speed of light."

Alice: Alice figures that death certificates are pretty solidly physical representations of an unexpected end to suffering/a neutral physical process. She is not completely sure her Estate knows which certificate is his, but since it's 0 MP to invoke within the Chancel, she doesn't mind trying.

Alice: They're like the letter from the warden telling you that you don't have to execute the prisoner any longer, only, from the other side.

Alex: Alex chuckles. "We're well beyond the bounds of the ordinary world here, Remy. Too late to invoke its totems and pillars."

Rand: That seems logical.

Rand: Ordinarily I would say "well, they still don't have one," but this is a special case.

  • Cynn wonders where he wrote down what Destiny's name was.

Cynn: Cynn takes the certificate and their other gathered trinkets and lays them out on a coffee table.

Alice: Alice ponders enchanting the ritual in various helpful ways but enchantment is hard.

Cynn: "DESTINY! We conjure, and abjure thee, to appear before us now as we journey halfway into the lands of the dead!"

Cynn: Lesser Enchantment of Twilight on the Comfitorium.

Rand: We'll say that you summon a really elaborate death certificate in the name of Nsia Attakora.

Rand: It's the kind of death certificate you'd have made up if you figured your murderers might eventually conjure it, and you, as part of a necromantic rite.

  • Alice verifies that the cause of death is inexplicable petrifaction.

Rand: Hm, the form says "petrified by head of gorgon (murder)", but you're on the right track.

Alice: That'll do!

Rand: Meanwhile, shadows gather, some more, as Cynn intones his baleful magic.

Rand: The tired streets that hide away (from here to everywhere they go) roll past the door into the day, or at least what's left of it.

Rand: Darkness slowly collects into the shape of a commanding, stony woman.

Rand: Eventually, this shadow-based sculpture softens some more, into into a somewhat, but not really, alive lady.

Rand: "You called, then?"

Remy: "I'm really sorry, Ms. Destiny, ma'am."

Alex: "Same."

Rand: "You may as well call me Nsia. I don't see any point in resting on the formalities after you've already killed me."

Remy: "I mailed you the gorgon's head. I didn't think it was going to kill you. My bad."

Rand: "It's very bad," agrees Nsia. "Y'all keep sending gorgon's heads around, someone's gonna lose an eye."

Rand: "Lose to an eye."

Rand: "Somebody'll get turned to stone, is what I'm saying."

Rand: "Boy, was mama surprised."

Alex: "Which is also unusual. You're Destiny. You shouldn't be surprised."

Rand: "My surprise was quite surprising! But, you know. Occupational risks."

Rand: "When you're omniscient people just can't sleep at night until they've surprised you."

Remy: "It was just a box!"

Rand: "Now who did mama hear saying that once before?"

Remy: "We weren't very determined to surprise you at all. Does that mean someone else was?"

Rand: "Eh, probably. I wouldn't worry about it."

Alice: Alice squints thoughtfully at the woman. "Where'd you wind up?"

Alex: "Nsia, we should check briefly—are you dead for keeps? Should we be trying to resurrect you?"

Remy: "Think Foresight would try to off you? That would make sense for Tempa's Estate."

Rand: "That's a trade secret, which y'all will figure out eventually but not right now. And no, please don't y'all try to resurrect mama; it won't work."

Alex: "Then I'll refrain."

Rand: "Tempa might do something like that. Greater good, etcetera. Still, you never know."

Rand: Implied: Only I always know.

Rand: She beams in a grandmotherly fashion.

Rand: Inasmuch as shadowy spectres beam.

Alex: "We'd like to talk to you about the nature of Destiny as regards agency and the capacity of people to make decisions."

Rand: "Absolutely not."

Rand: "I would only discuss such a thing in return for the most priceless of all treasures."

Alice: "…you want the pie, is it?"

Alex: Alex turns to look at Cynn, who he assumes just has one of those in the back room.

Rand: "Ooh, yeah. Gimme!"

Rand: She wiggles spectral fingers.

Cynn: A domovoi in livery brings forth an immaculately golden pie.

Remy: "Pie is the most priceless of all treasures?"

Rand: "You'll understand after you've been dead a while."

Rand: Nsia gobbles the pie greedily, making quite a mess.

Remy: "Even if it's key lime?"

Rand: You shut your god damn mouth.

Cynn: "Wars have been fought for less."

Rand: Key lime pie is delicious.

Rand: We had to stop entering the local awards show on account of winning too many times and getting embarrassed.

Cynn: Key lime pie is unreasonably good.

Rand: "Ah, yeah, this is the good stuff. Mama Nsia is pleased with your grave offering."

Alex: "So. Destiny. How does it manifest?"

Cynn: "She's manifesting right now. About like that."

Rand: "Well, as y'all noticed, mama's dead, but she's still hanging around being all-knowing and, yes, manifesting."

Rand: "Mama's will is worked into the fabric of Creation at some of its most intricate levels."

Rand: "Thus, it's reasonable that tugging at it a bit should pull some of her out."

Alice: "I've thought," Alice says, "that predestination is in many ways similar to death."

Alice: "Events are written; the witness and the soul in the words become obsolete."

Rand: "Have you tried both?"

Alice: "Absolutely not," Alice agrees. "I would defer to your expertise on the subject."

Alex: "Predestination seems incompatible with foreknowledge. Which would explain why you and Foresight are separate powers, and your apparent, uh, beef."

Rand: "It strikes mama as being a little too simple," says Nsia. "Why, mama actually does write events into the world, but that doesn't mean she never gets surprised. Even when mama gets her way!"

Rand: "Or, you could think of it as like a piece of music."

Rand: "Mama's intention is like a song she sings in a concert hall."

Rand: "Only, everybody else is singing, too. Mama thought she was the star tonight, but nobody told the audience that!"

Rand: "They're all hollering and making noise and trying to play the Moonlight Sonata on drums."

Rand: "So, in the end, it's a contest to see who's loudest."

Alice: "Mm," Alice says. "And what would you say should be done about that?"

Alex: "It seems akin to handing out a program.

Rand: "Mama's got a short supply of 'shoulds,'" says Nsia, "but what she did was get a microphone."

Rand: "Which in this metaphor refers to the vast power of a goddess."

Alex: "Naturally."

Remy: "Which makes it sound like Destiny is ultimately no more powerful than any of our Estates."

Rand: "So people heard a bit more of mama's big number and a bit less of, well, a lot of other things, some bad and some probably good."

Alice: "I see," Alice says. "Does that suggest that in a perfectly mapped-out future, brought together into a tight net, a perfect symphony by, say, Veronica's election, that people would still sing whatever they wanted to sing, make whatever noise they wanted to make, it would simply have no influence on events?"

Rand: "Naw, sugar, Destiny is totally the most powerful and best."

Rand: "I know we all say that, but trust mama—her perspective is as objective as a cat is contrary."

Alice: "Maybe another example might be a film editor, where the extras are allowed to do whatever they like on camera but it all gets thrown out to preserve the plot?"

Rand: "It's more like a film director, where the extras get fired if they don't do what you want. At least, that's the idea!"

Rand: "If you read up on films you a few actors were doing things other than what the director wanted."

Remy: "And what's getting fired a metaphor for?"

Alice: "Wait," Alice says, almost but not quite simultaneously. "Fired?"

Alex: Alex gives a long, low whistle. "Wow. Capitalism."

Rand: "Not, like, actual fire."

Rand: "Mama's point is, you can be as bossy as you want, but that doesn't mean everything will be just how you wanted it."

Rand: "Which is not to say that mama never set anybody on fire."

Cynn: "Who among us hasn't set someone ablaze?"

Alice: "So you're not planning to get rid of free will at all," Alice says. "You're planning to weed out the people who make incongruous choices?"

Alex: "Again, Alice, what even is free will?"

Alice: "Again?" Alice says blankly.

Alex: "Oh, never mind. I thought we'd had that debate before. Sorry, I got wrapped up in things."

Alex: "So this all sounds oppressive, but there are still free actors and agents there to appreciate being oppressed."

Rand: "Yeah, exactly!"

Rand: "People will always have the option of setting mama on fire."

Rand: "Otherwise she wouldn't be dead."

Rand: "Admittedly mama stacks the cards in her favor as much as she can, but that's how you play if you want to win."

Alex: "Naturally."

Alice: "Free will is the dregs of causa causans," Alice says. "The last hiccup at the end of the Imperial breath that humanity's lost in the prosaic world, and the hints of it in the air that pervades the mythic realm. Free will is that song that arises spontaneously, kindled into being from within the self, and expresses itself outwards to reshape the pattern of the tapestry of the world. Free will is the thing that lets us choose to be better than we are, or worse; to take ourselves down into devastation, or whatever else. It's the power granted to us by the churning engine of Creation, which has not yet finished its endless work, nor died."

Alex: "Maybe this is one of those things I can't appreciate, as a creature of the Ordinary World."

Alice: "But that aside," Alice says, "it's not very important if the plan is to kill people not harmonious in the plan. I have a completely different perspective on that matter."

Rand: "Y'all make it sound like I'm operating destiny death camps."

Alex: "I admit I'm less thrilled about that bit." He turns to Destiny. "I mean, are you? Effectively?"

Alice: "I mean, I don't approve, but that's just, like, a Power killing people, that's a matter for diplomacy and not war."

Rand: "Well, I mean, obviously I'm going to kill some people."

Alex: "In terms of reasons to kill people, 'because it's a necessary part of setting up a system that will create great prosperity, peace, happiness, and fulfillment overall for mankind' is a pretty tolerable one.

Rand: "Like, evil dictators, serial murderers, that kind of thing."

Alex: "Not thrilled about it, but, what she said."

Rand: "This is not a 'please enjoy your complimentary destiny in dentistry, citizen (or die)' thing."

Alice: "How not?"

Alex: "It sounds like the system has a lot of flex and give to it."

Alice: "I mean," Alice says, "It didn't sound like that was the only option, but it sounded like it was in that vein."

Rand: "It's not like mama has to care if Denise Montgomery of Toledo, Ohio becomes a dentist."

Alex: "Forgive us if we bumble about like children in this matter. It sounds highly technical and complex."

  • Cynn discretely calls for another pie, and offers slices on doilies to Remy and Alex.

Alex: Alex appreciates this enormously.

Rand: "Governments govern, but presidents don't come into your home and tell you how to live your life."

Remy: "Someone missed the Nixon presidency."

Rand: "Not personally, is my point."

Cynn: "Would it be fair to say, then, that Destiny is more like a current in a river than a streetcar on a track?"

Rand: "Mama's rigging probability in her favor in order to install her hand-picked-yet-democratically-elected governments in nations around the world. If y'all want to find an ethical pothole, might as well look there."

Rand: "Lookin' for Granny Destiny's Happy Re-Education Centers is a red herring."

Alice: "The thing that confuses me," Alice says, "is, even if you're really good, and even if I have an exaggerated picture of the human power to surprise, how can a flexible destiny—a destiny that is more of a current than concrete—possibly handle Powers, Imperators, Excrucians? Veronica wins the election and everybody is happy and then Borders don't exist and you get cascading failures everywhere."

Alex: "Alice has neatly summarized why I've been so blase about the prospect of this destiny the entire time—my total inability to take it seriously as a mechanism of total control in the same universe where Lord Entropy exists."

Rand: "It's basically a big poker game, which mama plans to win," says Nsia.

Rand: "If she doesn't win, well, none of this happens."

Rand: "It's just, mama's good at her job."

Rand: "I mean, I was. Now I'm obviously dead."

Alex: "I'm still skeptical of that. I think you're pulling a Hotblack Desiato."

Rand: "Good for you! Being skeptical is an important job skill for us."

Rand: "But mama's not telling."

Alex: "Fair."

Remy: "So," Remy asides to his siblings, "Now that we understand destiny better, what do we do about it?"

Alex: "I'm inclined to do almost nothing. I approve of their basic ambition. If anything I'd like to lend a helping hand now and again."

Remy: "I don't dislike Nsia or Tempa's plan. I don't feel called to help with it, not to impede it."

Alex: "Both Nsia and Tempa are, no lie, way weirder and better at being weird deities than I am."

Remy: "But I think my aspirational ideals of heroism may be blinding me to ways that a cynical Power could exploit this situation for power and advantage."

Alex: "I'm still just a monkey with delusions of grandeur compared to most of you people."

Remy: "And speeding up my mind too much gives me a migraine."

Alex: "I have consulted Oak, and it encourages me to be passive and resilient."

Cynn: "Just remember, brothers," Cynn says, "that the Nobilis excel in many things, but none so much as finding new ways to make themselves miserable. Cynisism and power are overrated."

Alice: Alice has her eyes closed. She is thinking hard.

Cynn: The grandeur of this statement is somewhat undercut as Cynn punctuates it with a hit from his Excrucian snuff-box.

Alex: Alex, meanwhile, takes another hit from that pie. It's really good! And he's growing a new arm. He needs calories.

Alex: He chews.

Alice: "I only really care about people getting tangled up in a great machine," Alice says. "I don't really care if it's there, as long as it can't functionally usurp the self."

Alice: "So, Nsia," Alice says. "How do I draw the boundaries for it."

Rand: "That sounds like a philosophical question."

Alice: "Not really," Alice says. "The way you've described it, it's purely a question of give, and specifically making sure that give doesn't get sacrificed to win the poker game."

Rand: "Are people more free under a liberal leader I finagled for them than under a despot brought to power without my finagling? I don't know and really there's never going to be a controlled environment for testing."

Alex: "Freedom is of finite value."

Rand: "And that sounds like something you'd have to decide case-by-case."

Rand: "If it's better for the world for the younger son to inherit, should the older son die or be encouraged to disgrace himself?"

Alice: "Nsia," Alice says, teeth slightly bared, "you are deliberately muddying the issue."

Alex: "The issue is muddy!"

Alice: "Freedom arises from within; a leader does not specify it."

Rand: "No, I ain't; it was muddy when I got there."

Alex: "Freedom isn't real, Alice."

Rand: "And I can't say as I agree."

Alex: "At least to most of us. Ordinary humans have no appreciation for the distinction between decisions that arise from miraculous un-caused causes and decisions that arise from ordinary causality. They feel the same!"

Rand: "Let me be clear; I was not born with the right to vote. Today, my mortal great-great-granddaughters have it."

Rand: "So, I don't know that I think much of magical shiny internal freedom compared with the actual kind."

Alice: "Alex," Alice says, "you are implying that if I were to make someone an Anchor and possess them for the rest of their lives, that would be fine?"

Cynn: "To make an Anchor is violence upon the world, whether you possess them or not."

Alice: "They wouldn't be able to tell the difference, after all. It's just a decision arising from a miraculous un-caused cause that's the same as any other decision that they would make."

Alice: "If you say I am muddying the matter in turn, I am not. This is what I fear. This is what an unchained destiny can do, in the same way an Anchoring power can, and by the same mechanism."

Alex: "I'm pretty sure they'd notice the difference enormously, given that they would immediately lose consciousness. And I'm pretty sure that's not actually true, that thing you just said, about unchained destinies."

Alice: "Alex, any of us can preempt a person's will casually, and we are not built to preempt and redesign the path they walk in the future."

Alice: "We can make them think it's natural to them, too, pretty easily, but there is something that is lost."

Alex: "Yeah, but… Is that what the miracle we're talking about will do? It seemed so much more subtle."

Alice: "That is exactly why I inquired as to how to establish a fence between the two," Alice says.

Remy: "Nsia is taking a while to explain things. Should I Speed her up?"

Alice: "She can play poker all she likes, but if there's going to be an all-entangling destiny, there must be steps taken to prevent it from ever becoming rigid."

Alex: "Reasonable," agrees Alex. "And please do, Remy."

Cynn: "Please don't Speed up!"

Rand: "I don't see what's to explain."

Cynn: "This place is mine. It does not last, least of all when sped. You cannot rush a Twilight Zone."

Rand: "I'm going to meddle, and use my power to shape the world to make it better how I see fit."

Rand: "Other people will meddle similarly."

Cynn: "Are we to assume, then, that you are still among the Nobility?"

Rand: "What? Oh, no, sorry, I mean, I'll be dead."

Rand: "But various people will meddle likewise. Tempa and so forth."

Alice: "I was not seeking further explanation, exactly," Alice says. "I was soliciting advice on methodology to accomplish my objective, since I am having trouble."

Rand: "And you'll be meddling, too."

Rand: "I feel like the problem is that your objective is the actual muddy thing."

Rand: "You don't want anybody to have too much control, but how much is too much remains murky."

Rand: "Have y'all tried doing some kind of morality play and testing the conceit out? I hear it's all the rage with kids these days."

Alex: Alex remains passive and resilient for the moment, paying attention.

Alice: "It's not murky at all," Alice says. "It's too much control the moment it dictates a single person's single action instead of providing an impulse in the desired direction. This is obviously within the capacity of Destiny miracles, as well as almost anyone's miracles. It's a problem when it becomes attached to a greater plan."

Alex: "That does clear up the ambiguity quite nicely."

Rand: "Oh. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up."

Rand: "Coercion is a blunt stick but I do occasionally see my way to it and I won't pretend to promise I won't."

Rand: "I mean, my associates won't."

Alice: "I won't either," Alice says. "Although I am showing rather splendid restraint. But it is not acceptable when it becomes an autonomous product of the system."

Alex: "It needs an oversight committee to sign off on any direct control, in other words."

Rand: Nsia's facade cracks for a second.

Rand: "You think it isn't already?"

Alex: Alex gets quiet, waiting to see where this goes.

Rand: "I'm making a better world, while you yammer on about the importance of miracles inside you makin' you free. You send out a pardon for a couple of people every week, maybe make a movie if you have some spare time."

Rand: Darkness gathers some more.

Alice: Alice tosses an Emulation on the room. `Property: Less vulnerable to darkness. (4-3 =1 MP)`

Rand: "I won't apologize for any of the things I done. Or for any of the things I'm gonna do."

Rand: "Because I'm proud of what I stand for, which is a tomorrow that's gonna be better than yesterday."

Alice: "Point of order," Alice says, calmly. "People ranting about how they're doing the right thing are not always correct, although they are always extreme."

Rand: "I've made my peace with that."

Rand: "Now, goodbye."

Rand: "I'll be seeing y'all."

Alex: "Seems likely."

Rand: The increasingly nebulous presence retreats.

Alice: "In sum," Alice says, "she's unwilling to assist with setting boundaries."

Cynn: "Not yet, Destiny."

Alex: Alex stands, as the room loses its twilight nature. "That started weird, and got weirder as it went. What did she mean, 'already'?"

Remy: "Capitalism, probably. And every other structural inequality."

  • Cynn slowly reverts to his human body. Or rather, his half-elven body.

Alice: "…that's a good question," Alice says, thoughtfully. "I hope that Remy is correct."

Alex: "…there was a book I read once. In it, a man discovered that there were only six, seven thousand people in the world who actually had internal lives. Everyone else was some sort of prop, a fake human, there to provide context for the seven thousand real people."

Alice: "Because if she was also talking about dictated actions and not simply being shoved in really awful ways, then that would be a problem. Although I assume she just meant capitalism and such."

Remy: "It doesn't sound like either Destiny or Foresight thinking it's even possible to lock in absolute predestination."

Alex: "This is the sort of thing I have to worry about being real, these days."

Alice: "Hell," Alice says. "Give me a decade without opposition and I bet I could lock in absolute predestination, modulo miracles. It's just a question of what they're actually trying to do."

Alice: "I mean, seriously, it is the gift given to me to arrive exactly when needed, just build a computer that uses my actions and theirs as input and give it… I dunno, some kind of hard problem, and then I act to solve it and everyone else moves to the beat. Or something."

Remy: "It sounds like they're diffusing their manipulations throughout large populations—you don't need to directly compel members of the electorate, just influence enough of them."

Remy: "Rigging probability falls under your bar for non-coercion, at least to me."

Alice: "Absolutely," Alice agrees.

Remy: "My next impulse is to talk to Veronica. She seems nicer than either of her benefactors."

Alex: "Albeit more obnoxious."

Cynn: "Are we edging towards declaring a war—be it cold, hot, civil, or secret—on the forces of predetermination?"

Alice: "As I said to her, my only concern is how to keep a large machine of destiny, once operating, from expanding its function to include action dictation. If she understood me as poorly as you did, then that's sufficient."

Remy: "It'd be awkward if she died."

Remy: "We have to protect her!"

Alice: "If she got where I was going and ducked out after making an emotional scene, then there is a secondary problem."

Alex: "Quite."

Alice: "I'm not sure how clear I was."

Alex: "It was pretty clear, although I'm pretty sure that's not how anchor possession works."

Alex: "Maybe you do it a little differently?"

Alice: "I don't actually have any Anchors," Alice admits. "I have to extrapolate."

Alice: "It was just pointed out to me once that perfectly happy Camazotz is still a bad end."

Alex: "Anchor possession isn't quite like mind control. It's more like hijacking someone else's car. Permanently Anchoring someone is less mind control and more putting them in to a coma for the rest of their life. It's not a good move."

Alice: "Blissful, fulfilled Camazotz of milk and honey, it isn't as good as this, warts and all."

Alice: "Or maybe it is?" Alice shrugs. "I dunno. I made my call, but."

Alex: "That's the Light and the Dark for you. Me, I'm focused on the trees for now."

Remy: "Why are there so few big issues resolvable with super-speed?" Remy laments

Alex: "Doesn't matter how fast you can act if you don't know what to do."

Cynn: "Godhood burdens you with the realization that the world deserves better gods."

Alice: "Can super-speed go to the future?" Alice asks.

Alex: "I'm going to the future right now. I assume speed can do it better than I am."

Alex: "But the question is, which future?"

Alice: "Well, arguably, it could be worse."

Remy: "Almost definitely. I've never tried, but it works in comics!"

Remy: Would a Lesser Motion of Speed suffice to convert speed through space into speed through time?

Alice: "The 'future,' as far as I understand it," Alice says, grabbing her prop glasses from her desk and putting them on so she can push them back on her nose before putting them back on the desk again, "is intrinsically the current mundane future extrapolated without further miraculous intervention by any parties except I'm not sure about Actuals and Zu."

Alex: "That's a pretty fucking useless future.

Remy: "That sounds like something I can run to."

Remy: "What the heck is a Zu, though?"

Alice: "Bless you."

Alex: "Yes, it's 'the future' if the most powerful and influential factors in affecting what happens weren't around."

Remy: "It's a reference point."

Remy: "And an alternative."

Alice: "Well," Alice says, "I assume that it's not visibly going to be Camazotz, but it'd be good to confirm, and maybe there'd even be a way to verify that my concern is actually ungrounded, although I'm not sure that's feasible. It also lets me find someone who's severely disadvantaged by the proposed destiny so that if I do take action it is appropriately a reprieve."

Alex: "At any rate, I am now completely full of pie, and I have to teach my arborists' class in the morning."

Alice: (I assume it'll look like a perfectly normal and healthy future, because she suspects Rand has pegged Nsia's plan as harmless or at worst well-concealed in its sinisterness, but you never know.)

Rand: Thank you for using the pie, by the way; it makes it really easy to give the session a fruit name.

Rand: (I would probably describe it as "probably okay in outline, almost certainly hinky in various specifics which may wind up being major or minor; kind of ethically troublesome in a way that's hard to pinpoint because it's almost certainly an improvement on the status quo".)

Rand: If I give Nsia and Tempa an obvious evil aspect to the scheme, the question becomes too easy.

Rand: If it's absolutely good for everybody, then it's basically Alice versus mostly everybody as a hard-line free will advocate.

Rand: So it's kind of a delicate balance I struggle to keep.

Alex: Understandably.

Rand: Really, talking about coercion kind of is a red herring; the real hinky part is how Destiny manages to control all major decisions via vast numbers of small-scale social manipulations without ever explicitly coercing anybody.

Alice: Well, there's herding cats and then there's declawing them.

Alex: Where is the intelligence for that coming from?

Alex: What is making those decisions?

Rand: I've mostly been assuming Domain 5 comes into it a lot.

Remy: Hmm.

Alex: That just raises further questions!

Remy: Could I start gradually working towards Domain 5?

Remy: With a project or quest or whatever?

Rand: Sure!

Rand: I am going to steal some rules from 7th Sea.

Cynn: Oh, dear.

Cynn: Are we all going to invoke lackluster sorcery now?

Rand: If you want to advance your project, you have to tell me what the next step is.

Rand: And then, you have to do it!

Rand: Then, you make up a new step.

Remy: The next step is: tuning into mythic reality and bargaining with the spirits of speed.

Rand: I think you need to be more specific.

Alice: Alice's specific terror is "an artifact or miracle or magical destiny effect exerts external force and trims away portions of your decision tree until you naturally arrive at the decision to think about how much you love this glorious new world now."

Remy: I need to convince one of the great spirits of speed to gift me a jewel of wisdom/crystallized hypertime to catalyze a higher level of spiritual awareness.

Rand: Sounds good.

Rand: Now tell me about the spirits of speed.

Rand: I feel like that's a logical result of Nsia's operations, Fayola, in a world where she's the only Power.

Alex: But she sure ain't.

Remy: Speed spirits are like angels of protons and lightning

Rand: I don't think any single Estate can come close enough to complete victory to make Alice's fears a reality; it's all a matter of what the cost of Nsia's victories actually is in practice.

Alice: Hm.

Remy: The way Remy gets in touch with a speed spirit, usually, is that he starts running at lightspeed or so in a conveniently empty landscape, builds up some momentum, and then uses a Conversation on his own speed

Rand: So it's kind of like a spirit of your experience of your journey and motion.

Rand: The spirit of "running for the joy of motion" is different from the "running to escape your FEELINGS" spirit.

Alice: I'm not sure how "her plans are only horrific if they reach the near-impossible 100% completion" rates on the moral scale. That sounds like she's… closing a vice on everyone, but it gets reset a little whenever someone else uses a miracle, so it's never a particularly tight vice?

  • Alice goes quiet for a bit to listen to Remy's conversation.

Rand: I don't know that miracles really have that much to do with it; she just can't win the mastermind game forever when there are so many players.

Rand: Not that that really means much.

Rand: Lots of things are a problem without also being an apocalypse!

Alex: True dis. :3

Alex: No Excrucian shards are stomping the universe right now; I'm happy.

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