Case File: Guardian Angel (San Salvador)

Independent – Licensed – Solo – Nights and Weekends

‘Guardian Angel’ is usually referred to in context as ‘Angel’

(not to be confused with Angel (disambiguation))

Previous codenames: [redacted]

Legal name: [redacted] (See case file – level 9 clearance)

Caucasian male, brown eyes, blond hair, 6’2”, 48 years

Active 30-35 years, San Salvador

Manifestation incident: [redacted] (all files linked from this page require level 9 clearance)

First appearance [redacted], WI

Active in [redacted], ~3 years

Active in Newark, 4 years

Active in Bay City, 9 years

Active in Golden Gates, 2 years

 

Current powers: flight (telekinetic), strength, minor speed (reality warping), spatial awareness (functions as deadeye), durability (functions as stamina), healing (temporal (displacement)), mirror (immunity, control (minor)), aesthetic (moderate)

Potential power developments: moderate speed (likely with training), telekinesis (moderate with training), travelling (moderate), power sensing (unlikely), timeshift (unlikely), invulnerability (very unlikely), moderate mirror (control) (very unlikely), mirror (modification) (very unlikely)

Angel’s flight powers can extend to some objects (based on size) and up to two passengers (of any size). Although he typically uses aimed healing rather than field healing, he can extend his area of effect up to three meters away from himself (although the efficacy is lessened). His mirror control reaches up to ten meters, but functions only on objects, and only those still under extranormal control. All other powers are limited to his person.

Angel’s flight functions unmodified at roughly his swimming speed. Patterns finds it unlikely that it will increase without codevelopment of broad telekinesis. He can carry one passenger easily, and reports no increased sense of fatigue, and exhibits no symptoms. He’s capable of carrying an additional passenger, but reports tiring quickly, though experimental data suggest a steady but far slower decrease in ability than the mental decline would suggest. Experimentation with additional passengers ongoing. Objects up to roughly half Angel’s size can be carried easily, regardless of weight, and objects up to slightly larger than Angel can be carried with a steady increase in mental fatigue and a following increase in physical and extranormal fatigue. (see notes)

Angel’s strength is about five times human normal with regards to projected adult strength based on musculature at time of manifestation, which [redacted]. This may be misleading, because Angel was intensely athletic at that age, and is these days more sedentary, so looks to have a lean and only moderately strong frame. His strength is therefore more than five times human normal based on current musculature, although it doesn’t fluctuate with changes in his appearance, weight, etc. Although he can’t turn this power off (i.e. if he would not be able to lift something normally, the power will automatically kick in), it doesn’t instate itself in all cases, allowing him to build muscle using normal ranges of weights. He exhibits the Kingston Classic secondary power paradigm. (see notes)

Angel’s speed is about 10% above top human normal running speed; this is an average, as it varies by energy level. He uses the reality warping variant uncommon to speedsters but common to spatial-manipulation style travelers; this is presumably the cause of his spatial awareness. (see notes)

Angel’s spatial awareness is greatly increased, comparable to those with enhanced senses, or generalized ESP. Although initially registering as a passive secondary power ([redacted]), careful training has allowed him to use it as a deadeye power, registering with much greater than average (even extranormal average) awareness of the spatial relationships between himself and his targets. An enhanced (normally enhanced) knowledge of physics also allows him to use this power to a great degree in fights, especially against multiple opponents, which has some strange effects on the visual quality of any footage thereof. (see notes) Also, he can tell you the exact dimensions of stuff.

Angel has M.I.T.-Harvard paradigm enhanced durability, with a toughness factor of 7 and an Erdos scaling of 15. He has an esoteric secondary powerset (see breakdown) which allows this durability to function as endurance/stamina (which didn’t come with his type of speed), boosting the length of time for which he can fight or work. It also slows degradation of the muscle tissue, meaning that he isn’t losing much in the way of (normal) strength as he ages. (see notes)

“Still getting wrinkly, though!” – Guardian Angel

He has a primary healing power (which is actually common for [redacted]). It’s a temporally based healing power, so has little effect on chronic conditions or severe illnesses (excepting those that impact the immune system), but is very good for acute conditions (barring complications) and especially for injuries. (see compatibility list) Because his is a time displacement power, he may be able to heal injuries untreatable by other temporal healing powers by displacing injuries to a time when natural healing would occur more quickly or comprehensively. This tires him quickly, though, and his generally preferred method is functionally identical to temporal accelerators. (see notes) Guardian Angel is on call for emergency cases only.

Angel has two mirror powers: immunity and control. His mirror immunity is 97% White Hat standard. (see notes) His mirror control is esoteric; rather than affecting powers overall, it affects only the subset of powers that produces physical objects. (Further investigation allows that this power can affect physical objects as small as molecules, although with diminishing effects, which explains the phenomenon with the hydrokinetics.) When an object is created (see references) by a power, Angel has control over it under the conditions that the original user does or would. Objects that are created and immediately leave extranormal control are unaffected. Since Angel has no nullification powers, he will be required to fight for control over these objects, and unless the original user rescinds control for whatever reason, other factors will decide who has the greater control. (see notes)

Angel has an aesthetic powerset subject to conscious control (Dolfen Cinematic*). The rippling effect he uses on his cape apparently also works on his hair (including wigs), although he’s always kept his hair short. The glow seems to default to the same silver as his costume, but actually varies when he wears other colors (as long as they were designed for him). The missing factor is that his eyes don’t change appearance under any conditions (so far). (see notes)

Angel’s sleep effects are as follows: it takes about twice as long as human normal to succumb to sleep deprivation symptoms, alertness, instant waking (including natural waking), possible modified circadian (6.5 hour nights), resistance to sleep powers (distinct from mirror) (see notes) X-impact: all sedatives and all drugs with sedative effects (including antihistamines)

 

Equipment: standard, medical supplies, chemicals

Angel carries the agency standard equipment (he uses our kits) and most of the recommended licensed citizen enforcement package. He’s also generally known to carry a fairly broad range of transportable medical equipment (including an AED), in case his powers are drained or not working, there are too many people to treat at once, or there are injuries that don’t necessitate extranormal intervention. If you run out of bandages etc. and he’s nearby, don’t hesitate to ask him for a hand. He won’t get involved in most cases, but he’ll always hand over supplies (or transport you back here). He carries around various kinds of chemicals at different times; he always has dry ice and usual has sodium (and iodine for disinfecting etc.) and may have other useful things. He won’t always let you have them.

Angel carries these in a non-weight-modified extradimensional container, but it’s actually not that heavy to lift even without strength.

 

Current threat level: green (NSA: 7c14)

In case of incursion incident: on call, preliminary investigation or planning committee if under expertise (see list)

(See list of incursion involvements – 19)

 

Deaths: (see list, investigations linked from list)

Arrests: (see list)

Current investigations: (level 9)

 

Angel is happy to help in executing dangerous or difficult warrants, but may otherwise be wary of involving himself in any investigations. In case of emergency, he’s on call as a healer or protection. He will be more available during the evening shift, weekends, or school holidays. During classes, he’ll only respond to emergency events, and will typically like to be travelled both ways.

Most of his investigations center around students local to the area, i.e. investigating their previous schools, neighborhoods, families, etc. and those people who visit students. He will typically present (well-cataloged!) evidence rather than apprehend perpetrators himself. Recommendation is to push through all of Guardian Angel’s cases, as they are typically quick to close with plea deals, and if taken to court have a good chance of conviction. He is known to stop campus crime when in progress, but rarely investigates. (see injunction against Greek system investigations)

Angel can be found volunteering in goods transport and distribution, construction projects, and healing, usually under corporate sponsorship. (see preferred organizations) (see upcoming events)

 

Known associates:

Family members: [redacted], Paladin (Greaveshire)

Friends: [redacted], Time (healer), Psychobitch, Copypasta (San Salvador)

WHC contact: Top Dog

(see list of other organization contacts)

 

See also:

  • Bollywood Superman
  • DoubleTeam
  • Ultraviolet
  • Weathervane
  • Rocket Powered Cunts
  • Superbitches

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Meeting

“Sufficiently caffeinated?” Hunch asks me.

I give him a dirty look.

He shakes his head at me forlornly.

Arsenal hands me a mug, because there’s a guy who takes caffeine as seriously as it should be taken, he is so precious, and an amazing addition to the team, and I have no idea what we would do without him. I take a sip. Oh, god, it actually has enough sugar in it and everything. I toss Arsenal a grin.

Wait, no, bad Travis, what the hell have you done.

The kid is crimson.

Which actually goes pretty nicely with his costume. Although I do kind of wonder who designed all of these – that’s not even it, it’s who thought they would go well together? I mean Stranglehold and Sass match well enough, they’d have to, and it’s not like their extra-sparkly neutral is going to clash with much of anything (I mean, how does mother of pearl clash with anything, even with gold-tone accents). Bartok and Laces are just wearing plain khaki flightsuits (I’m pretty sure that’s standard for them), and I can’t actually remember what their armor looks like (or even if they don’t come paired, wow, I feel like I should maybe pay more attention to Flight Crew), but Hunch is wearing precog green, and it would look bizarre next to Arsenal even if I weren’t here.

Boomerang is some sort of swirly multi-colored abstraction and looks bizarre on his own.

Also, we have like three items to tick off the agenda, and then Hunch hands me a stack of old files to go through.

“Hey! Where are my files?” Arsenal asks.

Hunch shakes his head and points to the corner. “Do your homework.”

“Look, I’d have to go all the way down to the locker room to get it, and besides,” Arsenal huffs, “if I couldn’t plan around doing homework, I wouldn’t be here.”

Boomerang snorts at him. “What are you, still in high school?”

“Yes,” Arsenal says, with a pointed glare.

Boomerang smirks. “Did you get held back because–”

“That’s enough, Boomerang,” Hunch says, “Arsenal, go get your homework.”

“There’s no point in me drawing a paycheck if you won’t even let me work,” Arsenal grumps, but heads on down to locker rooms to get his backpack anyway.

“Lucky bastard,” Laces says, tossing his pen in the air, “wish I could draw a paycheck and not have to work.”

“Well, looks like it’s your lucky day,” Bartok says, engrossed in her own files and not even looking over to see him, well, leaning back in his chair and tossing his pen in the air.

“You two,” Laces says, pointing his pen at their tablets, “tell me how to get the white hat complex. You guys don’t have to work.”

“Fuck you, Laces,” Sass says, tapping at her keyboard.

“Well, you know what they say,” Stranglehold mutters, “do what you love….”

“Are you even latent?” I ask.

Everyone’s eyes swivel towards me and I want to crawl under the desk.

I’ve got to remember that this is technically a mixed space.

Boomerang waits nervously for me to get a piece of someone’s mind, Sass shrugs sympathetically, Stranglehold shrugs less sympathetically, and Bartok just shakes her head at me. Hunch has his face buried in his hands, but if he didn’t, he’d be making his goddamnitTravis expression from the good old days. This is what Arsenal’s going to walk back in on, isn’t it.

“Funny story,” Laces says, rubbing at the back of his neck, where the white-blond hairs are just starting to grow back in, “I don’t actually know.”

Bartok shakes her head again, but this time at him, and puts her headphones on.

“You don’t know?” Boomerang snaps, and seems like he’d add more without Hunch’s hand on his shoulder.

“I thought you were req-” Stranglehold says, “none of my business.”

It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who forgets to think first, though.

“I, um,” Laces makes a vague motion with his hand. “I had a religious exemption.”

Crickets.

Well, actually, that’s when Arsenal walks back in, all what-did-I-miss. So not entirely silent, but possibly even more awkward.

“You got a religious exemption?” Sass repeats.

“Well, I’m not anymore!” Laces says. “I just, you know, never updated it and I didn’t even remember I’d opted not to get tested until I was here, and they didn’t test me during intake because I still had that on file, and they said they would if I wanted to but it just seems like so much hassle.”

“Oh my fuck, he doesn’t know whether he’s latent?” Arsenal says, which sums up the situation quite nicely, even if it does make Laces bury himself in files.

I busy myself with them, too, because, hey, that’s what we’re here for, for putting little sticky arrows on anything that might be relevant and not actually for harassing our coworkers about what kind of fundamentalist compound they did or didn’t spend their childhoods on and which may or may not have insisted on filling out all the extra paperwork for that sort of thing.

“What kind of crazy-ass cult did you grow up in?” Arsenal mutters, shaking his head, as he pulls out his homework and starts doing – looks like math.

I do not miss being 18.

“And didn’t the Air Force beat it out of me, yes, I know,” Laces says, “and, yes, they did.”

“They didn’t beat it out of you,” Bartok says, emphatically, headphones tipped slightly off one ear, “they loved and tolerated it out of you, and Eagle was practically your best friend for a while there.”

“Yeah, well, he was the only one who didn’t steal my shoes, so hey,” Laces retorts.

“Tolerate may have been a little strong,” Bartok murmurs, and adjusts her music, snickering.

“You should probably get tested,” Sass tells him.

Laces shrugs.

She shakes her head. “I mean, high stress environment –”

“I’ve had higher,” Laces says.

“– high stress environment, you’re likely to pattern off one of ours,” Sass says. “At least learn the hypnotic tricks to make yourself a hat.”

“You can use mine,” I tell him, “I’m a textbook teke. Shouldn’t cause you any trouble at all.”

“Thanks,” he says, with an eyeroll.

“It’s so not worth the hypnosis if you’re not actually going to manifest,” Stranglehold says. “Forget just the X-test, get yourself a probability screening too.”

“You know those things are, like, three quarters accurate, at best,” I tell him.

“Yeah, but they can pin them to situational bias these days,” Arsenal says, and sighs when Hunch’s finger flicks between him and his work.

“Go fuck yourselves, you guys,” Boomerang says, “he doesn’t have to test if he doesn’t want to.”

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Coffee

Oh, good, Tony’s back. I wave back at him when he grins at me and Perry. I think she makes some sort of face at me, but I can’t really take the time to be bothered by that, I have coffee drinking to do, I have so much more coffee drinking to do to make up for the hideous length of time I spent uncaffeinated this morning, why do I do these things to myself, why.

“Hey,” he says, with an awkward smile, typing at his register. “I heard about what happened.”

I tense.

“Look, don’t worry about – I mean, some of the people here, they can be,” he sighs. “No one’s, no one’s that big a problem. They were just surprised. You can use them in here.”

Oh. He means. About how I was using TK inside. Not getting into fights. Okay.

I hand over my card.

“Look, I don’t,” Tony frowns. “I don’t mean to sound patronizing or anything. I mean, I’m manifested, too. I mean, don’t – uh, well. Just. I get it. I’m sorry for how they were.”

“You are?” I say, because lack of caffeine has certainly taken its toll on me today and apparently three cups are not yet enough, but he just smiles at me.

“Yeah. I mean, it’s not glamorous or anything, I can just tell whether food’s still good to eat,” he tells me, “but I wanted to make sure you knew. You’re a good customer. You should feel safe here.”

“Oh,” I say, because that seems like a weird sort of power to have, which would really only be peripherally useful day to day, and I’m really not up to putting in the mental energy to figure out how something like that pops up in the first place, but okay. Then, belatedly, “thanks.”

“I mean, I know it seems dumb, but it actually really comes in handy,” he tells me. “Like I can’t fight crime or anything, but I volunteer at a soup kitchen sometimes.”

“No, it’s,” I say, “I mean that’s interesting. I’ve just never heard of that power before.”

He laughs slightly, pouring syrup into my drink. “Yeah, well. You get to hang out with all the cool people with the cool powers, so I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Oh, not everyone has cool powers,” I reassure him. “Perry?”

She rests her chin on my shoulder.

“Who’s got the least impressive power of any mask?” I ask her.

“Agency only, or across the board?” she asks me.

I shrug, which dislodges her head, and she pauses to think for a minute.

Tony laughs. “Thanks, guys, but that’s alright.”

“Lesbitch,” Perry says. “She has the power of identifying kiwis.”

“Um,” says Tony. “Oh. Okay.”

Perry leans in to whisper, “she sleepwalks.”

“Right,” Tony says, and turns around to make Perry’s drink.

I roll my eyes at her.

“If, uh,” Tony says, “if we see – or, well, tell us if something happens again, because we will ban people. I mean, stuff like that. It. It shouldn’t happen here.”

“Thanks,” I say, and take my coffee from him. Telekinetically.

His eyes widen and he chuckles. “See? Cool powers.”

“Everyone has TK,” Perry informs him, “Fox is boring. But we love him anyway.”

Tony glances between us, and when I grin at him, he says, “okay, what would you call cool, then? Or interesting, at least.”

“Oh man, there are so many out there,” Perry says. “I mean you got to love Ultraviolet’s thing with the shadows. But tippy-top? Got to go with Lamarck.”

Tony makes a confused face. “Why what does…Lamarck do?”

“Identifies shellfish by genome,” Perry explains. “It’s pretty cool. Let me write down the link.”

“That’s a superhero,” Tony says, with half a frown and one eyebrow raised, which makes his face look a little diagonal.

“Novelty mask,” Perry says, “I think it was originally some kind of publicity stunt? Probably they were low on funding. Her logo is a horseshoe crab, actually, it’s pretty great.”

“I mean, does she,” Tony asks, shaking his head, “does she wear, like, a big foam horseshoe crab outfit, or something?”

“Mostly she wears a labcoat over waders,” Perry says. “She has a big foam hat, though.”

“Wouldn’t the labcoat get wet?” Tony asks.

“What?” Perry says.

“Wouldn’t it get wet, if she wore it into the water?” Tony asks.

“She doesn’t wear it while she works,” Perry says, with her normal air of where-did-you-even-learn-science, “it’s just to make her look more professorial when she lectures.”

“Oh,” Tony says, with the world’s most quizzical look (since Friday).

With a sigh, Perry starts explaining what it is Lamarck actually does, culminating with an in depth description of the last three videos the company made, complete with technical details, and now that I think about it, Perry might have actually been involved in that project somehow. That would explain where this baffling new interest cropped up, because I know she doesn’t spend her time googling horseshoe crabs. I mean, or Priscilla has some weird hobbies, and actually, no, that kind of fits. She does like The Parliament.

Also, I’m kind of glad this place is empty right now. I mean, not because I was worried that anyone who was here last time would be here again, because that would be weird, and how would they even recognize me or vice versa anyway, although, actually, it’s nice to know banning douchebags is on the table and also nice to see what’s at most three douchebags in here (besides Perry, who will never forgive me if I forget to include her), but mostly because the two of them are now both deeply engaged in watching some sort of shellfish video.

In eerie stillness and quiet, because the volume on Perry’s phone doesn’t go up that high.

See, this would be easier if she carried around earbuds like a normal person, so they could each put one in, because it’s not like these lectures aren’t recorded in mono, but Perry has more particular taste about that sort of thing than Darren does. Actually, I’m sure she has two pairs in her bag and a splitter anyway, so –

“But the best powers belong to kittens, hands down,” Perry says, “I mean, how can any human’s powers, no matter how interesting and/or completely nerdy, compare to a kitten?”

“Oh, kittens!” Tony says, and types something else into Perry’s phone.

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Sportsmanship

“Lisa!” Sensei Domino says, shaking her hand vigorously. “We’ve missed you.”

“Teke didn’t even know I was supposed to be here,” she tells him.

Then they both stare at me, all coordinated-like, and I have to stop myself from scuffing my toe against my heel. “What? Nobody sent me anything about it.”

Lisa laughs slightly. “Well, I only got an automated reminder myself, and half of it was in machine code.”

Oh, seriously? The automated reminders are down again? State-of-the-art my ass. We need to get Peter ParCunt in here to debug stat. (Unless people have figured out how to be less of assholes to Dumb Bitch, which, ha, right, let’s expect that that initiative is going well.) Next thing we know, emails are all going to be tagged with people’s real identities.

Which reminds me, I forgot to check my email.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, there isn’t one about interns once I do. There never is.

Oh, that’s right, there never is.

Maybe I should’ve checked the board to see if my request for one had been filled.

Maybe I should’ve requested one.

Did I request one? Did I think I needed an intern to run the class? Do I need an intern to run the class? Is this a thing about only having half a dozen students, like, maybe if I had more, it would be obvious why I needed an intern? Hell, is this getting noted down in her file, or is she not even officially an intern again this year?

Am I going to need to file something somewhere about this?

“…Teke?” Sensei Domino says.

I blink at him.

“How’d you sleep?” he asks.

“Fine,” I say.

Lisa winces.

“Are you,” Sensei Domino says, “up for some training, or…?”

Wait, I got him to agree to teach me? Or wait, no, I mean, he offered that, didn’t he – and I remembered to take him up on it?

“Yeah,” Sensei Domino says, “why, did you change your mind?”

I shake my head. Then look down at my clothes. I have not changed into my costume yet.

“That’s okay,” Sensei Domino says, “sweats are better anyway, whatever you can move around in. Something comfortable. I’m going to try to get you caught up to the kids today, so we’ll be a while.”

Sweats? I thought this was one of those, you know, where you wear one of those white suit deals that tie around the waist, with your belt – am I a white belt already, or do I earn that one somehow or what? Or otherwise shouldn’t I train in costume like the kids do?

“That would be a good idea to get used to, once you learn the basics,” Sensei Domino agrees, “also, I’m not actually planning on giving you a belt, but I’d guess you’re probably roughly orange.”

Oh, well. That’s okay then.

“Were you planning on joining us?” he asks Lisa.

She half-shrugs. “If you didn’t mind. But I have lots of stuff I could be doing, otherwise.”

“I don’t mind,” I tell her, because, what, worst case scenario she makes me look like an idiot, I mean, she’s been doing this a year longer than I have, but who’s going to see, Sensei Domino? Like he wasn’t already about to watch me make a fool of myself.

I mean unless they’re taping this again.

“Wait, who was taping what?” she asks, pausing halfway through tying her braid into a bun.

“I have no idea,” I tell her, “I think they want it either as a recruitment tool or good press. Or possibly to feed to the piranhas that have decided I’m their favorite action figure.”

“You have an action figure already?” Sensei Domino asks.

“It was a figure of speech,” I tell him.

He tilts his head. “I’m pretty sure that’s not a figure of speech that’s actually in use.”

“Artistic license,” I tell him. “Something something, coin a phrase.”

“Piranhas,” Lisa repeats.

I nod to her.

She gives me a weird look and I think she’s about to ask me to elaborate, but she steps into the elevator instead, and we all ride down to the gym, where I step out to the locker room to change into sweats, which is actually kind of irritating, because now I’m going to have to remember my clothes are down here and not in my office once I need them again.

Also, I think Lisa may have been talking to me as I left, and thinks I’m a dick now.

Look, whatever, I’ll buy her coffee or something to make up for it. Oh. God. Coffee.

Sensei Domino starts me off on some warmups, which is pretty good for my self-esteem, because, yeah, I got this. I actually know all these already, because I saw him showing them to the kids, and they’re way straightforward, and, yes, okay, I can do karate.

Also he teaches me some blocking, which is fine, I mean, I already know how to do most of these, except apparently they have an order, and also names? Whatever, the names I can remember later, I know what order they’re meant to go in, I’m good. This is very relaxing, actually. Very zen.

That might be racist. I’m not sure.

Of course, I do yoga, so I’m not exactly one to talk about –

Lisa hooks her foot behind my ankle and trips me. Apparently we’re starting now. I did not think we were actually starting yet; now none of the blocks are going to go in order and I shove her knee away from my stomach.

“Good,” Sensei Domino says, and gestures for me to strike at her.

Crap, Travis, think. How can you possibly not think of a thing to do other than copycatting her, that is every other thing than kneeing someone in the stomach, that is a lot of things, in fact, most things, even if you leave out kneeing altogether, because that’s okay, you really can’t pull of Apogee’s thing about kneeing people in the nose. Although, she does that one punch-elbow strike combination thing, that’s not really – Lisa knocks my arm away.

This is better than falling. I expected a refresher course on falling. That’s what the kids always do right at the beginning, that’s what we went through in training, that’s what

I do right then, when Lisa punches me in the jaw.

The same place I was injured, actually, only it doesn’t hurt, so I guess that’s okay. Guardian Angel does do good work, doesn’t he? I mean it does hurt, but only as much as getting punched in the jaw does, not as much as getting punched on your broken bones. I mean, not even that, because she wasn’t punching very hard, like, she definitely did not expect me to fall right here, and her hands aren’t even taped up, so. And also because I did pull back a little, which isn’t right; I was supposed to – which block was I supposed to be doing?

“Teke, do you,” Lisa asks, “need help up?”

I stare at the ceiling. “I haven’t had any coffee,” I explain to them.

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Mandates

“And how does that make you feel?” he asks.

I swear, I will stab Dr. Waters in the eye with a fork.

“Relax, Teke, I’m joking,” he says. “You seem tense.”

A spork.

“Tell me about your nightmare.”

Fuck it, I’m going straight for the spoon.

“Teke.”

“Yes, Dr. Waters?” I say, and, no, it comes out sounding pretty much like how I feel. Oops.

“Travis,” he sighs, “if you don’t want to talk to me about Agent Donahue, and you don’t want to talk to me about your nightmares, and you don’t want to rehash the incident – and I understand that, I do, take the time you need – why are you here?”

I stare at him incredulously. “Because I’m mandated to be?”

“You know I’m here to help you,” he reminds me, yet again.

“Oh, sure, I know that,” I agree.

“These sessions,” he stresses. “You’re mandated to talk to me because talking helps.”

“Oh my god,” I say, and whoops, that was out loud.

“Travis,” he says again, and then just stares at me like I know what he’s going to say.

In point of fact, I have no idea what he’s going to say, so it’s less than helpful.

“Pick something,” he grumbles, “pick something to talk about. It doesn’t even matter what.”

“People keep telling me to get a dog,” I say, dropping my head back on the chair and staring up at the ceiling.

“To keep Klepto away?” he asks. “I hear most people who run into him say something like that.”

“Darren’s allergic, though,” I add.

He pauses for a moment. “Is that the only reason you’re not getting one?” he asks me.

I literally have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

“Would you like to have a dog if you could, Teke?” he asks.

“Sure,” I say, “I like dogs.”

“But you’re irritated by people telling you to get one,” he says.

“Because I can’t,” I tell him.

“Okay,” he says.

“What?” I say.

“Do you want to tell me about that?” he asks.

“About what, dogs?” I say, “sure, dogs have a common ancestor sometime way back when with modern wolves, although there’s been a lot of gene introgression, so –”

“About why it annoys you so much that people keep bringing them up,” he says.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I tell him, “imagine you had to have the same conversation over and over again with completely different people and it just kept happening.”

“It’s not really that difficult to imagine,” he tells me, the corner of his mouth twitching.

“Ha,” I say. “So. You know what I mean.”

“It’s not about dogs, though?” he asks.

“For fuck’s sake,” I say, “how would it be about the actual dogs themselves?”

“I heard you visited your friend’s dog this weekend,” he says.

“Fucking hell,” I just-barely-do-not-scream, “I like dogs, okay, yes, I visit them, I go to the dog park or whatever, I feed random stray dogs biscuits, Hunch likes dogs too, talk to him.”

“Travis, I have to ask you why you’re bringing up Hunch,” he murmurs.

I smack myself in the face. With both hands. “Obviously you think dogs are a metaphor or something, ok, cool, glad to know that, but I’m pretty sure we’re not having the same conversation.”

“Okay,” he says, “I had to ask.”

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t,” I tell him. “I don’t know what regulation you think – oh my god, is it a sexual harassment thing? It’s a sexual harassment thing, isn’t it.”

Dr. Waters shrugs.

“What the fuck does liking dogs have to do with sexual harassment?” I ask him. “Like, because we share a common interest with 100% of the population – you know Hunch and I are friends, right?”

“I did know that, yes,” he says.

“Like, fuck, bring up Arsenal if that’s your point,” I tell him. “Shit, he even likes dogs, too.”

He frowns. “Has Arsenal done something?”

I smack myself in the face again.

“Travis, if he’s done something,” Dr. Waters says, “I want you to know you can feel free to tell me about it, and I’m not going to say anything unless someone’s in danger, okay?”

I groan.

“I won’t say anything without your approval,” he adds. “You don’t have to report it.”

“For fuck’s sake, he has a crush,” I say, “it’s just a crush, it was just a poorly timed joke, please don’t make a big deal about this.”

“But the crush bothers you?” he asks.

“Of course it fucking bothers me, he’s a baby,” I tell him, “I remember what he looked like before he had to shave, and if that’s not weird, nothing is, but it doesn’t bother me like that.”

“I think he may still not have to shave yet,” Dr. Waters jokes, and it falls a little flat, but at least he’s not going in that direction anymore, so I can work with that. I eventually manage to escape. Not before he questions me on my coffee addiction, my aversion to polyester, my clearance, statistical variance of secondary powersets by age group, Ultraviolet, bigotry, marijuana, the film industry, and whether I felt I had enough of a chance to give Walker a proper send-off (???), but eventually. I hurry to my office before he changes his mind. I have just enough time to close the door behind me, but not to lean against it and sigh, before I notice there’s someone sitting at my desk, using my computer. I open my mouth to greet her.

“I’m legally obligated to inform you I’m a licensed memetic,” she says, and immediately turns back to the screen.

“Oh?” I say.

She cringes slightly and nods.

“What kind?” I ask.

She sighs, swivels the chair slightly, and looks me in the eye. “Truth-value.”

“Well, damn, that’s got to come in handy,” I tell her.

She grins.

“That’s kind of my desk, though,” I add.

She frowns, clears her things off of it, and looks around the room. “Which one’s free?”

“Any,” I say.

She nods, and heads toward the one in the corner.

“Oh, shit, not that one,” I tell her, “Sensei Domino uses that one.”

She sighs, and picks a different desk. “I’m Lisa.”

“Um, hi,” I say. “Hi, Lisa.”

She quickly turns on the computer at her desk, and sets her stuff up again. I watch her fiddle with paperwork for a minute before realizing she’s the intern for the kids’ program.

I have never had an intern before.

“Um, Travis,” I tell her. “Kuiper. Uh, Teke, actually. Or people call me Fox.”

“Teke,” she says, “I was here last year. I know what I’m doing.”

“Well that makes one of us,” I tell her.

She glances at me, a slight smile ghosting her lips as she looks me over. “The problem with truth values is that they’re highly subjective.”

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Case File: Vivisection Killer (Transcript)

Conversation excerpted from TeleKittenesis; threat level still low, but chances of vigilante action rising. (See patterns’ list of high risk suspects) (enable links) (show screenshots)

Cat Catterson

I mean, you guys know the Vivisection Killer is still out their, right? Just be careful is all I’m saying.

Pol Graydon

Great advice coming from someone who can’t spell ‘their’ correctly.

Myra Tennyson

oh look 1st ot post

Amy Eleanor Jacobs

Maybe they thought of it because of the kitten scratching everyone at the beginning there? That’s the only thing that I can think of.

Kyle Denning

maybe she’s high that’s what i can think of

Mad Catter

it’s like we can’t get through five minutes without one anymore

Honor Rhodes

Put up some rules or something, mods, goddamn!

Becky Goodman

Have you see the videos they’re putting up? the mods don’t give a sh** anymore. One of those videos was nothing but dogs – hey Cat Catterson, how about you go whine over there?

Alice Ng

Some of us like the dog videos.

Becky Goodman

Some of ‘us’ need to f**k off

Buffy Anne Summers

Becky Goodman I think a lot of people like the dog videos, or they wouldn’t put them up. I know I like them.

Alex Wilmer

I’m in San Salvador right now (visiting friends) and I can tell you it’s a lot more hyped nationally than locally. He actually hasn’t gotten that many people and it looks okay around here (at least where I am). Stay safe, though!

Matteo Pesci

great advice comin gfrom someone who cant spell paul correctly

Becky Goodman

is the name of the sight TeleDognesis? No it f**king isnt! but maybe it should be because this sight is full of B**CHES

Les Maxwell

serial killers on the rise

Buffy Anne Summers

Becky Goodman Calm down, I didn’t even say anthign to you. I don’t know why you have to yell at everyone.

James James

Ignore Becky she’s a troll.

Verruca Park

Ignore James he’s the vivisection killer.

Kennedy Hampton

not cool

Dionysus Van Helsing

yeah my brother totally got killed by him

Pol Graydon

Oh, did he? I assume he’s on this list then.

Tony Berenson

Pol Graydon leave him alone, he’s like ten or something.

Rachel Feinberg

I thought you were gone Pol Graydon why can’t you just fuck off

Carolina Bester

The best way to protect yourself from extranormal attackers is to neutralize their powers. You can get a device that produces a field around and should stop any attacks (even ranged) that get near you. They’re only around $300-500 and you can order them online.

Steve Dastan

Pol’s back!

James James

That’s not cool, kid. I mean, I wish my brother dead a lot, too, but this guy?

Becky Goodman

Yeah well that’s what happens when you don’t regulate

Eddie Quinn

maybe you shoul shut your fat fuckig mouth

Margarita Rivera

Are you seriously saying people should be registered or something, like kittens

Hugo Watts

Beckky Goodman do you even know what site you’re on? for EXTRANORMAL kittens?

Joey Bachman

Yeah maybe if u shut it uy would eat less

Becky Goodman

No, I’m saying people should be locked up or at least have to tell everyone like they make the brainrapists do. At least kittens ARE registered

Becky Wattanapanit

Wow, that’s a super okay word to be using and not extraphobic at all

Marybeth Keanes

Not to mention is delegitimizes rape, and anyway, most telepaths are women. You shouldn’t treat rape so lightly, especially in this context.

Kai Mirror

Oh, but it’s cool to treat bigotry lightly.

Chris Partyanimal

but it’s fine to treat Vivisection lightly tho

Billy Bob Leonard

But it’s fine to treat it lightly when someone’s rummaging around your brain without permission??? Get a grip, lady!

Akira Kira

update

Tasha Penn

who else is completely unsurprised that Billy Bob Leonard is anti-powers

Becky Goodman

Oh, yeah, it’s so f**ked up to want people to leave your brain alone and not, like, blackmil you or steal your bank account or something. This is why the vivisection killer can just do whatever he wants; because you peopld ar ealways fighting so hard for everyone to ‘respect their rights’ orwhatever. What about my rights?

Audrey Aubreysmommy Tyler

You really shouldn’t call people fat, okay. That is fat-shaming and that is part of bullying culture (whihc is obviously very important to be) because sometimes people have weight disorders and thyroid problems you don’t know. I have never had problems with it obviously but I have friends who do and they would not appreciate your comments. They try very hard to loose weight but it is hard

Fabian Little

what’s your icon supposed to mean Kai Mirror

Mad Catter

oh, yeah, people should totally be respecting your right to be mad at them for existing. I mean, like, who do they think they are, all having powers eerywhere, and eveb NEAR YOU. how is that hate???

Becky Goodman

Mad Catter Thank You!!

Tyrone Smith

Funny about ‘respecting rights’, because that seems like a thing we can’t do in this country.

Netta Singh

James James there’s actually a lot people are trying to cover up to make it seem like it’s not that bad. You can see videos.

Joey Bachman

ur fat ass an ur babys ugly lol

Billy Bob Leonard

Tyrone Smith Don’t make this political.

Makayla Hawkins

just because one guy is a murderer, I mean, there’s lost of normal people who are murderers and no one says it should be illegal not to have powers

Jamison Kent

oh they’re not ALL lazy and eating too much i guess being fat isn’t a bad thing anymore well shit lets just put more of my tax moey on welfare than

Kai Mirror

I think it should be illegal not to have powers.

Joey Bachman

u suck wallstreet far cat

Mad Catter

Kai Mirror not helping

Kai Mirror

Oh, I’m sorry, was I supposed to be helping? Here I thought it didn’t matter what I say, since the fat ass of the bell curve wasn’t going to listen to me anyway.

Mad Catter

you know some of us have powers and don’t have to be jerks

Pendergast Hall

Nobody HAS to be a jerk

Jessica Mansell

I actually think Becky is really pretty even if she is a cunt.

Donna Norris

And some of us have powers and DO have to be jerks.

Greg Krakaur

I think you’re really preetty and not a cunt, Jessica Mansell.

Tad Bronson

i would do her

Kai Mirror

Yeah, well, some people have everything else going for them, too, and have the luxury of not being jerks. How everything working out for you on daddy’s yacht?

James James

Netta Singh I really fucking hope those aren’t real videos because it doesn’t need to be worse

James James

Netta Singh Oh, god, what’s wrong with you? There’s a reason they didn’t show those and that reason is nobody needs to see that shit ever.

Kelly Yuan

Netta Singh Thank you for those actually. That’s very informative.

Billy Bob Leonard

Netta Singh Yes, actually, people should see these videos. This is the kind of problem way too many people want to ignore and just pretend it’s a few ‘problem powers’. Now, I don’t live in San Salvador, but you can bet if I did I would be getting extra security in my house! We don’t have those kind of people around here!

Ella White

@Cat Catterson while this is a real issue, I don’t think this is the forum for it. People are mostly here to talk about kittens. have you tried any extranormal discussion boards?

Ella White

@Amy Eleanor Jacobs I think so too – I alsmot said this video was a little in poor taste.

Ella White

@Becky Goodman you need to relax a little about the dogs. I keep seeing your posts on nearly every video complaining about them, and it’s kind of gootten old.

Ella White

@Becky Goodman also can you stop swearing at people

Ella White

@Alex Wilmer wow, what are people saying locally? I’d really like to hear an insider (sort of, lol) perspective on what it looks like! But you stay safe too haha!

Ella White

@Matteo Pesci actually that’s just a different way of spelling Paul in other languages.

Ella White

@Les Maxwell sources?

Ella White

@Carolina Bester actually, if you go to a military surplus store (you may have to try more than one, and your best bet is actually the small ones) you can get one for $60 sometimes (and they’re usually under $100 anyway). They’re bulkier and kind of ugly, but the do the same job, and some of them even have a bigger range.

Ella White

@Jame James you really shouldn’t wish your brother dead

Ella White

@Eddie Quinn you really shouldn’t call people fat

Ella White

@Joey Backman you really shouldn’t call people fat

Ella White

@Marybeth Keanes agree

Ella White

@Billy Bob Leonard agree

Ella White

@Akira Kira Thanks!

Steve Dastan

Oh my god give it a rest “@Ella White”

Ella White

@Audrey Aubreysmommy Tyler you’re actually being part of fat-shaming culture by saying people who are sick are the only one allowed to be fat, but actually lots of people like it or feel its their ‘natural weight’ and that is their choice let people be happy okay

Ella White

@Mad Catter I don’t think that’s very nice and I don’t have any problem with people having their powers near me as long as they’re not using them

Ella White

@Tyrone Smith well maybe you should DO SOMETHING about that instead of complaining

Ella White

@Netta Singh you should probably put a warning on those videos. They’re pretty gruesome.

Ella White

@Billy Bob Leonard maybe people wouldn’t HAVE to make things political if racists like you would actually listen to black people instead of just telling them to shut up

Ella White

@Adison Kent actually the reason people on welfare are usually fat is because it’s cheaper to buy potato chips than apples and stuff

Ella White

@Kai Mirror ???

Ella White

@Kai Mirror oh, I get it, but actually, if you were nicer, people would want to listen yo you more. Yelling at people doesn’t actually help anyone, so you should try having some empathy for their situation instead. then people might want to help you with you problems and want to learn more.

Ella White

@Pendergast Hall here here!

Trolololololol

kittens r dum

Ella White

@Donna Norrie I don’t think you have to be a jerk. I think you can be nice if you wanted to. I believe in you!

Ella White

@Tad Bronson gross

Ella White

@ Steve Dastan you dont have to be rude I’m just trying to have a conversation

James James

Netta Singh No ofense btw

T.J. Reyes

Billy Bob Leonard Extranormal security?

Billy Bob Leonard

If necessary, yes.

Becky Goodman

Mad Catter you don’t even use your real name what do you have to hide?

Mad Catter

among other things my ssn, unless you think we shouldn’t have those, either

Becky Goodman

Oh look another freak putting words in my mouth. I suppose I’m a racist now, too?

Josh Goldsmith

you are a racist tho, becky

Frieda Tillman

Hey, none of use were saying anything, but if the shoe fits, find another one just like it and dance the fucking night away, Becky.

Kai Mirror

Well, gosh, look at that! Unprovoked insults against someone simply for the group they belong to, not like we’re already disenfranchised and put onscreen purely for someone’s fetish or to make them feel all smug and inclusive. Let’s just totally ignore the fact that the only way an ACTUAL director can make a film is if it’s some sort of perfect victim trauma porn. Go step on a lego, modal.

Cory Vaughan

I actually don’t see anything racist happening here. I think you all need to calm down and actually look at what Becky Goodman said.

Mad Catter

Becky Goodman I never called you a racist, but you did say I should be locked up or branded.

Harry Jacobs

Brett Jacobs Charlie Jacobs Edna Jacobs Amy Eleanor Jacobs Tammy Stilton Judy Kershaw Liam Weiss oh man

Becky Goodman

I’m blocking you.

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Just Checking In

I step out of the elevator to see Mason, Chen, and Graham kind of just milling around in front of my door. I consider taking three steps back, pushing the close door button, and just noping back on out of the building. Instead, I do the mature and responsible thing, and carry my liquor back to my apartment, despite the fact that it means engaging with these three.

I am so very glad I picked now to restock my liquor cabinet.

I kind of passive-aggressively ignore them, floating my keys out of my pocket and into the door. I pull them out again afterwards, flicking them onto the hook by the coat closet, but I leave the door open, and don’t actually discourage anyone from following me inside.

They shuffle in. And stare at me expectantly.

“Hi,” I say, slowly, putting my dessert wine in to chill.

“So we thought we’d update you,” Graham blurts out. “Breakthrough in the case!”

I sigh. “Really. What’s that?”

“We, uh,” Chen says, “told them how to upgrade their cameras. Turns out he wasn’t invisible, just doesn’t photograph or record? And also how to neutralize powers. If they wanted.”

“They didn’t want,” Mason adds.

“So,” I say, “you caught the guy.”

“No,” Chen says. “We didn’t have any good pictures.”

They stare at me for a while.

“We told them he wasn’t all that likely to come back,” Graham says. “They didn’t figure it was worth pursuing. Since he didn’t take anything or anything.”

They stare at me for a while longer.

“They put out a warrant on his extranormal signature,” Mason says.

I wait for it. Not for very long, but I wait.

“What was it like meeting Klepto?” Graham shrieks.

I manage to take a good long moment alone with my whiskey before the next gawker shows up. And this time, he lands on my deck. At least he’s polite enough to wait for my invitation. Of course, waiting consists of hovering a foot above it, staring patiently while I trying to ignore his almost uncannily quiet breathing despite the fact that he’s like two feet away from me, so it’s a little hard to say no.

“Let me guess,” I say, offering him a seat, “Vector sent you.”

He cocks his head. “Vector? Oh, Vector Analysis.”

“She didn’t send you?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “No. Why?”

I point at my jaw.

He leans in, staring at it for a minute. Looking it over, I guess. He sort of hums as he hovers his hand around it. “May I?”

I shrug.

He draws his hand away. “Sorry. Does it make you uncomfortable?”

“No, go ahead,” I say, “as long as it won’t interfere with whatever Saint did.”

He tenses slightly when he hears the name, but he reaches out, laying his hand as gently as he can over my jaw. It hurts, but not incredibly much, and a lot less once he does whatever it is that he does, which is very immediately helpful in the subjective sense, and probably also long term and more objectively, not that I’m overly invested in long-term health risks from minor injuries.

“It’s times like these,” he says, slowly, “that we need to stick together. I know the agency and I don’t always see eye to eye, but I’m here if you need me.”

“So,” I say, “Klepto?”

He gives a curt nod. “Do you think this is another Big Red Button incident?”

I kind of feel like these meetings might stop occurring if I’m not actually at my apartment to hear them out, so I go to the park. Which is kind of nice, and also effective, until it backfires. I notice the pair walking towards me in their carefully detailed costumes, and reconsider being not at home.

“Shit,” I say, noticing the fancy stitching running down the sides of their legs, and thinking back to what Perry was wearing earlier, which seemed strangely familiar at the time, although I couldn’t pinpoint why, “I think Perry stole my pants.”

Normal Force and Extranormal Force share a look. Then one of them says to me, “what?”

“Nevermind,” I say. “What did you two want?”

One of them – I don’t think they even dress that way on purpose, they’re just deeply confusing people – sighs and says to me, “can’t you at least pretend to be intimidated?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because we’re supervillains,” the other one says, with an eyeroll.

“Uh-huh,” I say. “Again, did you want something?”

“What is it going to take to get anyone to take us seriously as villains,” the other one says, or maybe the same one, I think they might have switched places.

“You’d have to be remotely threatening to anything at all ever,” I tell them.

“We’re threatening,” one of them pouts.

“You TP Paragon’s house,” I tell them.

“Well, yeah,” the other one says, “he’s our archnemesis.”

“Okay,” I say.

“Look, whatever, he’s a douche,” one says.

“I know,” I tell him, “you spray-painted that on his car.”

“He had it coming,” the same one mutters.

I clear my throat.

They tuck their hands in their pockets and look aimlessly around.

“What are you doing here?” I spell out.

“I mean we just spotted you while we were out fighting crime,” Normal Force – I’m pretty sure it’s Normal Force, because the one elbowing him looks like the more cocky of the two – tells me, “committing crime. Committing crimes.”

“Right,” I say.

“Are you, like, okay?” Normal Force asks me.

“What,” I say.

“You know,” Extranormal Force tells me, “Klepto is afraid of the color yellow.”

I go back home as soon as possible.

Ultraviolet is waiting for me when I get there.

“Not a-fucking-gain,” I say, slamming the door behind me.

“Um, hi,” he says.

I massage my temples.

“Is this a bad time?” he asks.

I make an incoherent noise and lean back against the door. “Look, what do you want? I’m fine, I’ve upped security as much as I can, I absolutely cannot give anyone details about what happened even one more time, and I have no idea why he did or didn’t attack, okay?”

“Well, I mostly figured it was because he didn’t want the entire city coming down on him,” Ultraviolet says to me.

“What?” I say.

He cocks his head. “You know – he knew – if he hurt those kids, he would’ve had the entire agency breathing down his neck, and most of the freelancers, and some of the other villains.”

“Oh, is that all?” I say.

“Or he genuinely didn’t want to hurt the kids,” Ultraviolet offers.

“Yeah, sure,” I say, “he was just coming from his weekly manicure and happened to stumble across us and it was all just a big misunderstanding. Why are you here?”

Ultraviolet shrugs. “Hunch asked me to look in on you.”

“I’m fine,” I tell him.

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Pets

“You should get a dog,” Vector tells me.

I cross my arms. “I am not getting a dog just because Klepto might or might not be afraid of them. That is not a thing I am doing.”

“What?” Vector says.

“What?” I say back.

Vector shakes her head. “I meant that Cheese Toasties loves you just as much as every other dog you’ve ever met. What did you mean?”

“I meant,” I say, “never mind, just some advice I’ve been getting. Yes. Cheese Toasties. Cheese Toasties is a good dog.”

“Cheese Toasties can’t hear the word dinner without slipping on the kitchen floor and smacking into your leg,” Vector says.

“That makes him not a good dog?” I ask.

Vector adjusts her mask. “I would say fair dog at best. Cheese Toasties could certainly use some improvement in the whole ‘being a dog’ area.”

“Cheese Toasties is an A++ dog, would scritchie again,” I tell her.

Vector grins. “See? Why you decided to shack up with someone with allergies, I’ll never know.”

“So the dog thing was not about Klepto,” I say again. Just to make sure.

Vector shakes her head vigorously, and pats me on the arm.

“Not that you’re not checking up on me,” I say.

She shrugs and grins sheepishly. “Hey, a run-in like that, what am I supposed to do, wave my hands in the air and let you rot?”

“Why are you waving your hands in the air?” I ask.

Vector gives me a Look. “You know, to say, like, ‘hi, Travis, I don’t care that you’re in trouble’ and go on my merry way?”

“Both hands?” I say.

Vector throws her hands up. “Like this!”

“Are you supposed to be here while you’re on duty?” I ask, eyeing her arms skeptically.

Vector puts them down and crosses them. “No. I’m just AWOL. No one’s going to be able to get ahold of me in case of emergency. If you see someone coming, let me know so I can vamoose.”

“I’m just saying,” I add.

Vector pokes me in my jaw, where the injury is healing as fast as it can, but it still hurts like fuck, especially since the bruise has, as a favor to me, tripled in size and started to swell.

Again, it hurts like fuck.

“Vector,” I say.

“How are you healing?” she says.

“I was better before you jabbed your finger into my injury,” I tell her.

She shakes her head. “I mean, do we need to send someone out to top you up?”

“Do you know anyone whose powers are compatible with Saint’s?” I ask.

Vector thinks for a minute. “Guardian Angel, I think.”

“Oh my god, are you serious,” I say, “are you actually fucking serious right now.”

She shrugs. “I can’t say for 100% certain, but I can doublecheck the logs, and we can see if we can get a message to him.”

“That’s terrible,” I tell her.

Vector sighs. “I mean we can try Saint and see if he’s being less insufferable right now.”

“I think I’d rather not let him know where I live, thanks,” I tell her.

She grins. “We can just have him travelled here, then he wouldn’t have to know a thing. Will says hi, by the way, and wanted to check in on you also but I talked him out of it.”

“Oh, him too?” I say, with my hand to my head.

She takes a snapshot of me and hands me her phone. I type in I AM FINE GOOD DAY and then send it off to him, and then kind of feel a little bad about it because he probably doesn’t know everyone and their dog has been trying to see if I’m okay. (Not actually true; Cheese Toasties hasn’t quite figured out that people who are mobile can be to any relevant extant not okay.)

“Does this happen any time someone runs into that maniac?” I ask.

Vector grimaces. “I mean, a little bit? Both times I ran into him people were a little freaked, and that was under sort of expected circumstances. This? This is weird.”

“I know that,” I tell her. “I absolutely know that. It’s not like I’m not freaked out.”

“Patterns thinks he’s playing mind games,” Vector says, and then, like it’s reassuring, “they only give you about a 7% chance of actually being in danger.”

“Oh,” I say, “great.”

“I’d be careful, though,” she adds. “He’s dangerous.”

“I know,” I mutter. “He killed his last lieutenant or something.”

“I think he killed all of them,” she tells me. “I think he killed the first one in such a fucked up way that the powers that be don’t want anyone to know in case they copy it.”

“Oh, joy,” I say, “I hope he saves that for his lieutenants.”

“Well,” she adds, “maybe not the last one. Maybe he’s been around and we just haven’t seen him. Or maybe he’s genuinely missing and Klepto was out searching for him.”

I stare at her.

“I’m not being comforting,” she guesses.

I shake my head.

“Okay, how about this,” she says, “my neighbor’s Macaw finally learned to sing the entire score of Les Mis.”

“Your life is worse than mine,” I tell her.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Vector murmurs, tapping her chin, “Raspberry’s actually got a pretty good ear. Sings mostly on key and everything.”

“Oh, well, that’s alright then,” I agree.

“My neighbor, not so much,” Vector says, “but at least the bird learned off a recording.”

“Does Raspberry sing with skips and crackles?” I ask, with what is probably far too much glee.

“Yes,” Vector agrees. “Not many, because they were pretty clean recordings, but yes.”

I want a bird. I so want a bird.

“So, anyway, I had Mic and Sulu over,” Vector says, “and it’s quiet, because Raspberry keeps it down until about noon. Suddenly, music!”

“Did they sing along?” I ask.

Vector waves a hand. “They actually hid under my table, because it was initially super-duper loud. I don’t think either of them know any of the words to sing along, though.”

“Do you know any of the words?” I ask.

Vector shrugs expansively. “Well, I do now.”

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