Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Aspirant on why he can beat Dee [and various non-story notes] (super-people)

[This was originally posted to my Patreon as an early access thing for the $5 tier.  It wasn't meant to be 1 year, 3 months, and 24 days early, but I've been kind of crap about moving stuff here, especially the things I intended to polish before posting here.]
[Aspirant and Dee previously appeared in Evil has standards, which happens to be the story of how this particular villian and hero (respectively) ended up on good terms with each other.]

"What is it?" Aspirant asked.

"Nothing," Dee said.

"Ok, that idea that all villains are socially inept is totally untrue," Aspirant said.  "I can read people just fine, thank you very much." He paused.  "Mind you there's a sizable contingent who think that makes me weird, so there may be a kernel of distorted truth behind the idea.

"Anyway, I can tell something is wrong," Aspirant said.

"I lost again," Dee said.

"As well you should have," Aspirant said.  "I'm older, wiser, bigger, and stronger.

"Strength we can work on, I've no doubt that by the time you're my age the wisdom gap will have long since closed, getting older will happen whether you want it to or not, so the only thing that's a real concern is 'bigger'.

"I think you're growth spurted out, kid," Aspirant said, "so unlike the other things you'll never be my equal on that one.  It just means you need to have a fighting style that takes into account some opponents having a longer reach.

"You're already fast, and that's good.  It'll help you quickly move through the area where I can hit you but you can't hit me, thus leaving less time your size puts you at a disadvantage."

Dee nodded, though she didn't seem to really believe it.

"Think about it like how you got hits in on the regular henchpeople.  Not only did most of them have a longer reach than you empty handed, they were using staves that increased their reach even more.  It's never been a problem for you there.

"Also, it's not like you lose every time.  Far from it.  So, are you ready for more practice?"

Dee nodded again, this time it seemed completely serious.


I need to figure out who Dee's villains will be, because she'll be staying on friendly terms with Doctor Galvah's lair (plus if she routinely fought them she'd run into Kelley more than preferable) but she will also be sticking with the hero lifestyle.

This does not present a conflict of interest because she's not trying to thwart Doctor Galvah, and any other villains she does thwart are effectively the Doctor's competition.

I really like the idea of a hero (part of the reason Aspirant is training Dee is so she can step out of the sidekick role without being overwhelmed) who is friends with a group of villains, spends significant time hanging out in their lair, gets mentored by them, and never wavers from being a hero.

It helps that Galvah wants to take over the world for essentially altruistic reasons.  Dee disagrees that that's the correct way to go about enacting sweeping policy changes, but she doesn't disagree with the policy changes themselves.

Some policy changes proposed when Galvah rules the world:

No one goes hungry, college is free for everyone, healthcare, including dental, is free for everyone, everyone receives a food card that refills with money on a monthly basis (the money is 10% more than what is determined to be necessary to eat well for that month), housing for all, unless they don't want it [some people are homeless by choice], protection to all regardless of race / religion / gender (including non-cis gender identity) / sexuality / ethnicity / nationality (nations will still exist as local governments, elected of course) / language / accent / fetish / so forth.

More stuff like that.  Basically raising the floor from "rock bottom" to "A decent standard of living, if nothing spectacular, and then giving individuals access to what they need to leave that status if they so desire


Added since Patreon:

I've actually thought up a couple more events for the relationship between Aspirant and Dee.

Given how much of my super-person stuff so far has involved romantic relationships or the possibility thereof it seems strangely necessary to point out that the relationship between them is purely a friendship one (friendship which has a bit of Aspirant as mentor figure mixed in.)

Neither would even consider viewing the other romantically, and if anyone brought it up to one, the possibility would be quickly dismissed.

Anyway, other events.  Both involve Aspirant giving equipment to Dee.

Aspirant fights with his hands and the magic he can call up to encase them, but he does actually have an Enochian-magic infused staff like the henchpeople.  It's been sitting in the back of a closet gathering dust for years, but it's there and it works.

At some point in her hero career, Dee is going to have difficulties of a sort that cause Aspirant to conclude Dee would be helped a great deal if she adopted some kind of weapon  (not necessarily as a primary thing, but always brought along in case the situation called for it.)

When he attempts to describe what kind of weapon would best fill this role and complement Dee's style, he's going to make it as far as, "Something like--" before getting the idea and running off to dig his old magic staff out of whatever closet it's been collecting dust in.

The other thing is actually planned in advance and is more of a gift from the whole lair that Aspirant happened to be the one to present.  It's a pair of shoes.

When walls are available Dee makes use of them in her fighting & running away style.  What she can do, however, was limited by the less than stellar grip provided by the outsoles of her old shoes.  While the gift-shoes in question will have spectacular grip, they'll come with the warning "They're not parkour shoes.  If you assume they're parkour shoes you'll get hurt.  Maybe break something."

The specific way they differ is in the arches, which are made of hard composite material that is as low friction as possible.  Their purpose is to allow Dee to grind/slide on edges, pipes, or rails and thus increase her movement possibilities.  (To do this she needs to be facing perpendicular to the thing being grinded on, otherwise the non-arch parts would touch and their stellar grip would cause Dee's feet to stop while the rest of her kept going.)

If Dee ever gives to any of the people in the lair it won't be stuff they can use to further "take over the world" plots.  Not thwarting Dr. Galvah doesn't go against being a hero because no hero thwarts every single person with a "take over the world" plot.*  Helping said plots, however, would.  The villainous side doesn't have that problem because in her hero-life Dee is taking on and taking down their competition.

~

* Dee is simply prioritizing the thwarting of villains who aren't her friends and hanging out with friends in her non-hero downtime.

Also, even if she hadn't made connections with those at the lair, Dee would still prioritize many other villains over Dr. Galvah given that she now knows that Galvah's intended ends are, you know, cuddly.  Dee disagrees with the means, and plenty of non-Galvah villains have roughly equivalent means in mind while their intended ends are a good deal less appealing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stuff and things and such (a meta post)

§
Thing the first:

I've finally actually gone with Ana's idea of posting Edith and Ben to my Patreon so that it will have content.  As I'm doing that I've been updating (spelling, punctuation, formatting, stuff) the Stealing Commas versions of the relevant posts as well.  As such these posts have, in theory, been brought into line with the current formatting standard for the blog* and checked for errors:
  • Ben's Intro -- Ben's equivalent of Bella's preface
    • posted October 7th, 2011
  • And so it begins -- From the very beginning to leaving for Forks
    • posted January 22nd, 2013
  • Summers by the Sea -- Why Ben hasn't been in Forks for three years
    • posted October 30th, 2011
I encourage anyone to and everyone to take a look.  If you have anything to say about the substance, please comment on the actual story's page.  If you catch some kind of error (spelling, grammar, formatting, attacking space monkeys) I'd prefer that be pointed out in the comments to this post, though it isn't required.

That out of the way,

Five years and four months later and I still haven't merged "Summers by the Sea" into "And so it begins".  For the post on Patreon I just cut and pasted "Summers by the Sea" in, but there's a reason I haven't done that here with a footnote saying that the three paragraphs in question were originally part of an earlier thing called "Summers by the Sea"

Keeping them separate, with a link saying "this other bit goes in this gap" is a way to know that I haven't done the editing for consistency of tone and whatnot that comes with merging two things, written years apart, into one.

I completely forgot that I hadn't done that work, but seeing today that "And so it begins" has that link in the middle of it made me remember.  So it's going to stay that way until I do that work.

§
Thing the second:

I really do want to write something new, but I'm having real troubles with composing anything, and it's entirely possible that when I do manage to write something it won't be the sort of thing anyone has ever come here in hopes of reading.

Moving stuff from Patreon has me thinking about my super-people 'verse a bunch.  I'm going to throw that into "Thing the third:".

I've been thinking a lot about math lately.

I've recently been considering writing about changes I would make to the world given the power to do so, probably divided into two series, one would be "When I rule the world" where I would go on about the things that excite everyone such as the tax code and social welfare programs, the other would be "When I am corporate overlord" which would be more about things implemented within the context of a business.

I have so fucking many works in progress.  Derivative and original.  I want to get back to all of them.

And yet . . .

And yet for all of this crap I could be writing, I'm having so much trouble committing actual words to any of it.  And that sucks

§
Thing the third:

Some super-person universe things:

I left off Corv's team with a story in progress, I made the prologue to a story of the de-petrification of the character Ge, and never got around to writing any regular parts of it.  (At first it's Des' story as she returns to her team and attempts to translate what she witnessed in the prologue into actually freeing Ge, once Ge is de-petrified it becomes both of their stories.)

There are also various things that are more isolated moments than story that I have in mind.  Like when Labdiela is worried because Heaven never offered courses on "How not to have your angelic strength break frail fragile humans during sex" and, after getting referred to her by Page, ends up talking to Des about such matters.  (Which lets me touch on anti-sex-demon bigotry in the Fractured Plain region of Hell.

And most of the heroes I've written in that universe are part of a particular subset of hero-teams that probably doesn't even encompass a majority.  Pent, who has appeared only in one work, which was so fragmentary the only thing anyone actually got out of it was that Seegserd served tea,, is the only A-lister I've written.

((Though those like Des' team have a different definition of A-list which would place Corv and her team on it.))

Charles would have been an A-lister, would have been the A-lister, but he predates any and all such lists.

§
Thing the fourth:

I am almost entirely sure there was supposed to be something here because I seem to recall planning on having three things back before I knew I'd write enough about the super 'verse to split it off into its own thing instead of being a part of "Thing the second".

No idea what it would have been though.

-

* I am so tempted to go on a crusade to change the short form of "weblog" from the last four letters (blog) to the first four letters (webl) which would be pronounced "web-L or "webel" and thus not sound like someone trying to onomatopoeia a pre-vomit heave.

Yes, I do know that such a crusade would convince precisely zero people and thus serve no purpose, but "blog" just has this nasty sound that makes me think of the unpleasantness of acid reflux.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Character bio: The knights Errant and Erratic

[Originally posted at Patreon where it was one of my first posts of any kind.]
[They haven't been in much of anything, though their teammate Page was featured drinking coffee here.  (Note to Luke Cage fans: actually drinking actual coffee.)]

Identical twins with no tragic backstory, the two are nigh inseparable.  When they stumbled into the super-life in their teens they found that they took to it naturally.  The fact they'd both been taking karate classes for a decade helped, so did the fact they'd been taking ballet classes for even longer.

By this time teen teams were well established, and so they were placed with three other locals of about the same age, supplied with resources to reduce the likelihood of serious injury, and given guidance when required.

One of their members, who was quickly elected leader, had already chosen his hero-name of  “Paladin ”.  Errant and Erratic looked for names that would match, and when Erratic learned that “Knight Erratic” was an actual term (meaning the same thing as “Knight Errant”) their names were decided.

The other two members of the team, Squire and Page, followed suit in choosing knightly names.  What began as a teen team has remained even after they aged into adulthood.  They defend their city and have no global aspirations.

Errant tends to be more conventional and more likely to stick to set rules and procedures, however he also lets his sister lead.  She proudly chose the name “Erratic” for herself.

Errant defaults to an unemotional serious, Erratic to laid back fun, but both have the problem that slights they'd ignore when directed at themselves will set them off when directed at someone they care about.

The most extreme example of this is if someone claims that Errant is not a “real” man due to his biology.  Errant will take the insult without comment.  Erratic will be enraged.  Often a quiet but extremely dangerous rage.  It should be noted that Errant doesn't think Erratic is over-reacting.  If the situation were reversed he'd feel the exact same way.

Squire can generally talk Erratic down, and --even if she doesn't-- Paladin is the leader.  He tends to be extremely lackluster in ordering Erratic to show restraint in such situations, but he does order it none the less.

Errant is straight guy.

Erratic is an omni-flirtatious asexual aromantic woman.

-

I, uh, haven't figured out their race or ethnicity yet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Monthly Finance Post - interrupted by

First off, Lonespark is right that I really need to get more content up here that isn't just talking about how terrible life is and how everything is bad.  This was never meant to be a place for that.  It was meant to be a place for stories.  And not the depressing kind of stories that leave you sad for a month and a half.

And yet . . .  here I am.  Things are bad.

-

[I can be sent money via paypal, here's a link.]

There was a non-monthly expense due this month.  The big one.  (Property tax, if you're wondering.)  The good news is that at some point it became lower than it once was.  It's $635.40 now.  Still, if you divide that by three to get what it actually costs per-month, the result is $211.8 and it's the single biggest "keep me from going homeless" expense by far.

It was due six days ago.  I didn't pay it.  In spite of what I thought earlier in the month, I can't pay it.

The non-monthly expenses, like the property tax, are scary as all fuck because they're the ones where not paying will eventually make me homeless, but that "eventually" means that there are very solid pragmatic reasons to make sure the other expenses are paid first.

I can't pay them first.  I can't cover them.  If everything stayed as it is today, I'd fall $96.03 short of the other expenses, which would make me $731.43 short for the month in total when the property tax is added in.

Things won't stay as they are.  Things won't for the same reason that I'm finding myself ludicrously low on money when I thought I would have more than enough.

It's food.  I have no money for food.  At this present moment, my food stamps don't exist.  They didn't last month either.  The annual review was in March and my depression was doing a thing which meant I didn't do the followup call until . . . maybe this month.  The follow up call revealed a need for additional paperwork, which then took some time to get to me, and

FUCK

I just got some unrelated news.  It has nothing to do with my finances and I'm not ready to talk about it anyway.  I . . . just can't.

I can't, but I still need to vent some.  I guess I'm going to talk around the issue without ever addressing it directly, because how else could you vent about something you're not ready to talk about?  Feel free to stop reading to avoid getting caught in the exhaust.

~ ~ ~

Unless someone somewhere has a literal million dollars (right fucking now) that they're willing to loan to me, even though I'm like the opposite of . . . I don't know the words.  No one in their right mind would ever consider loaning me any sizable sum of money, is the point.  I mean, see above.  The fact that I would genuinely try to pay it back just means that I'd likely spend the rest of my life failing to pay it back, which in turn means it wouldn't get paid back.

So, anyway, here in the real world everything is completely terrible, in part because there's absolutely nothing anyone can do to help, least of all me.  The news was about home, not someone suffering some illness or injury, so at least there's that.  No one is hurt.  Somehow I don't find that very comforting.

And I fucking begged everyone involved to keep me in the loop and they promised they would.  Instead last I heard everything was going to be acceptable (not perfect, but not this) with no need for any money whatsoever*, and then I find out none of that was true.  Not even because they God-damned set out to tell me things had changed, either.  I noticed something that didn't quite fit, and only in the course of explaining that detail did the truth come out.

Fuck everything.  I'm just going to be here crying, having persistent thoughts about how it would be less painful to just bash my head into a wall until the physical pain overrode my ability to emotionally process things, and crying more because I'm not actually one to partake in self-harm.

-

*The reason for the change from "don't need any money" to "I'd need a million dollars (or, possibly, more) right this instant" is that the deal that was supposed to bring about partial salvation was altered to do nothing of the sort, no one bothered to tell me of that fucking massive change, and the people who have final say were apparently fine with it (which, hey, they're getting half a million dollars each.)

Which means that the only thing that could possibly save things at this point is to show up out of nowhere with a higher offer.  Which is impossible.  Because a fucking million dollars.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Just the two of me -- Ch 2: I'm not a monster. . . well, technically, I am

[Originally posted at Fimfiction.]
Opening notes:

Chapter 1 can be found here.

Unlike the last chapter where I initially failed to include warnings that I totally should have used, I'm pretty sure this chapter doesn't need any direct ones.  There are references to bad things having happened in the past, but not in and detail.

It worries me for entirely unrelated reasons, though.

The stuff that matters happens between the lines of dialogue, and having a chapter built around a conversation that essentially amounts to "They said vaguely related stuff that didn't actually matter in the least," makes me worry I'll drive away anyone who stuck around through Chapter 1.
~ ⁂ ~

The one person not to treat her terribly was the native version of her, which was fine, and was now, having seen Sunset's face, apparently terrified, which was less than ideal.  The other her had scrambled backward until she was stopped by a wall, and, as of when Sunset looked away from the pitiful sight, was pressing back into that wall as if she hoped the bricks would give away so that she could retreat farther and further.

Sunset just looked at the ground and waited for things to somehow get worse.

Then came a frightened, “What are you!?” from the other her.

Sunset sighed.  Then she looked back at the other her. I’m a transmogrified unicorn, did not seem like an ideal answer.  Before she could think of anything that was worth saying, the other her started talking again with a speed clearly driven by fear:

“There is no natural way you could look so much like me, you couldn't fake it, and –even if you could– why would you?  Why would anyone want to steal my identity?  I hardly have an identity to steal!” the other her caught her breath, and the way it sounded made Sunset worried that the girl might be on the verge of hyperventilating.  “So the only options are the ones that don't make sense, and none of those are good!”

Part of Sunset knew that she should pick her next words carefully.

If she just came out and said that she was a creature from another world who took on human form in this world –except for that one time she had been a demon– as a result of a magical portal, that would likely do more harm than good.

Right now, part of Sunset knew, she needed to carefully steer the conversation into a direction where the other her would be comfortable, keep it there for long enough for the other her to calm down, and do it all in a way that wouldn’t destroy trust when the truth inevitably did come out.

This was a time for a delicate touch and a sensitivity to the other her’s feelings, part of Sunset knew.

That part, however, did not remotely win out.

Most of Sunset didn’t even care about the other her.  It was still focusing on everything else that had happened of late.

Sunset had been abandoned by her friends in a way that turned the entire school against her, with her closest allies deeming her irredeemably guilty in the public forum that was a high school hallway and pronouncing her the kind of scum who deserved to be left in tears on the ground.

Now everyone was against her at every turn, and she was constantly taking flack for something she didn’t do, even though whoever was framing her was doing an incredibly poor job.  Everything she’d worked for had been torn away from her not because someone had set into motion a meticulous and well executed anti-Sunset Shimmer plot, but instead because the entire student body, her so-called friends first in line, were so very ready –eager, really– to believe she was despicable that they’d turn on her at the first sign, however poor of a sign it was.

If her supposed friends had confronted her in private then at least she wouldn’t have the whole school against her.  She apparently wasn’t worthy of that luxury.

If they’d given her time to think she could have pointed out that the fact she still had her phone didn’t mean no one else had ever had access to it.  But no: one question, ‘Have you lost your phone recently,’ and she’d been judged guilty before she even knew she had been accused.

Compared to all of that, what did one frightened doppelganger really matter?  The terror was obviously the other her’s problem and Sunset really shouldn’t have to deal with someone else’s baggage right now.

So said the part of Sunset that did win out.  As a result she didn’t try to approach the situation with any care or even any tact.

“Calm down,” Sunset said exactly the way she would have before the Elements of Harmony, “I’m not one of the evil double things from . . .” and her sarcasm and disdain hit a roadblock: she didn’t actually know what they were from.  That break allowed her to calm herself down a bit.

After a taking metaphorical step back and reminding herself that the other her wasn’t responsible for any of what had happened to her and thus shouldn’t be mistreated because of it, she finished up by saying, “that anthology show,” in a neutral way.

The Twilight Zone,” the other her said; “the anthology show is called 'The Twilight Zone'.”

The other her hadn’t been calm when she said that, but compared to how she had been a moment before making the correction . . . maybe there was still room for handling this well.  The correction was the way that one might say, “Khan was a Sikh from northern India, not an undeclared from southern England,” which implied a degree of familiarity with, and passion for, the subject.

Steering the other her to a topic where she was comfortable and keeping her there until the fear subsided might still be an option.

So Sunset said, “I've never actually seen it,” as though they were simply having a normal conversation.

“I have,” the other her said.  She paused a moment.  “These days Sandwich actually makes decent coin through underground parties –he's a really good MC– but back in the day spending a night in a hotel room was enough to wipe out the entire group's savings.  Emergency Only.”

Sunset nodded.  She did both because breaking the other girl’s flow might negate the calming effect she was hoping the conversation would produce, and because it did make sense.  It fit with the image of the other her she was building in her head.

Hotel rooms were expensive, and the clothes the other her was wearing suggested poverty; rich kids slumming never really pulled off the kind of authenticity that radiated from those threadbare clothes.  Living on the street fit with that.

“My second year on the road,” the other her said, settling into a normal storytelling manner, “long before Sandwich even joined the group, we got caught in a damned blizzard.  The streets weren't safe and we didn't know the territory enough to find a good spot.  We weren't even supposed to be there.”

Sunset wasn't sure exactly how one got snowed into a place you were never supposed to be in the first place, but it didn’t really matter and she was sure she could come up with plausible explanations if she were to try.

What was more important was that the other her got visibly more at ease with every passing sentence.

So Sunset listened and watched.

“So the five of us were huddled in a one bed hotel room, and there was a Twilight Zone marathon on.  Shadow said I was too young to watch, so they kept the TV off until I pretended to go to sleep.”

Part of Sunset’s mind immediately wanted to dissect all of the possible implications.  The other her was too young to watch a scary show in her second year on the road, that could be used to guess when she originally went on the road.  Someone named 'Shadow' was the one who decided the other her was too young.  Leader?  Parental figure?

Sunset had to quash that line of thinking.  A lot of progress has been made in a handful of sentences, but things weren’t good yet.  Even the telling of the story was indicative of things being not right, it was the kind of rambling, to a stranger no less, that bespoke nervousness at best.

The wrong approach could still send the other her back into a panic.  The safe move, the option with the minimal risk, was simply prolonging the conversation in its present form.

So Sunset offered up, “And you watched it without them noticing,” with a bit of a conspiratorial tone.  That got a nod.  Strike one against continuing the conversation in its present form.

Sunset tried to gauge the other her.  It was probably safe to talk about other things, but that opened up the minefield of trying to guess, at random, which topics were safe and which were not.  Sunset definitely didn’t want to dive into the weirdness of the present situation just yet.

She wanted something normal, mundane, and completely casual.

Again she took the easy route: making a second attempt to sick to the original topic.

“Was it good?”

“A lot of it was cheesy,” the other her said, “some of it was funny –even some stuff that wasn't meant to be funny like the scout for an alien invasion getting warned off of invading the world by the other aliens who were already in the middle of a secret invasion– some was heartwarming –the show had more happy endings than people give it credit for– but some of it was really, really creepy.”

A flash of fear, not nearly as bad as earlier, crossed over the other her’s face.  Maybe Sunset should just give up on avoidance.  It was the perfect way to move toward the subject at hand without taking it on directly, after all.

“The doppelganger episode,” Sunset offered, knowing it could potentially ruin the degree of calm that had been achieved so far.  It was a risk she was willing to take if it could get passed the point where she was trying to use her manipulation powers to calm the native version of herself while kneeling on the sidewalk with the feeling of freshly dried tears on her face.

Besides, the episode was something the other her had apparently experienced while young.  Even if it wasn’t the source of the fear Sunset was seeing now, it likely played a role, and talking about it might help.

“It takes place in a bus station,” the other her said.  “This woman is moving from point A to point C and the bus station is at point B, where she's having a stop over.  Things start going strangely, people say she did things that she's pretty sure she didn't do, she thinks she saw an exact duplicate of herself standing behind her when she looked in a mirror.”

The other her was still in storytelling mode and still seemed to be getting more calm the more story she told.  No real indication how much of an effect the episode had had, but the parallels were easy to spot.

The other her had to be from somewhere else, like the character, since Sunset would have found her before now otherwise.  The other her had probably already run into people who thought she was Sunset.

Ponyfeathers.

The other her had probably already taken abuse for being Anon-a-Miss, and unlike Sunset she wouldn’t even have known why.  And Sunset had responded to her by being sarcastic.  Maybe Sunset was going back to her old self after all.

The other her just went right on talking:

“For most of the episode you don't know if there really is a doppelganger or she's just losing her mind.”

The words were largely unremarkable, but they were said with an urgency and gravity that drew Sunset in, and for one fleeting moment she actually forgot that the only reason this conversation was happening was to get the other her more comfortable and less fearful.

Sunset herself settled into a different position, sitting instead of kneeling.

“Her faith in rationality gets shattered and she relates a story she'd never believed in before.  There's a universe, full of evil beings, that sometimes comes in contact with our own, when it does some of the inhabitants cross over.  The only way they can survive is by stealing someone's life.”

There was a similarity to actual human changeling myths there.  Of course, in those myths the doppelganger killed their double, as a baby, so that the double wouldn’t turn up try to take the stolen life back.  Equestrian changelings never killed the ones they replaced.  Even though they were undeniably real, something that couldn’t be said of the changelings from human myth, Equestrian changelings were far less frightening than the human-world version.

Still, there was more to do than just analyze some story that had been made before she’d been born.  She needed to alleviate the other her’s fear, and while getting her talking had been the start of that, actually engaging her in conversation would push things further in the right direction.

“Thus the setting,” Sunset said.  “She's in a place where no one knows her.”

Just like the other her was now, of course.  Except the present situation could be considered worse because Sunset already had an established life here.  As if Sunset had stolen the other’s life before the other her even noticed there were two of them.

Still, they were passed the point of avoiding the issue.

The other her nodded and resumed talking:

“And going to a new place, so the people there won't catch on to any early mistakes the doppelganger makes.  All that needs to happen is to take her out of the equation, and the doppelganger steals her life and, because the doppelganger is there in place of her, no one ever comes looking for the real her.”

Well, at least that part didn’t matter in the least.  At least Sunset was pretty sure it didn’t matter.  Unless . . . No, it didn’t matter.

“Plus, the very first thing that happened, before there was any suggestion of a doppelganger, was her bag going missing, so she doesn't have any proof as to who she is.”

Sunset figured that that mattered just as little as the part before.  She’d tried to find the human with her name after Twilight told her that everyone seemed to have a double, not just Celestia and Luna as she’d initially suspected.  There was nothing.  The other her had obviously lived a life off the grid, which meant she wouldn’t have any identifying documents to steal.

The other her took a deep breath, then continued:

“The male lead in the episode, just a random guy who happens to be at the same bus station, doesn't believe a word of it but tries to help her through what is obviously some kind of breakdown.  The audience doesn't know for sure what kind of breakdown.  Is she imagining all of this, or is she having a hallucination-free nervous breakdown because an evil being intent on her destruction has been gaslighting her the entire time?”

Sunset allowed herself to do stop doing meta analysis and just think about the story as it was being told.  Mostly she did this because there was, what seemed to be, an obvious problem with creating that kind of narrative ambiguity: “Wasn't the show sci-fi and fantasy?  Wouldn’t that give some clues?”

“Not all of the episodes were,” the other her said.

That was what Sunset got for talking about a show she’d never watched.

“There was one episode in particular where the real twist at the end was that it was all in the main character's head and nothing out of the ordinary was going on,” the other her continued.

“That's disturbing,” Sunset said.  If you couldn’t trust your senses then . . . it was just disturbing.

“Very much so,” the other her said, “but the edge got taken off by the fact that the main character of that episode was a horrible person and his delusions were karmic punishment: tormenting him with the same lie he'd intended to torment others with.

“In the doppelganger episode, the main character is just an ordinary person who has done nothing wrong.  That makes it so much worse.”

Sunset nodded.

Celestia had given lessons about the just world fallacy.  The short version was that ponies who believed that bad things only happened to bad ponies were often afraid of the implications of the alternative.  If bad things happened indiscriminately, then avoiding them would have to depend, at least in part, on luck.  If luck were involved then complete safety was impossible.

Rather than face the reality that one could never be totally safe, some ponies would convince themselves that bad things only ever happened to ponies unlike themselves.  One easy way to do that was to believe that only bad ponies suffered, so the fact they were good (a foregone conclusion) meant that they would never suffer.

While the lessons didn’t apply directly to the work of fiction in question, the indirect implication was clear.  Monstrous things happening to a monster is justice.  You don’t have to fear them unless you’re in the habit of tearing apart friendships or stealing magical artifacts.  Monstrous things happening to an innocent is frightening.  They can happen to anyone at any time.

They can happen to you.

Back in the present the other her was wrapping up, at least Sunset thought she was.

“When it's finally time to board her bus, she sees her own face in the window.  That's too much for her.  She faints, and the bus leaves without her.  She's convinced that she has to make it to the destination first, so that people will know that she's the real one.  Male lead says he has a friend who can drive her.”

“Lie?” Sunset asked.

“Lie,” the other her answered.  “She's taken away to be institutionalized.”

“Has it occurred to no one that maybe the reason people are afraid to seek mental health help is because treatment is presented as some Hellish ordeal?” Sunset asked.  For whatever reason, this was a topic that made her very upset.  It was, perhaps, the reason that, for all her bullying and manipulation, she'd never set out to gaslight anyone.

“The show is a half century old,” the other her said.  “Things were bad.  Not as bad as they'd been in earlier times; definitely worse than they are today.”

“And it's not like everything is perfect today,” Sunset said.

And then Sunset realized that that entire exchange had gone definitively not-bad without her calling on any of her manipulation skills.  Progress was being made.

“Yeah, so the episode had basically ended and you still don't know whether she had a breakdown and imagined the doppelganger, or whether her breakdown had been engineered by a real, and really evil, doppelganger.

“Well, the episode started with her bag going missing.  So how does it end?”

Sunset had no idea and motioned for the other her to continue.

“After she's taken away, the male lead reaches for his briefcase.  It's missing, but he catches sight of the thief.  He chases, but with a head start, the thief gets away.  Cut to the thief: someone with his face running with an expression of absolute, perverse, glee.

“Thus proving the evil doppelgangers were real, nothing was in her head, and a sane –if stressed out– woman has been institutionalized because everyone else thinks reality is a delusion.”

Well, that could explain reacting with abject terror.  Then again the episode could have simply touched on fears that would have been there regardless.  Most people probably weren’t prepared to run into someone who shared their name and face regardless of the anthologies they partook in.

Sunset wanted to say something that was nice, and helpful, and not at all evil, but instead what slipped out was the kind of thing she’s say in the old days when she was preying on insecurities and generally unnerving people who weren’t useful to her:

“Disturbed you, did it?”

“Like you wouldn't believe,” the other her said.

It was said with calm.  That was a good sign.  Not a ‘Tell her you’re a monster from another universe who steals magic gemstones and mind controls people,’ sign, but a good one nonetheless.

“Well,” Sunset said, “I have no intention of gaslighting you.”

It was true, sincere, and totally avoiding the subject of her inhuman nature.

“Who are you?”

“My only name is 'Sunset Shimmer'.”

“Not helping with the whole, 'Not an evil doppelganger,' spiel,” the other her said, but the playful delivery implied that the talking had worked.  Worked far faster than Sunset had expected, even.

Still, might as well say it out loud.

“But we have reached a point where you're not terrified by my very existence anymore, right?” Sunset asked.

The other her nodded. “Yeah, yeah we have.”

Sunset stood up and offered the other her a hand.  It was a sign of how much progress the tangent about the anthology show had produced when the other her took the hand and let Sunset help her to her feet.

“You are going to explain though,” the other her said.

“I will,” Sunset promised, “but before we even start to talk about that, I have an question of the utmost importance.”

“And what's that?”

“You really travel with someone named 'Sandwich'?”

That's what you took from all of that?”

“It's a distinctive name.”

“Cheese Sandwich,” the other her said, “and he can turn an MP3 player and a glowstick into the greatest rave in history.”

“I've never been a rave person,” Sunset said.

“I'm not either, but I can't argue with an emergency fund we've never tapped out, and that's the result.”

Sunset wanted to tell the other her that it was time to start talking about the explanation –well . . . technically why the explanation would have to wait– but she'd get to that. She wanted to, but found she was presented with an entirely different problem.

“This isn't going to work,” Sunset said.

“What?”

'Hi, Sunset, I'm Sunset,' Sunset said to Sunset,” Sunset said to the other her.

The other her nodded. “I can see how that would be a problem.”

For a while both were silent, then the other her said, “Well, this is your turf, so I suppose you can have the name 'Sunset'.”

“And what will you be?” Sunset asked.

“Shimmer, I guess,” the other her said.

“Do you think of yourself as that?” Sunset asked.

“No,” 'Shimmer' said, “but my best friends, Shadow and Sandwich, go by their last names, so it's not like the idea has no merit.”

Sunset didn’t really like the idea of stealing someone’s name.

“This may be where I live,” she said, “but you arguably have a stronger claim, so if you want–”

“I'll go by 'Shimmer',” Shimmer said.  “Now get to the explaining bit.”

“Ok,” Sunset said.  Then she stalled.  “So . . .” she stalled again.

The next words came from Sunset very quickly:

“You know how it is when someone says, 'You wouldn't believe it,' and you're all, 'Yes I will, just tell me,' and they're unconvinced, but you keep on insisting you will believe it, and then they finally give in and tell you, and–”

“You don't believe it,” Shimmer finished.

“Yes!” Sunset said.  When she continued she spoke at a more normal pace, “To avoid that mess, I'm going to need proof you can see, and for that I'll need help, so I won't be able to give you an explanation for,” Sunset waved her hand between them so it pointed at herself and Shimmer several times, “this, until sometime tomorrow.”

Shimmer seemed to think it over for a bit, then said, “Fine, you have until tomorrow.”

Sunset gave a nod of acknowledgment.  She was about to walk away when she realized that she was missing critical information. “Where are you staying?” she asked.

“I got into town this morning,” Shimmer said.  “I've spent most of my time being weirded out by the way people have been looking at me and the fact people knew my name.  I haven't exactly been perusing the local real estate market.”

“I'm gonna head home,” Sunset said, “you might as well come too.  If you like it, you can stay with me.”

Sunset started walking; Shimmer followed.

“You have until tomorrow to explain how you can be another me,” Shimmer said.  “For now, why don't you tell me why people were calling me 'anonymous' as if the word is an insult?”

“Not 'anonymous',” Sunset said.  “'Anon-a-Miss.'”

“What?”

Anon hyphen a hyphen Miss,” Sunset said.

“Some kind of stage name?” Shimmer asked.

“Internet screen name,” Sunset said.  “Someone is pretending to be me and doing everything short of saying, 'I'm Sunset Shimmer'.”

“And what are they doing while pretending to be you?”

“Spreading secrets,” Sunset said.  “At first it was ones that I'd have access to, part of pretending to be me, but now it seems like anything goes.”  She sighed.  “The thing about secrets is that they're secret for a reason.”

“People don't take kindly to having them converted to public knowledge,” Shimmer said.

“Exactly,” Sunset said.  This was the first time she’d been able to talk about this with anyone.  It was so much better than every other time the matter had come up.  At best she was talked at rather than to, at worst . . . she’d cried a lot of late. “The people who have been burned are outraged, others are cheering it on, but everyone is angry with me.”

“And why would someone set out to frame you?” Shimmer asked.

Because I turned into a demon, turned them into thalls, and planed to use them to invade another universe in hopes that, since they were innocent children who weren't acting of their own free will, Celestia would refuse to allow them to come to harm, thus making them untouchable and allowing them to hold the line against troops with significantly more experience, while I and my two willing accomplices, in demon pseudo-Alicorn mode, defeated the immortal rulers and took possession of Equestria.

Not the best answer to open with, and it didn't explain everything.  Plus it left out the crap she'd done before stealing the Element of Magic.  Anyway, it wasn't true so much as a snappy response that made it sound like she had a handle on the situation, which she didn't.  The truth was much less impressive.

“I don't know,” Sunset said.  “I mean, I sort of know, but the timing doesn't make sense.”

“What does that mean?”

“I used to be a horrible person,” Sunset said.  “Most of the school had reason to hate me, but no one did anything like this when I turned my life around and all of that was fresh in their minds.  Back then they just did the usual high school stuff.  I was variously ignored, glared at, made the constant subject of whispered conversations, and continually 'accidentally' bumped into in the halls.

“It was all pretty generic, and certainly didn't involve anyone posing as me,” Sunset said.  “I finally proved that I really had changed, helped everyone in the school in the process, and now this happens.  Just when everyone was finally accepting me.”

“Maybe that's the point,” Shimmer said.

Sunset just gave a questioning look.

“Oh come on, it makes sense,” Shimmer said.  “More sense than you having my face and my name.”

“A lot of things make more sense than that.”

“Everyone hated you, and you were miserable–”

“I never said I was miserable,” Sunset said, not entirely sure why that made her feel defensive; “I was holding up pretty well.”

“And so long as you were miserable,” Shimmer continued, “the people who hated you thought you were getting what you deserved.  But then you 'proved yourself', whatever that means, and suddenly you're not suffering anymore.  Anyone with a grudge feels like you're not getting the punishment that you're due.”

“So they give everyone a reason to go back to hating me,” Sunset said.  It made as much sense as anything.  If she’d somehow proved herself to the school before the Dazzlings showed up, maybe she would have had to go through the exact same thing not long after that.

“Not everyone,” Shimmer said, “just the people who only accepted you because they were giving you the benefit of the doubt.  People who truly forgave you and believed you were a better person would need more than a bully with an internet account before they thought they were wrong about you.”

Like maybe photos that came from my phone.  Sunset shook her head.  That didn't matter at this particular moment.  There was an important question that did matter:

“Why do you believe me?”

Shimmer had nothing but Sunset's word, they'd only just met each other, and apparently Sunset's mere existence called up fears dating back to Shimmer's childhood. There didn't seem to be any reason for Shimmer to believe that Sunset was actually innocent.

“I found you sobbing on the ground protesting your innocence,” Shimmer said.  “It made an impression.”

“I found you cowering against a wall afraid that I was going to steal your life.”

Shimmer shrugged.  “Off moment.”  They walked in silence for a bit, then Shimmer asked, “What's your home like?”

“Like Heaven on Earth,” Sunset said, “just . . . more rusty.”

*
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Author's Notes:

Ok, so, that . . . came from places. It was most definitely not where I expected the story to go while writing chapter one.

When I had "Shimmer" reference The Twilight Zone in Chapter 1, I wasn't thinking about the fact that one of the most famous episodes was the doppelganger episode.

Then Sunset insisted on saying something along the lines of, "I'm not one of those things from The Twilight Zone," and while I could have crossed out "The Twilight Zone" and replaced it with "fictional pop-culture reference", I don't think the results would have been any better.
Author's note, sub-note:
In meta commentary I often default to "Shimmer" = "Human-set" and "Sunset" = "Canon-set"
Canon-set Shimmer, in spite of knowing that she should be responding in a way that takes into account Human-set's emotional state and need to be offered comfort (and in spite of her own desire to be a good person) would in fact default to responding flippantly and (due to her lack of any deep knowledge of human culture) call upon references she had only tangential knowledge of to do it.

As soon as I realized that Canon-set wouldn't be able to finish her own flippant sentence, but Human-set would be able to immediately fill in the blank, the scene solidified.

The hardest part of writing it was that I didn't want Canon-set to begin by callously ignoring Human-set's emotional state, and attempts to somehow make what she said not-jerkish were utterly ruining everything.  Eventually I had to let go and allow the character her moment of, "I'm fed up and and I don't want to deal with this shit, that she's terrified is her own problem," before she moved into "I shall use my manipulation powers for good" mode.

~ ~ ~

Anyway, Human-set filling in Canon-set's lack of knowledge gave me exactly what I needed: something innocuous for them to be talking about.

There needed to be something at a remove that could be made the subject of conversation so Shimmer had a chance to calm down before Sunset got to the, "I don't just have your face, I have your name, and I'm not going to explain yet because I don't think you'll believe me," part. It could have been, "How 'bout them Knicks?" but that would require me to know something about basketball.

What makes me so uneasy about this chapter, as mentioned at the start, is that it takes the form of:
"Irrelevant dialogue," Shimmer said.

Sunset had thoughts that were actually relevant.

"Irrelevant dialogue," Shimmer continued, unaware of what was going on in Sunset's head.
and I would guess that that can turn off a lot of readers.

~ ~ ~

As for the Khan bit, I wanted something other than, "Han shot first."

Finally, "Monstrous things happening to a monster is justice.  You don’t have to fear them unless you’re in the habit of tearing apart friendships or stealing magical artifacts," is Sunset (Canon-set) calling herself a monster in her head.  It's a direct description of what she did in and before the first movie.

~ ~ ~

Coda:

My own attempts to learn ASL have failed, but this might be of interest to people.  Even if the video isn't, the audio will at least tell you where the chapter title comes from:

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Colony (description) (super person universe)

[Originally posted over a year ago on my Patreon  The plan was to polish and organize it before making a post here.  All this time, haven't touched it, so I'm just cutting and pasting.]

Aside and introduction:
For those unfamiliar, the index to stuff I've done so far in the my super person universe can be found here though it's not entirely up to date and obviously doesn't include Patreon only stuff that I haven't ported over yet.

Looking it over, at this point it mostly seems to be snapshots of lesbian superheroes (including one aro lesbian) and with a couple of gender conforming trans characters in there too.  (And some straight people too.)

But, anyway, to the point, this is just a rough semi-stream of consciousness description:

The Colony is an overarching supervillian organization that was first introduced, though not in detail, here, and . . . I cannot find anything anywhere else in spite of being reasonably sure I did write more about them. [Found it, see post script.]

The Colony takes villainy seriously.  Paperwork must be filled out, procedures must be followed, villainous plots need to be described in detail and submitted for approval, risk assessments are carried out, the healthcare plan very much includes mental health it is highly recommended that agents make use of this fact.

There are performance reports and reviews, and . . . they're very much not into the whole cackling "I will take over the world and show all those people who laughed at me in university" thing.

While they call themselves "The Colony" and members are known to talk about getting into the woodwork, being in the woodwork, or feeding off the detritus of a rotten place,  they do not require their members to dress up in silly termite costumes and the organization is not a themed one.

While operations range from simple smash and grab jobs to complex years long Xanthosian schemes, one thing that never changes is that The Colony always maintains a no-casualty record.  Part of it is pragmatic, part of it is that they do have a set of values.

Colony teams are generally openly villainous, but The Colony maintains a variety of subdivisions with various levels of legality.  This intersects with their values most strongly in power-hostile jurisdictions like Raptor's home state where they offer the only reliable non-underground safe haven.

Their education apparatus is a completely above board private accredited system which can allow a powered individual to go from kindergarten to attaining a PHD without ever having to fear being arrested, disappeared, beaten, killed, (or even merely mistreated) for their divergence from the norm.

There was a time when various heroes were convinced that this was some indoctrination (or even brainwashing) scheme, it turned out to be nothing of the sort.  The education was top notch, there were no attempts to sway the students to their side, and in fact many eventual heroes were protected by being sent to a Colony boarding school in their youth.

That doesn't mean that the schools aren't useful to Colony recruitment, because they certainly are, but rather that they are not intended for that purpose.  The Colony is vehemently opposed to intolerance in general and intolerance against those with powers in particular.  It is also the case that Colony values state that education is a human right.

The fact that this nets them new recruits and also leads to heroes that aren't particularly interested in fighting them is just a bonus.

Preferred Colony missions involve theft, espionage, blowing up (thrice verified empty) unsightly buildings and then getting a Colony owned company the contract to build something more aesthetically pleasing, political manipulation, occasional kidnapping (but the kidnapping victim must be afforded every luxury for the duration of their captivity) using the inevitable fights with superheroes as distractions or disruptions that benefit subtler plots, taking advantage of market inefficiencies, and so forth.

In general, though, individual teams are given a lot of freedom to do what they want in their area, provided that they submit their proposals in writing in a timely manner and said proposals don't conflict with higher Colony priorities.  (And said proposals, you know, make sense.  If the team wants to turn all of the traffic lights into cheese they had better have one Hell of a good pitch as to why this is a thing worth doing.)

Since The Colony is ubiquitous it's extremely useful for villains that like moving around but don't want to have to start from scratch every new place they stay for a while.  Since it focuses on crimes against property rather than against people, it draws in people who are willing to become criminals, but don't want to hurt anyone (and The Colony is good a minimizing indirect harm through their good-publicity-generating charitable organizations.)

In fact, since they're not out to hurt people even the hero community has found a use for them: sending new heroes on missions against them is about as safe as heroing can be.  Yes, there are the customary epic fights, but those fights are ones both sides can walk away from.  (In pain, sure, but that's part of the job.)

The Colony is considered a joke by the kind of villain who'd vaporize three city blocks to get someone's attention, but they're resilient, profitable, long lived, and widespread; plus: members have a comfortable standard of living.  This does include the janitors, and yes: they are unionized.


[Added:]

I knew I'd written about The Colony somewhere else because I knew I'd talked about their schools.  Found it (apparently I had different capitalization rules then):

[...] the Colony runs a great many schools for gifted youths.

They have higher education too. You can go from preschool to getting a real live PHD without ever leaving the Colony school system.

This can be a very useful thing when you're afraid your powers (or you child's powers) will manifest at school and you live in a place where it's not safe to have powers.

The fact that the Colony doesn't actually pressure anyone to stay with them after leaving their schools leads to a higher retention rate than they project would occur if the graduates believed they were being forced into Colony work.

This makes attitudes towards the Colony extremely complex. Some of the very heroes who end up fighting against Colony teams were only saved from horrible things because a Colony school gave them a full scholarship. (The only case it isn't a full scholarship is when the potential student's family is really fucking rich.)

The termites get into everything, but sometimes that's a good thing. In the morally rotting areas of the world, they provide the fertilizer that outside~the~norm young people need to grow.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monthly Finance Post (with emotional state info, as a preface, too)

Yesterday something, which I cannot remotely explain, happened.

I checked on the status of money and was left with a profound feeling of deep and inescapable sadness.  Like, depression deep.  (Though not Major Depressive Episode[tm] deep.)

Now, to be clear, it's not that my finances are so good they should be making me happy.  I said last month that it would take ten thousand dollars, more or less,to get me free of the mess I'm perpetually in and it is most definitely not the case that I got that.  But you all, and Ana, and Ana's twitter following have done more than I thought possible.

Thus, when taken in context, things are better than I believed they could be.  Things shouldn't be making me sad because the are indicative of massive improvement.  They're better than they have any right to be.  I've filled my heating oil.  I'm settled with my mother/landord (for the moment) all of my bills are paid through the end of the month, everything is rosy and golden and shit.

Now, profound feelings of deep and inexplicable sadness are sort of par for the course.  Many times they hit out of nowhere with no source or no apparent source.  (Just one of the joys of being me.)  But this had a clear cause.  I checked on money, I got inordinately sad.

The only thing I can think of is that I really thought I was going to fully pay off a debt that I'm not able to.  I did some math wrong.  I had all of the figures and everything necessary to get the right answer, but I must have left one of those figures out of the calculations.  And, yeah, I was totally excited when I fucked that up and therefore thought I could pay the debt in question off completely, but I really don't feel like the loss of that false hope should have laid me so very low.


So, where things stand:

As I said, everything paid through the end of the month.  (I think.)

The next major non-monthly is $635.40 due on May 10th.  When the time comes I'll probably be unprepared because paying down high interest debt is generally more useful than the peace of mind that comes from knowing I'll be able to cover a bill two months from now.

(Of course, being asked, for two months straight, whether or not I'll be able to pay it when the time comes is really stressful.)

The ballpark for what it would take to put all of this behind me has dropped to closer to seven and a half thousand (like I said, I got more help than I imagined possible. thought realistically possible.)

If I include the student loan, my total debt is currently $12,431.21

A bit over one thousand of that is not currently gathering any interest at all and I have about a year to pay it off before interest is retroactively applied.