Masks 22.1 - Sepiatoned Images of Florida [Cutscene] [RP]

Also, g.1 Contemplate that it was weird that Amir was so quick to give up Brigand. It makes perfect sense as a way to disarm Jason if Amir himself didn't care about the dog -- but he clearly did, which is why Amir ended up with Brigand in the first place. Nothing radical. It was just a weird anomaly. (Or there's a bug planted in his stomach. Which, by the sound of things, will catch lots of digestive noises and not much else. Enough triple-think, Jason!)
1516914387

Edited 1517006159
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
>> He is, with a young, not-Brigand corgi, standing (with a cane) by the front patio doors of the house as you roll up in the plane. This was an honest mistake on my part - I forgot Amir was unable to walk due to his injuries. That said, it's explained easily enough, and points to some interaction between Amir and the great Quill organization that wasn't making it onto Jason's radar (probably at Amir's request, while hinting at a brotherly squabble). >> Amir's eyes flit to Numina, a hint of confusion ghosting across his expression. Nothing Amir knows about Jason - and nothing anyone pretending to be Amir who would have researched Jason - explains Numina. It doesn't match any previous behavior, inventions, et cetera. (Of course it doesn't, as it's more reflective of Link in terms of inception.) Really recent video footage of the team might sometimes show Pneuma, so it starts to track, but again, that points back to Link, not Jason. Understandable reaction, either way you slice your Amir-paranoia. >> Brigand burrows his silvery muzzle under your hand and licks your fingers but, after a moment's hesitation and a tilted head, backs away from Numina, growling uncertainly, his eyes fixed on her torso, where Chin's repurposed assassin bot floats within Numina's hard-light shell. >> "Odd reaction," Amir murmurs, already sitting down. "Please, the host would like to rest his leg." Whatever about Numina put Brigand on edge - the Chin components, in this case - didn't ping Amir's radar. Not that they would, but they clearly didn't. --- As Jason noted, everything Amir said about what happened on 2015/7/4 checks out against what you know, and also doesn't include anything he wouldn't know (calling it the Sepiaverse or something, I guess). That said, somewhere during the flight to Halcyon, it would have occurred to Jason that the Dragonfly's cabin camera might have recorded much of the briefing Amir recounted, so it's POSSIBLE that all this is true... but Amir still is not what he seems. And yes, between Jason's aversion to investigating that event in any way, plus Quill Foundation's well-established "no AEGIS, you don't get to look at our stuff" position, it's entirely possible that recording has been gathering dust in the Dragonfly for 2 years. Or backed up on servers you never looked at. >> "You've been to the other side? Or your teammates have? Do you know -- " He closes his eyes, then speaks in a rush. "I survived. Is there any - do we know anything about Father and Rusty?" Hindsight analysis says: this is either Amir's honest reaction, or him trying to see if you know things that will poke holes in his story. >> "It seems impossible for it not to be related to the Veil falling," Amir says. "Ever since it happened, there was always some reason not to talk with you, some distraction demanding my attention away from working to find Father and Rusty, or some overwhelming resentment and confusion at my memory of your behavior toward me. Hindsight analysis says: this is either the voice of someone who's suffered through the same thing Jason did, or someone intimately familiar with whatever caused the effect. >> "for that matter, what did you do to bring the Veil down?" Totally innocent question, or an enemy trying to figure out how their work was destroyed? >> "Wait. She's alive?" >> For a half-moment, Jason thinks Amir is talking about Numina, which strikes him as being uncharacteristically impolite Several things here. Amir's assumption Jason would simply kill Alycia (or most people) out of hand was... a bit odd? The assumptions there seemed... off. Jason's brain (as personified by Li'lAlycia visualizing the buffer overflow) also noted that Alycia seemed unaffected by the no-investigation-compulsion and was also someone Amir thought was already dead, so I won't belabour that point. His general behavior with regards to Numina was ... you're not sure if it's off or not. He didn't treat her like a person, of course, though he wasn't directly insulting. I've been listening to how *I* talked about Pneuma and Otto in Session 2, however, when I thought I was being respectful, and if someone spoke about them that way NOW, it would be insulting, albeit unintentionally so out of ignorance, so maybe all that gets chalked up to ignorance. That said, while Amir had a lot of questions about specific things, he did not show the general inquisitive curiosity Jason associates with memories of his brother. For whatever that's worth. --- Appropos of nothing, I imagine Jason using finger-guns on Alycia when they finally talk (they have not done so, not once, yet, this whole game), as though it's supposed to mean something, and seeing her react with total confusion. --- >> The book. Warped Passages is, without a doubt, quite brilliant, and very readable, tracking the arc of scientific discovery from early twentieth-century physics to what would have been the razor's edge of modern scientific theory (circa 2005), paying particular attention to the thesis that more physical dimensions exist than are usually acknowledged. You're at first surprised, then not, to recognize in the book not one but several explanations your father must have cribbed and used to explain more advanced particle physics, string theory, and cosmology concepts to you and Amir, over the years. Dad seemed to have especially liked using Randal's analogies - many of which are quite clever and creative. (You were five or so when the book was first published, and it follows your father knew Valerie Randal when you were an age you'd remember, but you have no clear memory of having met her. Her face is familiar, in a vague kind of way.) Although it's nominally part of the 'publish so you can keep tenure' category of academic texts, it's really quite a fun read - a lot of what Randal theorizes about are things that in other contexts would still fall firmly in the realm of either science fiction, or the kind of "science" that only super teams run into. It digs into the most current debates on relativity, quantum mechanics, and gravity, and veers off for an extended tour through theories on alternate dimensions and the underpinnings of reality. Some of it - parts quoted anonymously from her sources - have (you suspect) been polished up to sound more scientific and less... mystical. The most charming thing about the work is how she almost revels in the uncertainties that underlie her life's work, including the possibility it may all be proved wrong one day. >> He's being very circumspect. He was. Jason had some theories as to why, none of which can be confirmed or eliminated at this time. In any case, Amir didn't seem comfortable going into much detail on this, for whatever reason. >> Too many secrets, Marty. The more you think on it, the more you think Amir just flat-out missed the reference. You honestly don't know if that conclusion is real, or just accretion of doubt. "By the way," says Li'l Alycia, "I don't mind being the expression of your memory and processing overflow, but it's not really fair to make me the voice of all cynicism and paranoia that happens to cross your mind. It's not fair to big-me, either." Then she sticks out her tongue and vanishes. >> "You always had a knack for invention." Nnnnno. You didn't. Not in the context he's talking about. >> Giving you custody of Brigand. You know... thinking of it, he crossed all way back across the room, sat down, then handed you that book, rather than the far more efficient path of walking right past Brigand to hand it to you on the way to the chair. Hell he never went very close to Brigand. Didn't pet him goodbye, either.
1516914791
Sounds like the Sepiaverse's Amir.
1516915300
Mike
Pro
Bill G. said: Sounds like the Sepiaverse's Amir. Or another Chin-created hard light infiltrator like Numina is currently inhabiting, unsure of how to accomplish its mission in the face of a similarly equipped "bodyguard" accompanying Jason.  Or maybe it did...
Bill G. said: Sounds like the Sepiaverse's Amir. With his own corgi. That's the weird one. Might indicate closely parallel worlds, or ... ... well, I'd argue against that, since (a) doubt Sepiapolypse Amir would still be toting along a corgi. Or maybe he would . But (b) that wouldn't create an aversion to Brigand. 
1516917477
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Mike said: Bill G. said: Sounds like the Sepiaverse's Amir. Or another Chin-created hard light infiltrator like Numina is currently inhabiting, unsure of how to accomplish its mission in the face of a similarly equipped "bodyguard" accompanying Jason.  Or maybe it did... Dammit, Mike made the joke before I could.
1516917756

Edited 1516918064
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
*** Dave H. said: Bill G. said: Sounds like the Sepiaverse's Amir. With his own corgi. That's the weird one. Might indicate closely parallel worlds, or ... ... well, I'd argue against that, since (a) doubt Sepiapolypse Amir would still be toting along a corgi. Or maybe he would . But (b) that wouldn't create an aversion to Brigand. The corgi had been barking throughout your approach, but stops as you near Amir and sits, dog-smiling and barely out of puppyhood. You'd guess it's around two years old. "Brigand's fine," Amir says, watching your gaze. "Just not as mobile as he once was. This is Buccaneer." That puts Buck roughly five or six months younger than - or at worst, roughly born around the same time as - the DC/Vyortovia Event. (DCVE?) [edit to add] And just to keep us out of a rabbithole, he was a gift from H & B during Amir's first year of convalescence. Hell, we can even retcon that backstory into some of the 'pre-departure' small talk. They got him from the Carolina Corgi Rescue.
1516918365
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Final, Logical Conclusion: Amir can't be evil, because a cute dog likes him.
Doyce: The more you think on it, the more you think Amir just flat-out missed the reference. You honestly don't know if that conclusion is real, or just accretion of doubt. A good summary of many of the points that confused the snot out of Jason, as there were many moments where it sounded totally legit, and others where it sounded weirdly off. That does allow for a Sepi'amir (keeping in mind that the two most common tropes in comics are (a) mind swapping into each other's bodies, and (b) fighting [evil] duplicates, and we've already done (a)), but also a good and well-briefed actor, or even a true Amir whose mind has been clouded, or an android duplicate Amir where  the original forced himself to memorize something weird like "You always had a knack for invention" while being duplicated. Thank you for clarifying all the things that remain unclarified. :-) "By the way," says Li'l Alycia, "I don't mind being the expression of your memory and processing overflow, but it's not really fair to make me the voice of all cynicism and paranoia that happens to cross your mind. It's not fair to big-me, either." Then she sticks out her tongue and vanishes Great. Now my buffer overflows are giving me sass. And justified  sass, at that! >> "You always had a knack for invention."Nnnnno. You didn't. Not in the context he's talking about. Thus Numina's question on the VTOL. Except that it only proves, again, that something weird was going on, but intentional weird, or not-keeping-cover-straight weird remains to be seen. (Another thought that occurs: Amir seems to have figured out that Numina is not who/what she appears to be by the end of their meeting. Assuming she wasn't explicitly doing something "off" or obviously glitching, there's a shift in Amir's comprehension between the oddness of Brigand's growling to his comment about her malfunctioning. Amir is no dummy, but he's also not the technical / genius of the pair of brothers; would he have figured out Numina was a construct without offstage prompting, hidden probes that were not obvious, or more technical genius than he should have had?) So, to sum up, the Amir Jason met was one of: The real Amir with a still-clouded or broken memory (assuming Jason's own memory is a reliable test), either legit or suborned. The real Amir trying to send a message(s) through his odd statements and behavior. A fake Amir (not Jason's actual adoptive brother) trying but failing to avoid detection as a fake, serving purposes and parties unknown. Jason got a summary of the Quill/Chin plans and activities that was complex but sounded believable; this is not proof that it's a real Amir, but it's useful intel nonetheless. The clearest messages that Jason obtained were: [What do you want me to do?] Strategically, Jason should really prioritise pursuing Hecate over rescuing Dad or confronting the Vyortovians.  [What do you want me to do?] Tactically, the book's author, Randal, can lend him a hand regarding Hecate and stuff (though the book seems to be focused on alternate dimensions, which seems to circle back to Vyortovia). [What do you intend to do?] "Amir" hopes to feed him information ("I hope I can be of some help in that regard, feeding my action-adventuring sibling information he can use"). [What are you really planning? (Numina helps)] Not specific (there's no actual plans revealed), but Amir is just not who/how he seems, missing a movie line that should have been reflexive in his understanding.
1516921673
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
*** Dave H. said: (Another thought that occurs: Amir seems to have figured out that Numina is not who/what she appears to be by the end of their meeting. Assuming she wasn't explicitly doing something "off" or obviously glitching, there's a shift in Amir's comprehension between the oddness of Brigand's growling to his comment about her malfunctioning.) Ahh. Okay, this is something else requiring clarification. I wasn't acting under the assumption that Numina could (yet) pass as human for a number of reasons (alpha-version of the shell, visual artifacts up near the right shoulder, doesn't come down the plane's stairs right, probably looks a bit off under full sunlight, clips into the chair in the living room a bit, probably something else I'm forgetting, et cetera), and between that and "Amir is no dummy" I was writing everything under the assumption Amir has figured out she had an artificial shell by about the time you two were halfway to the house from the plane. So, in short - yeah, that's something he'd have just figured out pretty quick. Pneuma, by contrast, wouldn't have even pinged his radar. The clearest messages that Jason obtained were: [What do you want me to do?] Strategically, Jason should really prioritise pursuing Hecate over rescuing Dad or confronting the Vyortovians.  [What do you want me to do?] Tactically, the book's author, Randal, can lend him a hand regarding Hecate and stuff (though the book seems to be focused on alternate dimensions, which seems to circle back to Vyortovia). [What do you intend to do?] "Amir" hopes to feed him information ("I hope I can be of some help in that regard, feeding my action-adventuring sibling information he can use"). [What are you really planning? (Numina helps)] Not specific (there's no actual plans revealed), but Amir is just not who/how he seems, missing a movie line that should have been reflexive in his understanding. 1. Should be understood as "from Amir's point of view and his priorities," whatever those might be. 2. Could be because he wants you on a wild goose chase, or could be some other reason. But it seems to be something more informative than something that'll solve a problem straight away. 3. Yes. And that summary can sound as innocent, helpful, or sinister as you like. 4. I cheated a bit by tweaking the basic question to "What's going on with you?" and cheated a bit further by not answering straight out but giving LOTS of information. If it helps, I DO have the Real Answer... ... narrowed down to two options, that is.
1516923165
A quick side note, which might come up again depending: Yeah, Numina shouldn't be able to pass yet. She moves and acts correctly, but the projection will never be perfect. Most of what will really bother her is internal, and some of that discomfort will also come through. Examples: "I can't feel my teeth with my tongue. Actually, I think my tongue is just for show. Hey, take a look, does it even properly move when I talk?" "I can't properly cry. I think if I could, I'd be crying quite a lot right now, so maybe you're better off not seeing it." "When I swallow, it feels like it goes nowhere. Like I have a sore throat or an obstruction or something." "I'm kind of hungry. I've been kind of hungry for awhile. I don't know how to fix it." "I have to stop myself from taking a pulse. I don't think I'll have one, and that's scarier than not knowing." She thinks of herself as being in physical therapy, with Jason as her doctor/therapist, and she will feel vulnerable and sick until she's fully functional. She wants to use the combat bot chassis to help Jason convert his family's swords into plowshares - putting weapons of war and assassination to good use, to prove to him that it can be done - and that's important enough to power through the discomfort. Leo spent months finding and implementing the numerous things a human being expects their body to do, and Jason and Numina have all that work ahead of them with this approach. Leo is working on something that'll help, though...
Doyce T. said: Ahh. Okay, this is something else requiring clarification. I wasn't acting under the assumption that Numina could (yet) pass as human for a number of reasons (alpha-version of the shell, visual artifacts up near the right shoulder, doesn't come down the plane's stairs right, probably looks a bit off under full sunlight, clips into the chair in the living room a bit, probably something else I'm forgetting, et cetera), and between that and "Amir is no dummy" I was writing everything under the assumption Amir has figured out she had an artificial shell by about the time you two were halfway to the house from the plane. Perfect. I'm good with all that. Makes sense, simplifies stuff, etc. The clearest messages that Jason obtained were: [What do you want me to do?] Strategically, Jason should really prioritise pursuing Hecate over rescuing Dad or confronting the Vyortovians.  [What do you want me to do?] Tactically, the book's author, Randal, can lend him a hand regarding Hecate and stuff (though the book seems to be focused on alternate dimensions, which seems to circle back to Vyortovia). [What do you intend to do?] "Amir" hopes to feed him information ("I hope I can be of some help in that regard, feeding my action-adventuring sibling information he can use"). [What are you really planning? (Numina helps)] Not specific (there's no actual plans revealed), but Amir is just not who/how he seems, missing a movie line that should have been reflexive in his understanding. 1. Should be understood as "from Amir's point of view and his priorities," whatever those might be.  [Yes ... "what do you [Amir who is talking with me] want me [Jason] to do?] 2. Could be because he wants you on a wild goose chase, or could be some other reason. But it seems to be something more informative than something that'll solve a problem straight away. [There was enough emphasis there that Jason think's there's something of value (hey, she even has a wiki page), but he's already noted a priority for it. I'll add it to Trello. :-)] 3. Yes. And that summary can sound as innocent, helpful, or sinister as you like. [And was taken as both at different tims in the conversation.] 4. I cheated a bit by tweaking the basic question to "What's going on with you?" and cheated a bit further by not answering straight out but giving LOTS of information. [Which, I think aligns with what I summarized there.] If it helps, I DO have the Real Answer... ... narrowed down to two options, that is. Tease.
Bill: She thinks of herself as being in physical therapy, with Jason as her doctor/therapist, and she will feel vulnerable and sick until she's fully functional. She wants to use the combat bot chassis to help Jason convert his family's swords into plowshares - putting weapons of war and assassination to good use, to prove to him that it can be done - and that's important enough to power through the discomfort. Again, this all makes sense. And another sign how Leo's bots are a lot more sophisticated in construction and desire than the AI holographic puppets at the Quill compound (as too-clever-by-half those have become).
1516925632
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Bill G. said: Leo spent months finding and implementing the numerous things a human being expects their body to do, and Jason and Numina have all that work ahead of them with this approach. Leo is working on something that'll help, though... Just jury rig in a keynome as her power supply and I guarantee all her problems with not feeling entirely real will Vanish.  
Jason is sure that would end well.
1516926296
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Interesting image choice. I would have gone with something closer to the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
1516926312
Leo: "do not be merging with my robot girlfriend's twin baby sister into a new machine lifeform courtesy of some alien MacGuffin". 22 sessions and that's where this game has taken us.
1516926640
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Omnipotent  alien macguffin. 
I'm sure that, however Numina destroys the universe, everyone will smile and feel fully supported by her doing so.
Somewhere over Orlando, Jason blinks, looks up from the book, and says to Numina, "Oh! You wanted me to come into the kitchen with you. Um. Sorry."
1516930799
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
  
[See, those are the reaction shots I live for.]
1516977627

Edited 1516977808
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
[What are you really planning? (Numina helps)] Not specific (there's no actual plans revealed). I wasn't entirely happy with how I answered this one, but I finally figured out some stuff (and realized/remembered a few things about Masks ) as I was drifting off last night. What Jason - probably mostly in hindsight, as he's processing everything on the flight - realizes he was seeing toward the second half of their conversation, as well as throughout his departure, were hints of fear.  Buccaneer kept circling Amir, looking up at him in concern. Whining. Easy to mistake as "why are you walking around, human who doesn't walk around much? You're bad at it." A startled movement that is redirected toward something else. A shaky hand, quieted by gripping a cane. A widened eye, quickly downcast. Amir was scared. Maybe truly terrified . As for what he's planning? Well, the baseline human response to fear is fight or flight. And he didn't attack you. He's going to run. [The delay in Jason figuring this out is partly the GM's fault for not being a second-gen super genius, so if you want to retcon and have him figure it out literally in the next breath after his apology to Numina, and turn the plane around and race back to the Key, we can absolutely do that.]
1516991708

Edited 1516996938
I missed a few of the replies above, amidst the penultimate day of Packing The House and Trying Not To Be a Tragic Murder-Suicide Local News Story. the DC/Vyortovia Event. (DCVE?) Sorry, every time I/we write something like that, I think we're doing some sort of cross-publisher event.  And just to keep us out of a rabbithole, he was a gift from H & B during Amir's first year of convalescence. Hell, we can even retcon that backstory into some of the 'pre-departure' small talk. They got him from the Carolina Corgi Rescue. Fine. I was going to speculate on whether I'd ever actually touched Buck, or if he might be a hard light illusion by the Vyortovian sorcerer masquerading as Amir ... but I'm happy to have that part of the story established. Final, Logical Conclusion: Amir can't be evil, because a cute dog likes him. As the VTOL dwindles to a dot out over the ocean, Buccaneer looks up at Amir. "You have served us well another day, minion," the cute little corgi says with a voice like the tolling of a great stone bell . His tongue lolls. "The Mistress will be pleased. She may even let you survive to serve her after the Great Transformation."  Buck stops, scratches at something. "Now, get me out of the thrice-damned body. It has fleas." The delay in Jason figuring this out is partly the GM's fault for not being a second-gen super genius Definitely one of the problems with the GM and the Player both  clearly not being second-gen super geniuses.  (I'm not quite so sure about Bill, though.) if you want to retcon and have him figure it out literally in the next breath after his apology to Numina, and turn the plane around and race back to the Key, we can absolutely do that Even if that supposition (which goes alongside possibly either option 1 or 2, or else he could simply be a hapless disguised Vyortovian homunculus who's been promised a long and painful deconstitution should Jason penetrate the disguise) is true, Jason's going to file it with the other weirdities, as it doesn't actually settle anything. If it's the True Amir who's terrified because the Dread Queen is lurking in the bedroom, listening to everything he says (one of the scenarios, less hyperbolically, Jason was working under during part of the conversation), then Jason flying back right probably isn't going to help. Better to let them think he was fooled. That's Rusty talking, of course, and if this all ends poorly for Amir, Jason will be a bundle o' guilt. But  Charlotte is a much clearer-cut problem, and there's no reason to think that the Amir thing can't be addressed as part of a bigger part of the Vyortovian stuff the team is tackling. [Also, to be meta, I'm going to be much less on the grid the next four days, between moving vans and road trip, so I don't want to open up a new thing that will be killing me to not hover over during that time. :-)]
1516992277
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Sounds good!
1517013287

Edited 1517013409
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
[I'm posting this here, since it's more relevant to Jason's thread and I don't want to derail anything else Bill might post in 22.4.] *** Dave H. said: 8. Amir referenced Valerie over in that thread, a bit more circumspectly. (And now I'm curious about what order these threads occurred in, and how much of that was already pre-plotted by the GM.) I worked out most of the stuff for Valerie awhile back (try finding pictures of blonde women who are also physicists in real life and say goodbye to an afternoon), and finally put it up on the wiki in preparation for last game session... where I didn't need it. Valerie's past connection to Hecate is a more recent addition/filling in, but still before it came up in this thread and 22.4. As far as timing goes, and considering the time of day in both... I'd say there's pretty good odds both conversations probably happened at almost the same time. If they'd happened in game, I might have even tried to be fancy and switch back and forth between the two. :) How much of it was pre-plotted? Nnnnone of it? Bill's post was his idea (I had, after wikifying it, solicited feedback to see if it was lame, so he had that material on hand to work with), and Amir has reasons for wanting Jason to go anywhere but the Sepiaverse, so "let's distract him with a science woman who's also his mom and cross our fingers..." I even know how he knows that, and THAT is horrible, also. :)
1517013478
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
I'm actually kind of excited by how much STUFF there is to legitimately, finally, get to in the next couple sessions. I've been waiting on some of this SO LONG.
1517014829
I put together some other conclusions and asked Doyce how many of those we could actually ICly know. I also suggested having Numina voice those conclusions (she's on scene, is smart, etc.), and if I don't hear any objections, I'll have her talk about that in an IC post here.
Go for it! (Just don't expect quick responses.)
1517016133
On the flight, Numina asks questions, and thinks back. Finally, with a troubled look on her face, she speaks up. "Listen. There's different things going on here. Ghost Girl went to the Sepiaverse. She told Leo there were buildings there, a graveyard like hers, but it was all bombed out, wrecked. Harry said the same thing. Buildings. Someone built stuff. Then someone started bombing. There's a Dragonfly, too - not your Dragonfly, you said it's in mothballs, right? But a Dragonfly." "Buildings and bombs and Dragonflies have builders. The builder of the latter was Byron Quill. Your Dragonfly, your Byron Quill. The Sepiaverse Dragonfly, ..." She lets the implication hang in the air a moment. "Maybe the pilot was a Byron. Maybe not yours." "A Sepiaverse Byron. A Sepiaverse.. Amir? If there was an exchange, our Byron, our Achilles Chin, went there, who came here? Whose Amir was that in there?" "He said 'it's as if the inhabitants had lost all hope, had turned on one another.' Maybe something happened in that world, something that didn't happen here. Leo said that Ghost Girl's description made the bombing sound kinda recent." "Does any of what I just said make sense to you, Jason?" The rest of her conclusions depend heavily on what Jason tells her about his private misgivings.
Jason nods, face sober. "Yeah. I've thought about that. I mean, I've been reading about parallel dimensions, Jason-with-a-beard, 'Brave New Metropolis,' that sort of thing. That there's a cemetery right in the same place, the ruins of the city nearby -- that sounds like something similar to our Halcyon. I --" He falls silent a long moment. "My ... fantasy ... ever since Harry talked about the Dragonfly ... has been 'Dad and Rusty get caught over there, found a parallel world, found the Dragonfly that was built in that the Sepiaverse, and was alive and operating over there, trying to find a way back. Maybe detecting whatever energies were involved with Harry briefly shifted over there ..." He gives a tight smile. "I haven't talked about it to anyone. Until we got more evidence, got more proof, got something concrete ..." A slight snort. "I didn't want anyone poking holes in a soap bubble of an idea." His face grows more grave. "But, yeah, it's more likely that it would be Sepiaverse Byron. Does that imply a Sepiaverse Amir? And, a Sepiaverse Jason? Sepiaverse Alycia? Sepiaverse Leo? Sepiaverse Numina?" He shakes his head. "The weird thing about this sort of thing in fiction is where there are differences, and where there are changes. If there was something fundamentally different in that universe, why would there even be a Byron, or a Dragonfly that he designed and built? Alternately, if there's some decision point that changes things, then it all diverges from that moment. Maybe there's a Sepiaverse Byron, but no Jason or Amir because he didn't have coffee one morning with someone. How far back is the divergence? A war in recent years -- if that's the change, a lot may be alike. But not everything, obviously."  He gives her an unamused smile. "In that case, there's probably not a Sepiaverse Numina, given how recent your incarnation. Which is -- no wonder it's so depressing there." Okay, that humor is back. "Or is it one of those magic parallel worlds where everything is the same except, improbably, everything is fundamentally different. Although, assuming an infinite number of universes, any universe can and does exist. So why not?" A long sigh. "Bottom line, yeah, in addition to mind control and weird Vyortovian tech and unreliable memory, we have the possibility that anyone in play is a Sepiaverse double. It makes too much sense."
1517030754
Numina nods along, still turning ideas over, counting off hypotheses on faintly glowing fingers. "Even if he's not your Amir, he's an Amir. He has tells, he's familiar, and if you thought he was lying, he probably was. So take as granted that most of what he said was true. He's very well informed on the Hidden Family, on other stuff, but not on Alycia. He assumes that in the two years he didn't talk to you or think about you, that you'd have killed her. Now he knows better." "Is that why is he afraid? Not for himself. You're being friendly. You're fooled. Even if you're not, he's a brother. You'd take him off the island, protect him, if he asked. Say that he is the Amir from a world where some violent world war or mass conflict broke out a few years ago. If I were him, I'd count myself fortunate to retire to a comfortable Florida Keys beach house. I think he's afraid for you. For what you'll do, or find, or unleash." "We have a book from a physicist writing about the universe's hidden dimensions. She'll give you insight into Hecate, he says. She's in a group picture with your father, when they looked young. So she's known your father a long time. But you don't seem to remember her, so they weren't active associates by the time you were in 'the life'. But still, how did your father and Rusty learn about the Sepiaverse, enough to know how to ground dimensional energies there, that it'd be okay to do? Maybe her research helped." "Amir thinks Dr. Randal will have insight into the woman who put this memory thing on you. Why? Amir won't say why. He just wants you to go talk to her. How does Amir know this? Could be any number of reasons. Just that he's afraid of telling you. And if Hecate's goal is to keep you from Amir, keep you from your father, whatever, and Amir thinks this woman is relevant to her in the context of this conversation...." She takes a deep breath. "I have to think Hecate knows about the Sepiaverse. Or that Amir thinks she does, I should say, and doesn't want to explain why." "Finally, you're right. I'm probably the point of divergence. There was this one time, I wanted ice cream. In this world I got it, but in the Sepiaverse I got told no, so I took over, raaar!" She makes swipey clawing gestures with holographic hands, and smiles at Jason, trying to defuse some of the tension she's introduced. "Every world is better with ice cream." "I still think you're doing the right thing. You know, none of us have really been there for more than a couple minutes. It's been deserted. Deserted doesn't mean empty or lifeless. We need data, badly. Besides.." She grins. "Go to the place you wouldn't ordinarily go. Break the program. You're Jason, the famous adventurer. And this sounds like a great adventure."
Jason grins. He holds up a finger, then speaks with a false basso announcer voice. "Jason Quill, boy adventurer! Pushing the bounds of science ... and thrills! Other places! Other worlds! Danger! Excitement!  'The Adventures of Jason Quill,' coming to you this season at 8 pm, 7 pm Central!" He leans back in the pilot's chair. "I memorized that from the 'new season' announcement when the cartoon came out, back when that was  exciting." He snorts. "It was always exciting, on some level -- but it also got old sometimes. Especially when someone else is the person saying where and when all those 'adventures' are coming from. Maybe making the choice because I think it's the important thing will make it that kind of great adventure ." "You might well be right about the Amir I met. And about Hecate. Maybe. It makes a lot of sense for all the reasons you give. But even if so, it doesn't change the need." Jason sobers. "Charlotte's an unknown quantity. I don't have any sense of what her special vulnerabilities, or strengths, might be. But she's ... considerate. If she says she's popping across to the Sepiaverse for a check-in, if she doesn't show up again, something is wrong. And knowing that she's tied to the portal's power in some weird way, and the whole family history, and the weird turned-into-a-real-girl thing ... I don't want to run a risk if she's late checking in. Even if I'm not 'in charge' any more." Another snort. "And having walked in her metaphysical shoes for a while, I feel a certain ... commitment to keeping her safe." He pauses, opens his mouth for a moment, then closes it again. A breath. Then. "But I'm not sure you should come on this adventure." He swallows. "That kills me, and --" He glares at a point over her shoulder, then, looks back to her, his voice firmer. "Leo's tech came back online once he was out of the zone around that portal. But that's the tech he was wearing . You -- are  the tech. I --" His voice actually seems to seize up for a half second. "-- it doesn't seem a wise thing to try."
1517035499
Numina's voice is quiet, but firmer than he remembers hearing. "I appreciate the concern. And I will tell you, once, that it's my decision to make, Jason. You don't like having your adventures dictated to you, and neither do I. But I promise you I will give it some thought." She brightens up. "Besides, you can try it before I buy it, so to speak. Walk me into the zone, walk me out. If I break down, call Triple A before you take off." Her voice drops to a whisper. "Tell Leo it was my decision, and have him come get me, if anything happens. He can fix me. He can fix anything."
Jason nods, and manages a half-smile. "Your decision. I -- but, hey, I very intentionally did not  say you couldn't -- just that I said I thought it ... unwise. So, see? Me not-stupid Jason! Me boy genius! Not stupid!" He thumps himself on the chest for emphasis. Then his face softens. "But I wouldn't dream of -- if -- yeah, if anything happens, 911 to Leo. No question. He's the guy who ... understands ... you." He holds up a hand. "True confession time: I feel uncomfortable referring to your ... non-biological ... nature." He quickly adds, "Not because it bugs me, I am so woke about it and feel free to slap me silly if I seem anything otherwise. But because ... I just don't want you  to feel uncomfortable. Or ... Other. Or not 'real.' Like I'm calling you just a machine. If that makes any sense. You're just -- more than that."  Jason closes his eyes. "Leo's the expert on your technology, the same as a trained surgeon or pathologist or whatever on a meat person like me. Even more so.  I'm not going to be stupid and think I can tinker you back together if a problem happens. I'll be on every comm channel in a hot second if you need his help." A slight, crooked smile. "Assuming he didn't punch off my face before taking care of you."
1517038793
"I am a machine, Jason," Numina says. Her voice is conflicted. "I'm not just a machine. But I'm also a machine. It's.. important to know what that means. The Mona Lisa is paint. It's not just paint. Sorry if I'm puffing myself up here, but it's the first comparison I could think of." "You're chemistry. You're proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, amino acids, ions. If I'm checking on your condition, I'm going to consider your chemistry. When you consider mine, you're going to think about my machine nature. If you were protecting the Mona Lisa, you'd worry about paint thinner and rain. That's all natural, and normal, and it's okay. I want you to be comfortable, too. So..." She pauses, then flicks off the hologram entirely. What's left is a black egg-shaped object, mounting a long cylindrical holographic projector. The mechanism is still warm, and there's a quiet purr coming from it. Inexplicably, there's a pink scrunchie wrapped around the projector's base. Her voice comes from the speaker. "This is me, Jason. This is my body, right now. It's not perfect. But I'm making progress, with your help." She flicks back into holographic existence, short hair and determined expression included. "I'm grateful you accept me. You're right to be concerned about the transition to the Sepiaverse, I do appreciate it, it's very ... gallant of you. And you are very good for acknowledging my choice. It means a lot to me. You've really turned around since you first talked to me as Numina. I want to acknowledge that. If you think that I've come all this way, risking danger and embarrassment, and am not comfortable with you by now, well, you're be ridiculous."
Jason is quiet during her speech, nodding frequently -- and only barely flinching, but saying nothing, when she flips off the hologram.  In the end, though, can't help but make a face at that god-damned meme. Then he smiles. "I know. I ... know. I just -- wanted you to know that if I sometimes talk about you funny, it's not that I don't care, it's that I care too much, and I'm overcompensating for not having cared enough, or realizing how much I should care. I know language can hurt, and using the wrong words carelessly, or even with mistaken consideration, can wound. "I -- don't want to do that to you. Even by accident. "Which I know is unrealistic, but, hey, I'm Jason Quill, I deal with the unrealistic every day, right?" He grins. not altogether successfully.  "So, we'll give the 'zone' a try and see what happens. And I will try to not freak out if you run into problems. I mean, I once carried Amir through fifty miles of Amazon jungle because he'd been bitten by some sort of crazy frog and there were natives after us and a monkey with a hat was operating this -- never mind, I have an honorary Adventurer's Club badge, Kungaloosh! , and will take care of any fallen comrade, damsel in distress, etc. It's in my contract."
1517041435
I don't have anything that'll top the monkey with the hat, so hopefully you and Jason both got useful stuff from this, both the deductions and personal conversations. :)
1517063055

Edited 1517063620
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
[the gm will only note, parenthetically, that if Jason uses his portal power, he doesn't actually have to go anywhere near the dead zone to get to the other side. At least in theory. it would probably take less juice there, maybe quite a bit less, but it's not mandatory.] 
Bill G. said: I don't have anything that'll top the monkey with the hat, so hopefully you and Jason both got useful stuff from this, both the deductions and personal conversations. :) Indeed. Always a pleasure. 
Doyce T. said: [the gm will only note, parenthetically, that if Jason uses his portal power, he doesn't actually have to go anywhere near the dead zone to get to the other side. At least in theory. it would probably take less juice there, maybe quite a bit less, but it's not mandatory.]  I've been unclear for game purposes what the parameters are for using the ability. Last time out, at least, it seemed to be very power intensive. Jason also has some apprehension about getting back if there's no infrastructure... or even if the power can be used to a place sight unseen or without Google Maps coordinates. (Yeah, I know what the power description is, but Jason doesn't have the playbooks. I'm trying to play fair with his ignorance. Unless you tell me he fully understands how it works, in which case we can play this differently.) 
1517077460
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
 It is, weirdly one of the things that he probably understands as well as anything at this point. At least he understands the math,  when he lets himself. Jason believes he has the capacity to use the thing without wiping out the Halcyon city power grid. It's just going to take a bit out of him.
Ah. The first, fugue state "free" use that caused the power problems was one thing. Now he knows how to use it himself, but that means, aside from RP personal  strain, a nice dollop of Doom. Will consider. 
1517082900
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
 that sounds about right. Although, knowing that simply using the portal will cause you doom, but that you have a sanctum that lets you solve problems that would normally cost doom,  you might be able to use the sanctums resources to figure out some way of doing the portal sometimes in conjunction with your sanctum, in a way that does not cause Doom. There probably be some other downside I'm sure but that's part of the whole "here are the things you have to do to help the sanctum solve your problem"  Formula. alternatively, you could use your sanctum to solve a slightly different problem - how do I establish a portal over to the sepia verse that doesn't damage the dimensional membrane? As an example. That is not actually a way to allow you to use the portal differently, but it leverages that portal usage to solve a larger campaign level problem.
The potential problems of creating another penetration point have not gone unconsidered. Food for thought. 
1517093146
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Or, just use the smaller breach point. "Jason, why did Quill Industries buy an apartment block in the residential district south of the Point?" "Umm..." "And why am I looking at a work order to install a mid-grade fusion power plant in the basement?"
The more Jason thinks about the trip to the Sepiaverse, the more the complications strike him, the more it seems like a problem of not just hallooing off to Charlotte's rescue (assuming that's needed), but an exercise in how to do so safely.  Aside from the risks to Numina from the "normal" portal in the graveyard, penetrating the membrane between universes seems to be causing a progressive problem. There's a new, pinprick hole where Harry threw that Vyortovian device (and what might have happened if it went off in the cemetery Jason shudders to think), but working there would only make that a bigger hole, create more danger. And, yeah, he could stay at home and do it from there -- he understands the power, somehow, better than when he actually first invoked it. He can do it without blacking out the block, or the neighborhood, or the city. But -- He'd like to do it without straining his power -- he knows  what that costs. But if he has to, for something important (potentially saving a team mate and not weakening the fabric of the multiverse), it's potentially worth it. How to do that? Well, it's not like he doesn't have some powerful resources, both the raw research power of the Quill Foundation computers, and bits and pieces of his father's examinations and notes that, in retrospect, he realizes have to do with just this topic (and, heck, he'll import the text of this book by Randal he's been reading), as well as what he instinctively knows about how the bots help him create the Portal in the first place. Can he figure out a way to cross to the Sepiaverse without causing yet another permanent, damaging breach? [Use the power of the Sanctuary. I don't want to take a lot  of time doing this, but there are applications beyond just this effort.]
1517258233

Edited 1517258482
Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
It's the fun part of Doomed that there are any number of things I can do to avoid a required check on my Doom track that, in turn, cost a check on my Doom track.