Masks 29.1 - The Boys of Summer

Angelica is an influential figure to several girls, more than a few boys, and even a couple of seniors. As far as anyone outside that circle knows, that these people listen to her is the only reason she's a big deal. But what else is coolness, other than your peers voting with their attention? Harry Gale has been thoroughly immune to her influence. Jason Quill is too wrapped up in his own world. But now there's another member of a major Halcyon super-team at Gardner! And he just unmasked this weekend! Angelica couldn't look at herself in the mirror if she didn't take a shot. Well, she could still do with some mirror time, but her pride would be hurt. She starts for the table where Leo Snow is sitting, all unaware. Her game face is on. Her hips have received their instructions and are carrying them out. There's some people she's never met around him. Probably other hopefuls, System 1 of her brain informs her. Some of those plebs from HHS, maybe. Go get him . System 2 is running frantically for her seat of consciousness with vital information, but won't make it in time. " Hi there. You must be Leo. I'm Angelica. I'd like to make your time at Gardner as pleasant as possible, so if there's ever anything you need…" System 2 arrives, panting, and delivers an update. Those two girls next to him? Pay attention to them. They're twins. They're sitting too close to him to be strangers. He's not uncomfortable with it at all. They're giving you their best "back off, bitch" faces. They're really good at it. The boy himself seems unaware of the daggers being glared at this interloper from the twin guards stationed at his flank. "Uh, thanks. Think I'm doing okay for now, but I'll see you in class." Angelica wilts. Her most alluring smile turns into the polite look of someone who's late for an appointment. "Great, then, yes, nice to meet you." ---- Those girls are going to be a problem. But who are they? They came out of nowhere. A few quick inquiries with some eager HHS freshmen, desperate to fit in at their new new school, tells her that they weren't Halcyon High attendees after all. There was some talk of maybe someone else on the Menagerie, a girl nobody really knew much about? But not two girls. Angelica repays their information with some party invitations and fashion tips. She may be top dog of her particular social order, but the entire group benefits if its members are more successful. Nobody wins if she's selfish. Noblesse oblige. There's only one way to learn more: active listening. Spying , says a voice in her mind, and she brushes it off. Now, where did those two get to…? ---- Aria follows Summer into one of the locker rooms. It's unused, and should be for awhile. There's showers in here, and hence a lack of any surveillance. "Alright. Show me this thing," Aria says. Summer grins and undocks herself from the carbon shell. The hologram flickers into life, and she stretches out. Her outer body stands motionless, and Aria feels a flicker of discomfort at the sight. She shifts her attention to the living light version of her sister instead. "Right. So, servo maintenance." Summer beings her presentation. "Steps. Get your tools, find a brace, detach the arm or leg, brace it, change tools, reattach, verify, reseal. 15 minutes per limb, 12 if you have everything laid out. Right?" Aria nods along. The routine is familiar - she inspects her own body for damage after every battle, and re-tunes and re-tightens the nanoyarn muscles if necessary. Summer grins widely. "Now with this little guy…" With holographic hands, she mimes using a separation tool on her arm, then detaching it, operating tools with both hands, and re-attaching. "4 minutes tops. No fumbling around. Pretty neat, huh?" Aria whistles. "That is impressive." ---- Angelica has found them. She glanced around the corner just long enough to see one of the twins patting her abdomen, then had to retreat before she was seen. She can still listen in. It's just that what she hears is thoroughly confounding. "So you and Jason made it together. Are you going to keep it?" one of them is asking. "Of course I am!" says the other. "Leo was kind of upset at first, but I think he's okay with it now." The other's voice weakens. "... hope so.. " "And what about Jason?" "Jason's got a lot going on. He told me he loved me, but loves her too, so he's gonna…." "And he didn't mind if you keep it?" "Oh, not at all. He was really awkward when I talked to him about it. But he's been so much better about things lately." Angelica retreats, face pale. Just what the hell is going on with the Menagerie?

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I think my verbal recitation of the post gave Jason   James hiccups.
Doyce T.
Sheet Author
Jason will have worse than hiccups if this got.out.

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People certainly are projecting roles and feelings onto the girls. What's really going on in their heads? The night of the fight, Aria sent Summer a text. "You need to attend school. Leo+Waters can arrange." "Yes mom." It's just two words. Aria's still grouchy about it during assembly, but she smiles, waves, and is otherwise polite and friendly through the day. Even when Summer appears, and the two descend into deep, sometimes contentious conversation, she's nice. Was I really like this not so long ago? Is this what raising a rebellious teen feels like? Aria shivers. She remembers reading stories about families with no mother figure, where an older sister raises the younger ones. She didn't expect to be in one. Is that making me more maternal? I don't know how I feel about that. She understands Leo's "Jason x Summer" plan. His logic is sound, if you accepted his premises. She doesn't. He finally saw sense: the happiness and wishes of people in the now matter just as much as some hypothetical robot-building future. And there's her own project, that might skew her thinking in ways he can't anticipate. Maybe I should tell him. .... I can't go through with it. She likes Jason - well, not like likes, though she can see how Summer would. It's fascinating scientifically, anyway. Before the fork, Leo Snow saw the Jason Quill cartoon, idolized action scientists like Byron Quill and his clever son Jason. Those memories turned into jealousy and rivalry in the 17-year-old boy, Leo Snow, male by upbringing and hormonal balance. As girls, Aria and Summer transformed those memories into an attraction. Like a set of puzzle pieces, the male Leo's self-identity was too close to Jason's to fit, and that rejection colored his feelings. But as girls, those pieces would connect just fine... Aria's not sure about this analogy. Home Ec's topic of the day isn't helping. Jason did confess to Summer, though. I wonder what would happen if we used the Heart Factory to make a girl Jason. What would Leo... Her feelings about Leo backhand her scientific curiosity out of the way and take charge immediately. NO WE ARE NOT DOING THAT. Well, okay. What are we doing about Alycia? We're keeping quiet is what we are. Summer seems intent on arranging a relationship - or at least gracefully getting out of Jason's way so one could proceed, if it was likely to happen. That would have meant staying away from school, which would have left her isolated from everyone else. Aria wasn't having it. Thus the text. Summer saw reason pretty quickly, and in turn Aria assured her that she'd at least not oppose the relationship. Terrorist reputation and dubious origin aside, Aria has nothing against Alycia either. If she really has caused human deaths, that's very troubling -- but Jason probably has too, if half the stories about his family are true . It's probably easiest to let that situation resolve itself. Jason can be admittedly a little slow where romance is concerned, if Summer's information is anything to go by (and unless she's really being mean to Jason, Aria takes it as granted). Alycia probably has no great urge to confess the secrets of her heart amid a shower of rose petals - and that mental image actually causes Aria to giggle out loud, to her brief embarrassment. Still, the earlier supposition should hold. Strong similarity between compatible people should yield strong attraction. And if they don't, he'll be fine. Aria has seen the way girls at this school look at Jason. That guy would be knee-deep in adoring junior girls if he snaps out of his Alycia funk and goes on the hunt. I don't want to be a mom to these people , Aria reflects. I just want to love Leo, and go to school with him, and everyone. I want to fight bad guys, and protect the innocent, and help the world be a better place. I want to help invent the future, and make everyone happy, and have fun along the way. And then Agent Parker introduces herself. Alycia has a mom. OH THANK GOD.
I'm not sure what was the biggest laugh line: I wonder what would happen if we used the Heart Factory to make a girl Jason. What would Leo... Her feelings about Leo backhand her scientific curiosity out of the way and take charge immediately. NO WE ARE NOT DOING THAT. or  Alycia has a mom. OH THANK GOD. And, like all the best laugh lines, they have an underlying dramatic profundity and intriguing note that carries long beyond the moment.
Doyce T.
Sheet Author
I wonder what would happen if we used the Heart Factory to make a girl Jason. What would Leo... Her feelings about Leo backhand her scientific curiosity out of the way and take charge immediately. NO WE ARE NOT DOING THAT. I need a double snake-eyes roll (both Jason and Alycia) on the Victory Merge so I can repair both of them perfectly... and get a 'child' recording that's an amalgam of both.  Putting Dave in charge of making those rolls happen.
That turned Oedipal really fast. I mean, if you really need that, just do what Aria thinks happened with herself & Summer here, and have Jason's memories of a rivalry with Leo transmute into attraction from Alycia. She already thinks he's handsome . I'm not saying actually do this. :)  Jason would shoot Leo (and me) in the face, while Aria would send Alycia in pieces back to AEGIS.

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Summer's having the time of her life, except for the confusing or draining parts, which is all of them. Take going to school. Aria had insisted. She shot back a lighthearted jab at being bossed to school, and got treated like she'd been seriously sassing. There'd been an apology, but Aria was still clearly grumpy. Well, I'll show her the drone today, she'll think that's cool. Life is falling into a familiar pattern. When Pneuma came about, she and Leo had spent time being close to each other, shutting out the world, solving his problems and hers through togetherness. Then the breakup, with Pneuma's departure and return. The rebuild into a new body. Her time forging an unbreakable friendship with Leo. Helping him understand a girl's feelings, helping herself learn them by experience. This time around, the boy is Jason instead of Leo. The two didn't start out in love (and Summer privately still wonders how much of Jason's confession was "I need someone " rather than "I love you "). But still, it hit so many of the same beats. The resurrection from a machine. The night-time talks. The learning experiences. The inevitable, necessary separation. Summer feels like she knows what'll come next. She will make progress in her personal life, somehow. Jason will figure out his love life. The two will become a pair of trusting, dependable friends-- The next part, the part where Leo and Aria got together, doesn't really work in this scenario. The uncertainty, the feeling of this is where this story ends , makes her uncomfortable. So she skips thinking about it around that point. During assembly, she sees Jason, and sees he sees her. Hi, Jason! Good luck! I'll be here cheering for you! That's what she wants to say, but she's not sure the smile conveys it all. Well, hopefully. Leo technically took Aria's first kiss, and Jason took hers. It's a goofy convention, but the girls have seen enough anime to think of it as a thing. Seeing Jason look nervous and awkward in response to the wave awakens similar feelings in herself - basic empathy at work - and those feelings hunt down a memory. What they come up with is that one, of course . Summer squirms a little in her seat, and tries to pay closer attention to the assembly. The presentation is actually kind of interesting. There's a whole strain of idealistic Robin Hood-ism in superheroics, the idea of doing your part to help the needy, the idea of "the innocent" or "the civilians", heroes sacrificing to save a child, that sort of outlaw altruism. Yet the kids of those heroes, and some teen heroes, are going to this high-class school with rich kids and high-culture snobs and stuff. Are they really going to learn that ideal here? Or does it happen in spite of attending places like Gardner? It's something Summer wants to figure out. Lunch comes around. A Gardner girl approaches, clearly - clearly , we're not just projecting this time, sis - trying to put the moves on Leo. Summer doesn't even need to coordinate with Aria. She feels the same thing, and puts out the same vibe. The challenger backs off immediately, and both girls roll their eyes and share a brief knowing grin with each other. Another one bites the dust. Part of her mind, the part that's intent on helping Jason through his romantic woes, starts projecting ahead, anticipating problems from similar rivals. The more rational part of her mind points out that Jason has been attending this school longer than she has, and hasn't needed her protection during all that time. Maybe his thickness is working to his advantage here. ---- She's still thinking about it during Consumer Science. There he is again - she waves again - he looks like someone shot him through the lungs. She spares a brief, worried glance at her own hand. Am I waving wrong? Is he able to see me? Doubt begins to snowball. Did I do something to upset him? Was the note a bad way to say goodbye? I thought if I left without talking to him, it'd be easier on him, he wouldn't have second thoughts about pursuing Alycia, it'd be a nice clean break, but now-- Was the coffee bad at Blintzkrieg? No, I followed the instructions, training was very specific, the machine does most of the work anyway-- Nono and Aria are here, at least. As is Alycia, which is surprising but important. This is going to be his first big opportunity-- Jason, wait, no, where are you going? Turn around. She's here. Leo comes in. Jason is called in. Jeez, something's really worrying that guy. "And so, in particular for you, Mr. Quill, we will be kicking the semester off this week by tackling our Family Health and Sexual Education unit." That.... might be a good or bad thing for him. ---- She sees Adam for the first time at "study hall" - the AEGIS meet-and-greet, very clever. She looks searchingly at him, looking for signs of distress. The Sol situation is still fresh in her mind, and like Aria, she worries how Adam is handling it. Leo is still shutting him out - the jerk - but neither of the girls have figured out how to make an approach that won't seem patronizing. Maybe Otto. He's got a way of talking to someone that cuts to the heart of the problem. Harry Gale is barely handling his dad's situation, too, from the look and sound of it. He's here, at school, so things aren't dire. But still.. Summer knows Leo has been meaning to talk to him about his living situation with Aria, so hopefully that will be an occasion for them to have a good, meaningful conversation. When Jason appears, she makes one more try - smile, wave. He's smiling back. Okay, that's good. It's not me. He's just ... apprehensive. She wants to stand right up and pull him into a corner and tell him the truth: "Jason, Alycia's right there. Say hi. Be yourself. You don't have to gush out with your feelings right away, just be a good, standup guy. Welcome her to the school. Make her feel welcomed in the team." She watches Leo do most of the personal welcoming - she surmises - and give Jason a thumbs-up. What the hell? Let Jason do that, you dork. Summer likes all these people, she really does. And being with them is great. But god damn, sometimes it's exhausting to keep up a friendship with all of them.
I continue to love the teen melodrama, esp. where well-meant, plausible, and wrong. I remember with annoying clarity the days when a wave and counter-wave were fraught with assigned meaning.  Part of me can't wait for Alycia to shift her paranoia into this domain. Maybe his thickness is working to his advantage here. Okay, that made me laugh out loud.
Sooner or later, Summer is probably going to notice that Jason's acting like a wounded puppy around her, and ask what's up. Figure out the when and where of that conversation as it fits into your larger plan. :)
There may be an opportunity at the "reception." Except that, as host, he'll be as cool and together as he is capable.