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38.1 - A Visit to the ER

With the door closed, the hospital room is remarkably quiet, despite the agitated hubbub in the hallways. Which is not surprising; Alycia has a lot of agitated hubbub in her head, too -- combat against alien warriors does that to one. (The self-critique sheet is filling up rapidly, too. She sets that process off to the side until later.) She'd waved off the offer of painkiller from the AEGIS agents who bundled her down here (and now hang outside). No idea how she warrants a private room, but she won't object. But that said, and especially stripped of weapons, being in private with a single door entering is relaxing in and of itself. Hopefully a doctor will be actually looking at her soon. Hellfire, her ribs hurt. She hopes it's just a fracture, not an actual significant break. She also hopes these facilities (or wherever she ends up going) have access to hypertech healing techniques. Being laid up for weeks-to-months with this kind of injury would be -- irksome. She's not defenseless, of course. Depending on the intruder, she could push aside the pain and, risking more serious injury, tackle anyone likely to come through that door. Or, perhaps more comfortably, wait for them to come within reach ... Or could she? Alycia feels more than a twinge of apprehension. She misjudged badly (the self-critique is off onto page three) her ability to handle the armored creature, though her gambit paid off. But I could have been killed. This realization causes a shudder, that sets the ribs to hurting even more. And the bruises from the giant, the floor, the wall -- She's still pissed off at them. And ... afraid. Get over it, girl. They'll be back. Leo invited them. And you need to be ready. Alycia regrets being whisked away so quickly from the rest -- it makes sense, no question, before people start asking questions. She's not masked, not in uniform, and even if it's unlikely any given civilian is going to know who she actually is, being associated in her current personal / appearance with what happened would not help anyone's cause. It was good to have a word with Adam first, though. She's a bit surprised by the vehemence of her reaction toward how the Concordance Agents treated him. But that's not too hard to figure out. And Charlotte was thinking clearly, offering to take the gloves -- both to avoid any questions about them from the ER doc who really should be checking in on her soon, and to keep them out of AEGIS hands for the nonce. (An excuse to build more, and some resources out of Parker's reach -- win-win.) But it was too brief, and she imagines the others going off and having some post-battle pizza, or shwarma, or something, and -- -- what, missing out? Alycia shakes her head on the pillow, even though there's nobody to see. Am I that pathetically desirous of companionship? Which is a fine cue for the door to open. #RP
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Doyce T.
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The approaching footsteps are an unwavering metronome in the hallway, and the AEGIS agent on Chin's door finds her heartbeat picking up to match time, even though she knows he's not in any trouble. Still. The older woman appears around the corner like a freight train rounding a bend; the feeling is the same as standing on the tracks. The guard doesn't have to look away - she was watching Parker's approach out of the corner of her eye, behind sunglasses - but it's everything she can do not to tense. Special Agent Parker stops in front of door, but doesn't immediately turn to face it. Her eyes narrow, as if she's peering at something down the hall. Her hand makes a fist. Relaxes. Clenches again. She turns, glaring at the door as if it had just committed an unforgivable social gaffe. "Dismissed," she murmurs. The guard doesn't salute (because they're AEGIS and AEGIS doesn't salute), but it's a near thing. With the witness gone, Parker steps forward, takes the handle, lets out a breath that shakes - just a bit, but still - turns the handle, lifts her chin, and strides in. "What's this nonsense about letting yourself get outmaneuvered in hand to hand?"
My reflexes are, at least, good enough for that entrance. Especially since it was trending in probability over time (a interesting calculus transformation, with at least five indeterminate --) Okay, yes, I'm surprised. But I recover quickly. No. I don't. I do chronologically, not missing a beat. But emotionally I'm hearing Father in her tone of voice, and it's -- Shit. Snark. Snark is good. Show her who's boss. "Why thanks, M-- Aunt Parker. I'm doing well, thanks for asking. Some rib injuries, possibly some burns, bruises and contusions of course, and I believe they are going to check for radiation, too, but my appetite is good and the blurring of my vision has settled down nicely."  My smile vanishes as I quickly raise a finger.  (That level of blood pressure is unhealthy for anyone and -- wow, do I really care about Parker's health? Is this some sort of Stockholm Syndrome?) "Yes, I was inadequate, given the resources, to take on glowy alien knight super-monster. But -- knowing that even before I engaged with him, because I am trained to be ruthless in combat evaluation, I realized that the best and most productive action on my part was to clinch, do what damage I could, and, most importantly, create an opportunity for my team members to strike effectively. Which, in act did happen." It's weak. I know it's weak. It's true, but that only demonstrates my own weakness. "The injury so inflicted, had the merged figure continued combat, would have given Concord and Ghost Girl an advantage in taking them on," I tell her. I hate that tone of voice. It sounds like I'm reporting in to Father. I hate it. Shit. This is all going to end, right here, isn't it?
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Doyce T.
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Alycia's first response seems expected; Parker looks content to frown in a vaguely disapproving manner and let her get it out of her system. Somewhere around "inadequate," things change. Her eyes narrow. Not anger. Confusion? No. The conversation took an unexpected turn and she's suspicious of the new route. Her eyes are flicking, taking in everything. Her mouth tightening almost continuously; almost imperceptibly. Alycia winds down. Silence flows back into room. The first sound from Parker is a deep, sharp inhalation through the nose - not a gasp, but that last shot of oxygen before starting a slalom down the mountain - before the big push. "All right." She glances down, as if checking her footing, and moves near the empty rolling equipment tray at the foot of the bed. "Do you think your team appreciated your efforts?" She shakes her head, already correcting herself. "Do you think they appreciated the tactics ? Did they understand what you did for them? Are they clever enough to understand your contributions?"
So I'm surprised again. I'm getting a bit tired of that.  No, really, this should have been the moment when Parker twisted the arm, poked at the wound, or had quit of me -- to drag me back to the white cell for the duration or, at the very least kick me to the curb. All of which was in her power, and not unjustified.  Because while I did what seemed right at each moment, while I actually did all I could, the encounter was something of a splash of cold water. Not getting hurt -- I've been through more injurious work-outs -- but because I was up against an opponent I couldn't beat -- more powerful, and with that weird anticipating of my moves "cheat" that I couldn't quite figure out. By the time I really appreciated all that, though, the next best thing -- the only thing -- was to simply try and hurt them.  I'm used to being the most competent person in the room (except for Father, who never failed to remind me). In this case, I wasn't, not by a long shot. Answer the questions. Report frankly. Take your punishment. I let my head lie back, let my eyes trace out patterns in the acoustic tile over my head. "I expect to be called on the carpet by Link for endangering civilians with the O2 bottle. With some justification, but that part did what it was supposed to, or would have if Concord had --" I shake my head. "As to the rest ..." I let out a long breath, raise up again and meet Parker's gaze. "... I -- believe so. I didn't get a chance to debrief with them, obviously but -- Mercury and Link were out of Line-of-Sight most of the time, and I didn't have the opportunity to speak with them. Ghost Girl and Concord, though, both backed my play, and provided a needed assist. And they could see the injury on the adversary, even if the aliens immediately tried to call a time out on the battle." To let the team take care of its wounded -- me -- dammit. A light snort. "To the more generalized question, they did seem to appreciate the effort. Concord opened up a bit --" I almost make an observation about him, a warning, but am suddenly reluctant to have Parker target him any more than he already has been. "And Ghost Girl --" I pause. A bit more honesty can't hurt, and will make up for the other omission in my moral calculus. "She offered to hold onto my gloves while I was --" I gesture about the room. "-- indisposed. So I guess she appreciated my efforts, too." I start to shrug, realize that would be a remarkably painful mistake.  "The team seemed to trust me going in, and at the end. Nobody told me to shut up when we were arguing with the Agents before they left. My Teen Hero Membership Card hasn't burst into flames. So far as I know, I'm still on the team. More than that, you'll have to play the surveillance audio of wherever they all go to celebrate -- the local pizza parlor, perhaps, or maybe Jason's living room."
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Doyce T.
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"Mmm." The noise, in response to your last comment, isn't much of a commitment either way. "We might be doing something about that, soon, actually." She takes another breath before continuing, this one on thoughtful and just enough to signal not to interrupt with some exclamation about her tease of getting out of AEGIS custody. "You said Concord opened up to you. I'd like to hear more about that." And there it is. The pricetag on the new apartment.
I don't know if I was -- all right, yes, I was definitely rat-trapped there. Or maybe I jut sort of led her to that question.  The multi-faceted question: How deep will Parker expect me to go. How deep can I go without betraying a confidence? What confidence is actually in here? To what degree is Parker concerned about Adam as a person, and to what extend to Adam as a threat / menace / weapon? It would help if I had full confidence in Adam myself. But that gets back to that question of trust -- emotional (of course I trust Adam, he's a seemingly pleasant, polite, nice, and deeply earnest) and rational (of course I don't trust Adam, he's already inadvertently caused substantial property damage and potential loss of life).  Which raises the question of whether I should actually be supporting any effort Parker takes to keep Adam under control. I mean, we're talking about power that could be absolutely devastating. On the other hand, could Parker restrain him? If he wanted out -- if she scared  him ...  (Images of a new asteroid belt between Venus and Mars flit through my mind.) Plus ...  He's my team mate. And he's a kid who's been run through enough bad stuff. Turning him over to the tender mercies of those who want to control him -- -- or use him -- -- is not what I want to see here. I'm obliged to Parker. Rather, we have a relationship where I have a certain affirmative duty. But I have duty to Adam as well. * * * "Well,  we didn't have much time for chit-chat before I got wheeled off. He thanked me for helping out. He apologized for what had happened. And he said he 'doesn't even know what's going on right now.'" Those were the words, mostly, but there was also tone. And some ... other things, that gave me more than what was said. Those were the elements I was less comfortable about sharing. "So, yes, engagement with me as a colleague. Concern over what happened, these agents coming in and mucking things up. I believe his ignorance or confusion over the actions of these Concordance agents is genuine. There are definitely some odd things going on that I'm trying to keep an eye on. The agents indicated that they were here to replace Concord, which is sort of kissing cousins to an alien invasion, from my perspective. I'd much rather see a human, even one still learning the ropes, maintaining whatever authority the Concordance claims in governance and law enforcement here on Earth, than a trio of, frankly, not all that competent non-humans." I need to give just a little more. That's my read on her body language. "I am concerned about Concord, insofar as these individuals are putting pressure on him. As far as priorities within the Menagerie, monitoring that situation is mine."
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Doyce T.
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Parker's expression is flat, and gives little if anything away. The silence drags on. Finally, she gives the smallest smirk and lifts her eyebrows. "AEGIS being one of the individuals applying pressure, potentially?"  She raises her hand to forestall denials. "I agree with your priority assessment, as far as it goes, and I'll only ask that you be honest with yourself about the risk Adam Amari presents, and act accordingly. I trust these new agents will be top of mind as well." "To that end," she says, "I've come to several conclusions." She half-sits on the edge of the bed, near the foot. "First is that you turned yourself in, and wouldn't be in custody if you hadn't put yourself there, so the current high-threat incarceration protocol has more than a hint of the barn door..." "Second," she exhales, "you're not much bloody good keeping an eye on the Menagerie for us if you're not around the Menagerie. You're not a weapon to be wheeled out whenever there's a fight, then stored away in a locker betweentimes, you're meant to be their team mate; a peer; a friend." Her brows quirk. "And I'm not seeing to much of my responsibility to you, keeping you in a box, so..." She folds her hands on her lap.  "Let's talk about reasonable living arrangements."
I bite down on a dozen snarky comments  because they aren't needed for her, and I realize they're not needed by  me  for the moment. They're weapons, and she's already opening negotiations. I've won the battle, unless I toss the victory away. Plus, whether or not a facade, she seems ... sincere? Regretful? Acknowledging, at any rate, that it's both fitting and productive for me to be given a longer leash, and that perhaps she ought to have done so sooner. I do not want to fuck this up this up again with an ill-timd barb.  I leave aside the comments about Adam. Yes, AEGIS is potentially a pressure on him. Yes, I think that would go poorly. Yes, I will monitor his threat level (and, should need arise, figure out some way to act on it, commensurate with the stakes). And, yes, in association with that, the concept of, not me but Concord as an AEGIS weapon to be locked up then wheeled out when needed is precisely one the scenarios that mustn't happen; his inferred confidence to me that his powers are linked to his emotions, and can be manipulated or shut down through them, will remain my secret for now. And it's only on thinking about it that I'm amazed he shared that with me of all people. And I realize Parker is telling the truth here, or part of one; that were I in that scenario, it would smack too much, be too easy to turn into, what she denied once before: "We did not bring you in to be an assassin."  And I'm all the more glad of it. As to what I'm "meant" to be -- well, that's still an unfolding dish in my mind. Let's let that simmer. "To be honest," I say, holding open my hands with just a slight wince, "I don't have a good sense of what details are needed here. Going to school --" An irksome necessity for what plans I do have. "-- being ready to leap into action at a moment's notice --" I let a bit of sarcastic monologuing into that one. "-- access to a shop and supplies to work on my kit. Presumably some sort of ostensible gainful employment, so I'm not completely a kept woman. Transportation that won't have me stuck across town taking the bus to the scene of the crime. All of those things imply living arrangements, but -- frankly --" Emphasis on that word, as I going to open the door a crack here.  "-- not a way of living I'm at all experienced in." I snort. "Stick me in a jungle, or a prison, or in a bloody volcano lair, or even deep cover with focused parameters -- follow that  person, infiltrate  that  facility --" Build that  transdimensional barrier penetration device out of discarded microwave ovens. "-- and I know what I need. Being a 'super-hero' -- it's a bit of a new thing for me. And I'm afraid what I know of my team mates' situations largely doesn't apply. I'd -- appreciate your advice." What are you offering, and what are we negotiating?
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Doyce T.
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[ I think this is the point where we either need to get on Google Chat or just work it out oh see and hear about what the actual arrangement for Alicia should ideally be going forward.] 
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ALYCIA (through gritted teeth, squeezing a stress ball in one hand) Welcome to Blintzkrieg. Can we interest you in a complimentary mocha?
[Makes sense. I sort of left it hanging a bit, so maybe some time tomorrow? Thanks for moving this forward. I've got a third piece here -- Alycia's thoughts during the episode, which I'm still struggling through ... and then, of course, after  this (and after the Leo thread), Alycia presumably has her earlier-posted conversation with Summer.]
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Doyce T.
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Bill G. said: ALYCIA (through gritted teeth, squeezing a stress ball in one hand) Welcome to Blintzkrieg. Can we interest you in a complimentary mocha? [YAAAAASSSSSSS] 
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Bill G. said: ALYCIA (through gritted teeth, squeezing a stress ball in one hand) Welcome to Blintzkrieg. Can we interest you in a complimentary mocha? Oh, yes, that thought had occurred to me.  Alycia slumped back in her chair. That conversation with Summer had taken more out of her than she realized -- emotionally intense, fraught with future complications, and in its own way terrifying. At least it was brief and, if the gods smiled, she'd never have to even get a whiff of one of those dreaded CinnelatteĀ®s again. A priority email pinged on her phone -- from Parker. Perhaps some action -- Alycia, both as a rehabilitative activity and to earn some spending money, we agreed that you would take a job. I've managed to secure an opening for you at a place that will actually facilitate your connecting with your team mates, a coffee shop called 'Blintzkrieg.' I believe you've been there before. You start tomorrow afternoon, following class. I expect that this -- It was about that point the glass front of the phone fractured from the lateral stress of Alycia's grip. ----------------- Halcyon's latest super-hero ... "How Do You Spell That?"  Lass. :-)
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I actually have a serious suggestion, click  here if anyone wants to see it. Less Aggravated Alycia comedy, far more practical for her needs. But yeah, I'm looking forward to where this goes, and I liked reading this.
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Doyce T.
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*** Dave H. said: Bill G. said: ALYCIA (through gritted teeth, squeezing a stress ball in one hand) Welcome to Blintzkrieg. Can we interest you in a complimentary mocha? Oh, yes, that thought had occurred to me.  Alycia slumped back in her chair. That conversation with Summer had taken more out of her than she realized -- emotionally intense, fraught with future complications, and in its own way terrifying. At least it was brief and, if the gods smiled, she'd never have to even get a whiff of one of those dreaded CinnelatteĀ®s again. A priority email pinged on her phone -- from Parker. Perhaps some action -- Alycia, both as a rehabilitative activity and to earn some spending money, we agreed that you would take a job. I've managed to secure an opening for you at a place that will actually facilitate your connecting with your team mates, a coffee shop called 'Blintzkrieg.' I believe you've been there before. You start tomorrow afternoon, following class. I expect that this -- It was about that point the glass front of the phone fractured from the lateral stress of Alycia's grip. ----------------- Halcyon's latest super-hero ... "How Do You Spell That?"  Lass. :-)
Bill G. said: I actually have a serious suggestion, click  here if anyone wants to see it. Less Aggravated Alycia comedy, far more practical for her needs. But yeah, I'm looking forward to where this goes, and I liked reading this. That actually has a lot to recommend it. On the other hand, it's less humiliating and less stressful, so clearly it's out of the picture. :-) (AEGIS could address the required bonding, the van could actually serve as a mobile shop for her  purposes, and, if worse comes to worse, Alycia could patch any cracks in Otto's windshield.)
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Also, Doyce, a thought on the above: does it apply to my relationship with Parker in the "Friends in Low Places" Reformed package (both the living arrangements / job "come to them for help with your problems" aspect, vs. the narc on Concord "help with their problems")?  I'm okay with treating this as its own thing, separate, but since I have that whole mechanic gathering dust in my playbook, I wanted to at least bring it to mind.