57.2 - For Just One Minute (Alycia's Tale)

"This is, please pardon the pun, getting out of hand." Lucius looks like the sort to not seek pardon for much of anything. Quick and efficient work with the grenade, sure, and I still feel that adrenaline rush of a perfect, effective combat maneuver -- but the way he takes charge of conversation, even the actions, of the team shows an arrogant presumption that I immediately bristle at. Jaycee comes in from the front of the shop, nonplussed. Lucius tells her to have the police come around the back, rather than disturb the customers. Yeah, I can hear sirens in the distance, through the gaping hole in the wall. Even as I watch, Summer detaches a small drone, which fills the hole with a solid light hologram.  Oh, of course. Make nice and tidy up. Though I'd really like to examine the drone more -- I know it's based on QuillTech, but Summer's clearly made some modifications to it -- Priorities, Alycia. Also, it feels vaguely wrong to want to examine parts of Summer that way, which is, of course, a ridiculous way to feel, so I put it out of my head. Adam smiles and introduces himself, with far more confidence and bonhomie than he should.  Lucius sits and invites everyone else to do the same. Instead, I lean against the (normal, pre-existing) wall, smirk, and wait for him to ask me to sit down again. He doesn't, but I still count it as a small victory. Lucius is letting us know that the Large Arm-of-Arms we fought, though seemingly of the same ilk (from those who were deeper int the fray) as the Giant Face in the Cemetery, actually isn't. He refers to it as "a copy ... and not a good copy. An unintelligent replication." I don't assume he's correct, but he seems to have more information on the matter than we do. so I let him go on.  He'd "detected" that there was something "amiss" in the city, "disturbances in the order of things"  (though "not related" to the Wounds), and had gone looking for it -- and found the Arm. Or the Arm had found him. After all, he'd been in its grip when it broke through the wall here.  Charlotte pipes up. "One of the things we know about the Wounds is the relationship between them and Magus Everard and Doctor Infinity." Lucius looks pained. "It's ... possible. We -- the Knights -- have faced and dealt with -- Doctor Infinity in the past." So have we, Mr. Grail Knight . I keep a smirk on my face even though my stomach does a small twitch at that last encounter with Infinity. "But this seems more the kind of thing that would raise their ire than be caused by them. It wasn't some sort of supernatural breach into this world -- it was this world metaphysically -- hiccuping and spitting weirdness that should not be here." He pauses, then adds, portentiously (of course), "Something is Out of Balance, and it caused That Thing to Manifest."  I can practically hear the capital letters. "It was Vyortovian," I say, tuning my voice to a casual note, "or Sepiaverse at least." He stares at me. I explain. "The skeleton inside had a rib count and configuration consistent with people from that dimension." "And how do you know that?" Because I studied the bodies of people in Sepiaverse. Because I observed the injuries to the Vyortovians here. Because my father mentioned it to me shortly before I betrayed him. I tap my forehead. "Hypergenius." Lucius scowls, but in a thoughtful manner. "That's an interesting wrinkle in what otherwise should be --" He pauses, then, "I'm concerned about this." "Oh, this you're concerned with. I was wondering." "It's the monstrous equivalent of a bad storm when two weather fronts intersect. Except it seems -- well-themed: fighting a creature that resembles something you fought recently, but at the core harkening to something you fought in the past. If it wasn't something looking for you, it does seem to be something --" He stops, changes the words he was going to use, concluding, "-- inspired by your activities." To be sure, that was disturbing thought. "What?" I say, speculating, "A metaphysical antibody to the Menagerie?" "Possibly. At least, broadly speaking." He raises an eyebrow. "Have you, to the best of your knowledge, been engaging in any activity that would fundamentally alter what we would think of as normal reality?" I roll my eyes. "When have we not?" Charlotte bites her lower lip. Harry looks troubled. Summer's eyes widen, and she opens her mouth, but Adam interrupts, "We did go to the future." "Generally ill-advised, but it wouldn't typically have effects behind it." I suddenly think of that encounter with Doctor Infinity -- and how they changed my memories, as Infinity went back into my childhood to track down Charlotte Palmer. Is that what's coming into play here? "I mean," Lucius says, "something that is consciously causing ongoing alterations to accepted reality." Summer and Adam both make small noises. Charlotte speaks up. "I truly respect you on this, Sir Knight, as you've seen many more weird things than all of us combined." Lucius nods, oh so graciously. She continues, "What sort of -- disconnection with reality might you be thinking of?" Lucius' brow furrows. "Have you altered reality to prevent or undo the death of a loved one? Altered the mindset of a group or small group, perhaps to make an object of affection love you in return?"  "We did break the HHL's mind control about the Vyortovia stuff," Summer says.  Lucius snorts, dismissively. "That was months ago, and you actually broke a spell there. And mind control is too subtle for what I'm thinking of. No, I'm talking about something changing the actual fabric of space-time." I start to snort, then my brain hops onto the other track, and I remember again what I seem to keep forgetting. Dammit -- "Changing things. Not just making a person forget, altering memories. But a cosmic, globally broad --" "The fight between Doctor Infinity and Magus Everard?" Charlotte suggests. "Again, such a result would have occurred years ago. It did have effects, yourself being the most charming and cogent example of them." He nods, and she smiles. Give me a break. "I'm speaking of random manifestation of that imbalance that I believe is only going to become worse." "So," I say, my voice soft. "Some profound change in what everyone perceives as reality." I look at Adam. "That might affect memory." I look at Summer. "And dramatically change probabilities ."  "Yes, affecting probabilities," says Lucius. "If a probability were to lie both in tune and out of tune with the alteration that had been made, that would certainly show up in some manner.  I turn back to Adam. Continuing to look at him, I say "Coin!" to Lucius, the same way he called out "Grenade!" to me, tossing a quarter to him. Lucius snags it in mid-air and looks at it. "Flip it." He does. It lands heads. "Flip it again, asking yourself if Adam is a member of the Concordance -- heads if yes, tails if no." He pauses, raising eyebrows alternately to me and then to Adam. Then he flips the coin. The coin lands on its edge, spinning ... ... spinning ever faster as the discussion continues. "Wait ... are you a member of the Concordance?" Lucius asks Adam. "Noooo?" Adam says, not looking quite so confident -- but more -- well teen-aged. Stubborn. Sullen. Pain lances through my head as Adam Is/Isn't a Concordance Member clashes like discordant church bells. I can see Harry, and even Summer, react likewise. Summer grabs her phone, wide-eyed, taps and taps and taps (I wonder again why she doesn't simply interface directly with the mobile net -- it wouldn't be that inhuman an activity, and certainly a lot easier for her), and swipes and taps, then stares at something. She holds up the phone screen at Adam. "What you've done -- it's not just a problem with the world. It is personal to me ." He stares at the screen, then back at her.  "When I wrote this -- when I sent it to my friend -- it said, 'Concord teleported the Phoenix into space.' She swings the screen over to me. "What does it say now?" "It says --" It's one of her Papillon Witch Radiance posts. I feel a twinge of guilt, but focus on the screen. "-- it says 'Adam the Phoenix into space.'" A frown. "That's not right. And I don't just mean the grammar, I mean -- I think I --" I don't just think. I know . I read those entries a dozen times. I memorized them. I know what they said ... ... and I know they said this, too.  What. The. Fuck. Have You Done , Adam? Summer turns back to him -- or not quite. She's looking somewhere midway between Adam and Lucius. Her expression is far more sympathetic, more pleading than I suspect my own is, and that makes me all the more angry. "This is not just a problem with the world," she says. "I came from a machine that fabricates and modifies memories. And at any time, there's the possibility that I might have been changed, or edited. There've been a couple of times when I've come really close -- and there's been once where it did happen, to my sister, and that's the reason I have a sister." I know the story. Rook kidnapped Pneuma. The team at the time activated a backup of Pneuma's memory to help find her. Pneuma was rescued -- and a pocket of her memory had been overlaid by a recorded message from Rossum. In the end, Pneuma had chosen not to restore herself from (merge with) her backup, and took on the name Aria. The activated backup had eventually attained a body, courtesy of Jason, and had become Summer. And the memory merge machine was how Jason and my memories, carved out and edited by our respective fathers through their own respective means, had been somewhat restored. And now my memories have been altered. Again.  I know why Summer takes this so personally. So do I. Very, very personally.  "And so," Summer is continuing, "I have anxiety, probably always will, that someone or something will try and rewrite me. I don't feel good about that feeling. In fact I'm really bothered by it --"  Bothered. Enraged! "-- and bothered by whomever or whatever would make edits to the world for their own amusement, or benefit, or pleasure ... and make me a toy of that."  She turns her gaze at Lucius directly, now. "And so, sir, whatever needs to be done to discover the truth of this, I'm supportive of that." I know what's happened. I know who's done this. I know , even if it makes my head want to split open. I'm not sure if the pain of that is distracting me from taking direct action, from jumping over the table and going at Adam, suicidal as that might be, or if the pain is making me want to do that to make it stop. Lucius is silent a long moment. "To be fair, as much as I can be within my oath to protect reality -- I don't believe this was intentionally an alteration of memory , just -- 'just' -- an alteration of reality , that brings memories along to match it." I want to scream, And that makes it so much better, does it?   But I stay silent. I restrain myself, because it's Summer here putting herself on the line, making herself vulnerable. I won't lessen that by stomping all over it with my anger, even if I want to, even if hearing how it has hurt Summer makes me all the more angry. Then I look at his face. Adam's face. It's gone from that defensive teenager look to Whoa, I fucked up. Stricken I remember that Adam has always been kind, uncertain, friendly, wanting to help -- many things, but not callous or unfeeling.  How could he have done this? "You are," Lucius continues to Summer, "for all intents and purposes, my dear, in a slightly different world than you were." He looks over at Adam. "That doesn't make any of this good -- which I believe our young Adam can see now." Adam's face flushes. "Hey, you don't get to throw around blame here! We didn't come here to be told we're causing problems, we came to solve -- um -- solve ... the problems." The words are a vague attempt to snark, but they're weak, half-hearted, and he looks guilty even as he says it. His gaze swings around to each of us. Lucius is giving him the fish-eye. I glare. Summer's face is one of sad disappointment. Harry just shakes his his head slightly. "Adam," Summer says, more softly, "if you feel that way, that we're blaming you for all this, that I've been picking on you -- that's not my intent. When Aria was going through a lot of her problems, you really went to bat for her and helped her. If asking the question are you a member of the Concordance --" I wince. "-- causes this anomaly, it might not be your fault -- you can be at the center of the storm without causing the storm. So don't let us put some guilt on you that you know you don't deserve. Don't let us talk about an issue affecting you like it's your fault." "But if it is your fault," I finally add, thinking that if he's as guilty as his expression implies, I might be able to get him to do something about it, "I'm really, really pissed." Summer flicks me an annoyed  you're not helping  look. Oh, I'm helping all right -- by not doing what my anger wants me to actually do. Charlotte is watching this all intently -- her memory, oh, excuse me, her reality , is still bought into the whole Adam thing. But she's not blind to what's going on or being said. If anything, though, she almost looks ... relieved. As if happy she's finally not the one responsible for weird stuff that's going on.  Should I be relieved that I'm not in the hot seat? Perhaps, in the abstract. In reality ... Cue Lucius nattering on about choices and guilt and responsibility and thinking-before-acting, and basically being the one here actually not helping, rather than me. But Adam keeps looking at Summer, and she keeps looking back at him with those really big, serious-but-compassionate eyes (and maybe I'm a little relieved, instead, that for once I'm not on the other end of that gaze). Adam's nostrils flare, a deep, sharp breath. A decision. I tense slightly. Given what he's done, he could possibly kill us all. Or rewrite reality again, make this meeting never happen, make us not part of the team, make us dead, actually change memories. It would be out of character -- but do we really know what his character is now? Has he been backed too far into a corner? He looks around, peering back at the closed door, the solid light wall Summer built to the outside, being sure we're in private. I want to glance at the others, but don't dare take my eyes off Adam. But he, in turn, simply looks at each of us -- his eyes are a brief glance on mine, though I admit he's brave to do so -- and finishes looking back to Summer. "I screwed everything up, really bad," he says in a low voice. "I didn't mean for it go this far, I didn't mean to hurt anybody --" He pauses, then finishes, "I  wanted everything to work for just one minute."  "Adam, do you want to tell us what happened?" Summer asks him. Adam slowly begins to tell us about the worst day of his life. Of being in front of his house, confronting the three Concordance agents the Menagerie fought previously, hovering above him in the air, there to judge him for being unworthy of their little band of space tyrants, to answer for his supposed sins against their order.  And that's when his parents, unwitting, step out to the front of the house -- his father and mother, who were just telling him how he had to keep his Concordance shit separate from his home life, that they loved him but ... and their seeing the Concordance Trio, and him, and looking at him with that accusing look on their faces ... ... just as his little sister's school bus rounds the corner toward the stop down the street ...  ... and all he can see are all the separate parts of his life, all the things he desperately needs to keep separate -- the super-heroics, the danger, his family -- all about to collide in a way that can only end horribly. And as he's telling us, we're seeing it -- we're feeling it. The growing sense of fear -- panic -- anger -- frustration -- desperation -- At that moment, the power of the Keynome opens up to him, his mind's eye opened to godhood ... and somehow controlling the world, changing it, is suddenly so easy, so simple, any worries about ramifications so meaningless .... And so, he fixes the problem.   And we're in the back room of Has Beans,  sitting around the table. And for long moments, it's not clear whether we're here or there, and whether the emotions we're feeling are our own or Adam's. My anger is drained away -- most of it, at least. With what Adam faced, would any of us done anything different? With that much power, and the prospect of resolving such a dilemma, would any of us have considered the cost? But the cost is real . And no matter how much I might empathize, it's too high a cost. For me, at least, it's too high. "Adam," I say, and my voice is low, strained. I can't construct a cogent argument here. I have to just speak my mind. But I try not to make it about accusing him, telling him he's wrong, that he needs to change. I'm not even sure I could at the moment. It's his actions I cannot abide. "I understand why you wanted to protect your family, but you need ... to put things ... back." He stares back at me. "Why?" The coals of my anger burn sullenly. "I will not have someone changing my reality -- or my mind." His eyes stay locked with mine for a long moment, then he drops his gaze with a shudder, his face in a deep, unhappy frown.. I suspect that whatever influence I might have had over him is gone, but be that as it may, my words were sincere, and non-negotiable. What he did was against the order of things, against my internal order. I can't let him be this dangerous. And he has to know the consequences.  Summer gets up from her chair, and slowly walks over to Adam, crouching down beside his seat, leaning in to talk with him. Her voice is low, but it's not that large of a table; the words are for him, even if we can hear them. "If I had a machine or magic spell that let me be flesh and blood, and not have to worry about people finding out I'm a robot, and not have to be different every day -- I don't know what I would do." She pauses, looking at him. "But the Adam I know, the Adam that probably saved my sister's life, by letting her know she was a person -- that Adam would do the right thing. So whatever you're going to do next, I think it's going to be the right thing. And I believe in you ." I stare at her, amazed I can be so moved by words she says to someone else. And for a moment my own anger and concerns over this seem nearly petty in comparison. Adam looks at her as well for a long moment, then he closes his eyes briefly. His jaw clenches, and he turns to me with a gaze nearly as fierce as what had I'd been directing toward him. "FINE." As Adam gathers power for reversing things, Lucius gives us parting benedictions, the pompous ass he is. Charlotte is talking about how obsessions over a problem can easily take someone too far -- like her own self in the AltFuture!Sepiaverse. Lucius chimes in, "Or, if I may say something, my dear, just in these last few weeks, what you've done has been remarkable. But remarkable is not always ... good. It can be safely said to all of you that fixing a thing does not necessarily address the root problem. You have something you need to do, and I believe it is the right thing. But for each of you, and it's something we can all be periodically reminded of --" Gracious of him to include himself in his own advice. "-- we need to remember what the larger issue is that needs to be addressed. Charlotte, you have your Wounds, but what is the larger issue? I'm not saying I have an answer --" I'm sure he thinks he does, but that it would be too "easy" to simply give it to us. "-- but I do have the wisdom of great and wobbling age to be smart enough to ask the question." He turns to Adam, who's there at the table, a faint glow gathering around him. "With that last thing, to make your ability to -- I don't want to interrupt you, and if there's any way, Adam, I can be of help -- I might have some insight. I don't think right now's the time to talk, and I don't think you do, either." Lucius then looks to me. I'm still leaning against the wall, eschewing the chair a foot away. "Miss Chin. Leading from the front is necessary, exhorting the troops is required -- but don't forget the time about the campfires as well." Riiiight. Hang out with the gang. Be their friends and buddies. Schmooze. Maybe s'mores in Jason's conversation pit. Part of me wants to do that, to be sure. To have that easy, conversational comfort with other people, especially my comrades in arms.  But hearing it as advice, from him -- isn't helpful. It just calls to mind my own weaknesses, and reminds me of one of Father's lectures, if with less threat of pain. "Miss Newman, you are a charming, and, I believe, much-needed addition to this group. I count myself lucky to have met you. Please remember, as you care for everyone else, make sure there is someone else seeing to your needs." All right, fair enough advice to Summer. She does give an awful lot, to some very needy people, and I'm not sure she always gets back what she needs. Some of the things she'd spoken of to Adam -- We need to talk, I think. "Finally, Miss Charlotte: thank you for coming, and for trusting me enough to ask for my assistance. If I may, this small token --" He gets heavily up from the table, steps to a shelf, and pulls down a wooden box. The contents rattle, and when he sets it down on the table and opens it up, it's full of what looks like costume jewelry. He pulls out a military medal, hands it over to her. "A symbol of authority, both as a way to assert your will for those who need to recognize the role you play, and as a reminder to those who have entrusted you with the ability to command." Charlotte looks at him. She doesn't look particularly happy, but she is, as always, gracious. "I don't know what to say." A smile, at least on her lips. "Thank you." Charlotte doesn't want to be an authority. She saw what "she" did over in that future universe. I saw it, too and I don't particularly trust her to be an authority, either. Huh. Adam can't be trusted with power; he's demonstrated that, even with the best of intent. Charlotte destroyed herself and kind of devastated a world, all with the best of intent. I know I carry the heritage of power that can be horribly abused, with the best of intent. Harry -- well, his parents showed their weakness with the HHL mind control thing, to best of intent. Hmm. If we're picking a leader for the Menagerie ... whom does that leave? #Cutscene #Recap
This ep was so dialog-filled, my notes were basically 80% of the nouns, 50% of the verbs (plus die roll stats). I ended up re-listening to much of the audio recording , and have tried to largely quote it accurately in this recap.
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"We did break the HHL's mind control about the Vyortovia stuff," Summer says.  She didn't say this - without listening to the audio again, I want to say it was Mike who brought it up. Oh, of course. Make nice and tidy up. Though I'd really like to examine the drone more -- I know it's based on QuillTech, but Summer's clearly made some modifications to it -- Priorities, Alycia. Also, it feels vaguely wrong to want to examine parts of Summer that way, which is, of course, a ridiculous way to feel, so I put it out of my head. "Alycia, I'll make you a deal. You can examine my tech the way you keep sneakily trying to. But in return, I'll tell Jason that you still like boys, but that you're going through a curious experimental phase with me." "........." "You're picturing his face aren't you." "...... Yes. Yes I am. Oh god." For what it's worth, the remotes she built are her own design, with input from Leo. They use the same science, but not the same technology.
Ah, you're correct, it was Mike/Adam (https://youtu.be/IFmK2amK2vQ?t=1991). As the other person on the line I was most likely to mistake for your voice. :-) HA!