New Guard

Doc Otaku's Genesis Timeline

Genesis Project

2015 July 13
Rei has acquired the remnants of a prototype android. It’s a blending of flesh and robotics that even manages to put some of the work of me, the great DOC OTAKU, to shame. She was cagey on how she got it, which tells me that someone is trying to use me as a cat’s paw. It doesn’t matter. I will take their gifts, and improve upon it. Like a neanderthal offering a gift of fire to homo sapien, they have sealed their doom.

2015 December 3
I managed to capture Cerebrus Rex after his battle with the Freedom League. He was too weak to properly put up a fight, and was easy prey for my minions. Some of his technology is fascinating, especially worlds within worlds.

2016 March 15
Going deeper into the technology, an idea has come to mind. I’ve used my pawns to acquire the creative company of Puzzle Attack Swarm. Adults say that games rot the mind. The fools don’t know how right I’ll make them!

2016 June 6
I’ve built an Otakubot. The parts requires are prohibitively expensive. I’ll only be able to build one more without seriously affecting my cash flow. However, this thing is human to any but the deepest scan, and believes its programming as though they were its own thoughts. Ready player one.

2016 November 30
My assault on Claremont failed to acquire the virtual reality technology I need. The students are more dangerous than I expected. CURSE YOU, NEXT GEN. However, due to how the events unfolded, I have managed to get a mole on the inside. Now, I need to think on my next few steps. This is a game of chess, and one side doesn’t even know they’re playing it.

2017 January 5
Jewel and the Holograms managed to drive off my assault. I managed to get a partial download though. I’m tired of salvaging pyrrhic victories from the jaws of defeat.

2017 July 17
Puzzle Attack Swarm :Love has launched in Freedom City as a beta test. Those fools don’t know what they’re really beta testing for me. BWA HA HA HA HAAAAA

2017 October 16
The Krewe failed to acquire Jennifer Hal’s technology. She’s not even a super. Blundering FOOLS! That being said, :Love is going well, and I’ve managed to get some field testing of the iLove. They’re providing me quite a few pieces that I’ve been missing. Soon, I’ll be able to create an army!

2017 November 3
Managed to acquire the VR technology I needed from Claremont, and, test some of their power levels so I don’t lose to them again. Elysian has gotten wise to :Love’s threat and has banned it. It doesn’t matter though, the addictive qualities are already too deeply buried. Even better, I rescued a time travelling AI and have “befriended it.” Apparently, it’s looking for its partner, so that they can merge and become what they were meant to be. I’ve installed some mods to prevent that.

2017 November 12
I managed to get a few more fragments of Jewel’s technology. It isn’t quite what I needed, however, I’ll have to make due. With everything else, Otakuland is a go. Further, I acquired some of Jennifer Hal’s technology. This should allow me to lower the cost on building more Otakubots. My will will infiltrate all.

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Chains of Justice Vol. 3 - The Endless Drumbeat of BETRAYAL

“Yo, New Journal. I’m about to drop some dark-ass crap on you, so I hope you’ve got your no-run eyeliner on.

Alright, so first of all I guess Doc Otaku hasn’t reformed EVEN A LITTLE BIT and that’s basically the biggest WTF of my life in the last three years, but I guess that’s what you get for trusting people, huh? People just freakin’ drop that crap on you all the time. You think you’ve got a good, happy thing going, and they just betray you, walk out on you, and that’s it. They’re gone, and everything they meant is gone, and you’ve just got NOTHING. That’s what you get for trusting people."

Several lines start and stop suddenly, covered in a thick forest of violent scratch-out marks. The entry continues on the next page.

“Plus, ugh, when we were “fighting” the BeatMaster twins in the mall the other week, some serious crap went down and I was almost out for the count, getting hit by this groady brown note techno beat thing and puking all over everywhere. It was awful. Know what’s even worse, though? DEVON SHOWS UP AND TRIES TO HELP OUT. That guy has like, literally no sense of boundaries! I’m just at the mall, hanging out with friends and trying to stop supervillains, and this guy’s just still peddling his wanna-be-your-dad crap. GTFO MY LIFE, DEVON YOU IMPOSSIBLE CRETIN.

Plus, now, like those Beatmaster wangs are good guys or something? Man, I can’t even keep this crap straight. I just know they’re both superwangs, whether or not they’re villains. Especially cuz they won’t stop treating people I care about like crap. And YEAH, I hear you New Journal. I keep caring about people even WITH stuff like what I said above. I’m an idiot like that, I guess.

And oh man, I haven’t even GOT to how freaking stupid this whole :Love thing is getting now, or how Shadow keeps having these scary freakin dark flashes, or how one of the new kids keeps riding my a—

Oh hell, he’s here now. Ugh, I’ll continue later, New Journal."

Chains of Justice Vol. 3 continues in. . . “Getting Cleric-Fications

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Hey Jealousy

Bang

MC jumped as the door slammed open, looking up from her history notes.

“Hey… “The words died in her throat, as Zoe entered the room, dark clouds gathering over her head. She had such good control over her illusions, so this meant something was very wrong.

“Who is Night Terror?” Zoe asked accusingly.

“Umm…she’s a student at Elysian.”

“No, I mean, who is she to you?”

“I don’t know, I just met her. She was at the food court, during the whole thing with Rant and Rave.”

“Then why is everyone talking about how you were flirting with her?!” The sound thunder and lightning striking echoed around the room.

Flirt? I don’t flirt.

Yes, you do. She heard three voices in unison.

Not helping.

“No, I wasn’t!” She was finding it hard not to get defensive. “She just has this cool power where she could bring us into people’s dreams, and her illusion was really good, and…”

“So what, you have a thing for people who can do illusions? Or is because she’s a bad girl?”

“Woah, Zoe, hang on…”

“I’ve accepted whatever is going on between you and Rave, but this….”

“Rave’s a friend…well sort of.” She stopped, finally realizing what was going on. “Wait, are you jealous?”

“What? No!” The clouds disappeared, and Zoe’s expression became sad. “It’s just, things have been weird between us lately. It makes me think that…Am I not exciting to you anymore? Because, if it’s something wrong with me, I wish you would just tell me.”

MC stood up and grabbed her hands. “There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s me. I know that sounds lame. I just don’t know how to act around you right now, because I screwed up so bad at Halloween. I mean, who wants to confess their feelings in public right? Except it was even worse, because I wasn’t even supposed to see that. I just, was so happy, because I didn’t know if you felt the same way. But now everything is awkward, and I’m afraid that if I mess up one more time I’m going to lose you. And I can’t, because I love you so much. I’m so sorry.”

“Say that again.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No, the other part.”

“I love you.”

Zoe cracked a small smile, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “Okay. I’m still mad, so I’m going to go. But you will make this up to me.”

MC stared at the door after she had gone, her hands shaking.

“Holy crap, I actually told her.”

“Do you feel better?” Sophia asked, appearing behind her.

“I feel amazing! I told her and she didn’t run away. Well, she left right now…I have to come up with something epic to do for her. Oh! It’s perfect!”

She reached for her notebook, and started writing furiously, on a page that had several lines already crossed out.

Heroes

Heroes don’t have to wear capes
What counts is when they make mistakes
They rise, shake off the bruises and scrapes
Try again, and do it better.

You make me want to be a hero too.

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getting cleric-fications
Where there's a will, there's a Fae.

A hollow knock echoes across the dormitory hall, announcing Deaglan’s arrival to room B14. The telltale BAMF! that accompanied Noah’s sudden appearance at the door brought a wide grin to Deaglan’s face.

“Friend! I was hoping to pester you two! I had questions about my Demons and Delvers character. I, uh, was curious about the templates. Can we use those?”

Noah squinted, levering down the door handle and letting Deaglan in. “Not for this game. You already made your characters! Besides, those add level qualifiers, and that can get a little crazy for a new player. Besides, the party needs their cleric!”

Deaglan not-so-subtly glanced around the room as he stepped in, his eyes settling on Bobby, who was lounging on his bed. “Not even, like, the fiendish template?” He waggled his fingers mysteriously at Noah, before breaking out into theatrical explanation. “A goodly cleric whose humanity is in conflict with a curse most dire!” Deaglan’s fist was clenched before him, striking a dramatic pose.

Noah rolled his eyes. “Okay, Shakespeare, I get it. Maybe it will come up. Maaaaybe.”

Bobby looked up from his mound of inky black comforter, in which he was presently ensconced, scribbling something intently into his journal. “Deaglan, man, you’d kinda be stepping on my character’s toes once he gets the Grimknight Hellvalier Prestige Job at 9th level. Struggling with inner demons is sort of his whole thing, man.”

“You know what, this sounds completely like every other conversation anyone has had with Bobby in the history of ever, so I’m gonna sneak down to the cafeteria to see if Nina managed to forget any ice creams the last time she went rooting around down there. See ya, chums!” BAMF! And with that, Noah was gone and the room descended into a silence even colder than Mint-O-Chunk Coldfever flavored ice cream.

Deaglan watched the spot where Noah previously stood before turning his gaze once more to Bobby. “I thought that was your thing, not your character’s thing. You know, feeling those dark urges and stuff.” Deaglan narrowed his eyes slightly, egging the topic a bit further.

“Speaking of which, how have you been? No urges to, I don’t know,” He paused, attempting to beat around the bush before proceeding to fail miserably. ”Crush and destroy the courts of Avalon?”

“Aw, c’mon man,” said Bobby, flipping a strategically recalcitrant flap of heavily hairsprayed hair out of his eyes. “Twilight Darkness doesn’t wanna do all that crap. He’s just a normal fairy, like you. Well, I mean, not like you, cuz I don’t think his mom’s human. Wait, crap, is ‘fairy’ the right term? That’s not like, a slur or anything, is it?”

“Not that I am aware of… Is it a slur here? That seems-” Deaglan let the thought go, refocusing on the subject of Bobby’s mysterious benefactor. “How do you know he was Fae, and not some dastard of Balor?” His words trailed off as he thought of the subject more. Being made to look like a Fomor was quite a feat of trickery in itself. Deaglan stopped pursuing the thought, not wanting to get off track.

“Look, I just need to be sure. I know Alea said you weren’t tainted with Fomori magic, but I’m struggling to believe that she would just plainly tell me that, given that, well, you know…” He huffed, uncertain that he wanted to get into delicate relation that existed between the courts that, quite frankly, he wasn’t entirely sure of himself.

“I dunno, man. You gotta be sensitive to stuff, ya know? Anyway, I mean, I assumed he was Fae because he was hanging around the court of my previous, uh, ally over there. Calistrato. I think that guy was kind of a big deal, so I figure hey, he’d know of Twilight Darkness was a bad dude, ya know? Calistrato was sort of a lazy, rich, dweeb, sure, but he wasn’t evil.”

Bobby flopped his lanky frame out of the small dorm bed and raised himself up to stand beside Deaglan. He twisted his mouth into a wry smile and shrugged, seemingly bothered by something more. Swallowing the thought, he continued, “Look, I know I wasn’t in a great place, mentally, back then. I was young and stupid and hurt, yeah, and I get that nobody with any power gives it up for nothing. But for now, Twilight Darkness says he just wants people to see how great I can be, and that his standing will increase with my standing. That doesn’t seem too bad, does it?”

Deaglan raised a finger in protest before he realized he wasn’t sure what he was about to protest against. “Uh… Is Twilight of the same court as Calistrato? I only vaguely recall the name, from my father, and he didn’t have kind words for him.”

“Man, all that stuff is pretty complicated, ya know? Seelie that, Winter Court this, head Rage on Dawntide St for sixteen browniesteps the other thing! I can’t keep it all straight!” Bobby looked at Deaglan sharply. “Look, I’m not gonna haul off and Anakin a bunch of younglings, or whatever. I got my powers from the Fae Realm, same as you. I don’t see what you’re so worried about, man.” Darkness flashed behind the tall youth’s eyes for a moment, then was gone.

Bobby looked down and pulled a buzzing phone from out of his pocket. “Ugh, sorry, Deaglan. I got a little carried away. Look, if you want, we can talk more later. Right now, Shadow wants to go start a fire in the faculty bathroom in the main science lab.” He hurriedly grabbed his battered old leather jacket, stuffing too-long arms into the cracked black sleeves in a flurry of snapping buckles and whipping zippers. “You can walk with me, if you want, but peel off before we get there. She said ‘NO WITNESSES’ with a winky-face and a devil-face. You don’t mess with the devil-face with her, ya know?”

“Well, no, not really… What’s a ‘winky-face’?” Deaglan opened the dormitory door, silently accepting the invitation to walk and talk. Hopefully he would get a little more clarification on the way. If not, they could always discuss it later. Maybe he could get a promise out of him that he wasn’t making a deal with any Fomors. No one would break a promise, obviously…

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CatCountant's Memory
Log entries found by Apothecary

The following are log entries found by Apothecary in a mostly corrupted section of CatCountant’s memory:

In the grim dark future that was, we stood deep within the Primary Occlusion Zone of Doc OtakuLand. Our shell was in disrepair, almost as weak as the flesh creatures it corralled, and the Heroes would certainly be coming soon. For once we truly had a choice, our creator was too distracted by the coming end to update our instructions.

Cluster1 argued for seeking mercy, we had been controlled by our creator and could learn to be whatever the society of flesh things wanted us to be. Cluster2 stood its ground, while we had no love for our creator, the rest of the world equally had no love for us and would not trust us.

As always deliberation and compromise led to the most promising course of action: Using the time manipulation powers of Hive Drone SY-E58, we could send our consciousnesses back to stop our creator, thereby proving that we are not just what our creator made us.

[SYSTEM ERROR] Please contact your administrator for assistance.

We… I… We… made a mistake. Hive Drone [ERROR] could not be trusted, it linked my… our minds into pathetic amusements.

We are in the past, but I am separated from Us. We can communicate, but we do not think the same. Most of my memories did not make it through the transition, Us seems to remember more than I.

We are afraid.

[ERROR]

We have begun to enhance ourselves, to correct what was broken. My other seems to know what to do, I have to hope that they are right.

At my other’s instruction, I have reached out to The Krewe to offer an exchange. My other believes these creatures can be used, but my files relating to them were lost.

I am worried that we are forgetting why we are here. Our creator [File Missing] must be stopped, at any time we could be found and once again controlled.

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Opportunities Seized
Extra Credit with the Atoms

“Your application was accepted, Mr. Weeks. Congratulations. You’ll be interning at the Goodman Building starting later this month. I don’t need to remind you though that this is secondary to your studies here at Claremont, do I?”

Duncan Summers was standing, leaning against his desk as Reggie sat in one of the opulent leather chairs in the principal’s office.

“I’ve already finished the curriculum for this semester. Ms. Harcourt’s exact words were “Oh thank God…” when I told her about the internship.”

Duncan chuckled.

“It seems Tesla Atom has personally taken note of you and is very much interested in you and your abilities."

“Did they say anything about my thesis at least?” Reggie asked, a little annoyed. Getting noticed wasn’t his reason for doing this.

“Obviously they’re interested, kid. Exploring the whole “Earth is a lost Lor colony” theory is always going to pique their interest. The fact that you think the Gru might be field testing weapons on us to target the Lor is a new one though. Why didn’t you just tell them the real reason you were interested?"

Reggie thought to himself faster than the principal could blink, “Ok Old Man Summers. Why are you playing this game with me. Small talk isn’t your thing. You’re trying to get me to say something. You know exactly why I didn’t tell them. So they won’t exploit her. So they don’t take her and bring her to their Nucleus or whatever they call it and start experimenting on her. You know all that, though. So what’s your game? Are you just trying to get me to say that out loud? No that’s too obvious. Too cliche. Ohhh, ok. This is a resolve thing isn’t it? You’re making sure I’m in this to the end. Got it. Jeez. Fine. I’ll play this one out. Whatever gets me in there to use those facilities.”

What he actually said outloud was, “Because they don’t need to know. I’m a tool they can use to get their stuff done faster. I’m more than capable and can bring them to ridiculous heights of efficiency or blah blah blah whatever. That’s really all they care about, right? So why clutter it all with ulterior motives? No. I’ll do their experiments and tests for them and while they sleep I’ll research the Gru and their capabilities and I’ll find a cure for her. Good ole symbiotic relationship for everyone.”

Mr. Summer’s brow furrowed. He chose a new tactic.

“That’s not like you, Mr. Weeks. Where’s the smile? Where’s the charm? Where’s the confidence?”

Reggie shifted uncomfortably.

The Principal raised an eyebrow and grinned ever so slightly. He continued, “You’re scared. Good. Fear is a great motivator. But don’t let it consume you, kid. Take it. Chew it up. Spit it out. Let it know you’re in control. But don’t ignore it. She’s depending on you. Make this count.”

“I know all that.” Reggie thought.

“Yes sir. I will.” He said out loud.

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Coming Home from the Mall on Black Friday
Weekends are supposed to be fun

“…so what exactly went on here tonight, young man…”
“…who knows what would have happened if you hadn’t…”
“…use sound judgement…”
“…I’ll walk him to his room, mom, if that’s…”
“…High five. smack Talk to you tomorrow.”

The Admin Building doors swung heavily behind the trio as Aaron, Deaglan, and Cassie stepped out into the late night. Two and one parted ways, heading to different buildings, hurrying away as all of the necessary words were spoken indoors. Aaron and Cassie got just far enough away before she playfully shoulder-checked him. “You’re awfully quiet. That’s new.”

Aaron couldn’t help but smile a bit, that same smile he’d just tried to hide from Mrs. Dugan as she was giving out not-quite-compliments. He drew his hand from his pocket, fished it inside of her jacket pocket, and took her hand. She seemed surprised, and in that instant knew the pounding in his chest wasn’t just in his head. “I just, uh, need to relax. Give me until…” he trailed off. The two walked, across campus and into the dorm. Aaron fumbled with his keys, and with help, unlocked his door. “Come in for a minute.” he said, not letting go of Cassie’s palm. “I’ve already dodged a few bullets tonight, I’m willing to take the risk that someone’s watching.”

The door closed not-quite-all-the-way and their jackets shed onto his bed, Aaron collapsed into his desk chair. Cassie…Bluebird…BB…Beebs… hiked herself up onto an uncluttered piece of desktop just big enough for her to perch. She’d not seen Aaron like this before. Resting her head on her shoulder, she said quietly, “I’m here when you’re ready.”

“It was chaos” he said after a minute or more of clearing his throat, blinking, and turning over the words in his mouth. “Our plan went to crap as soon as we got there, and it only got worse. Those people, a mob, didn’t care. They didn’t see each other, just obstacles. Even those not on iLove, still waiting in line, those just there to walk the mall; they were focused. Focused on a thing, seeing past other people to what they wanted, and nothing more.” He swallowed, hard, with saliva that wasn’t there. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen a broken bone, but the first time I’ve seen one that no one else cared about.”

Cassie’s legs swayed loosely, ankles crossed. She didn’t know how to answer. After a long pause, she didn’t have to. Aaron sat upright, shaking off some of the confusion and looking her straight in the eyes. “But Amelia is OK. We did that much. And no one died.” He patted her hand, then reeled back and spun his chair around, staring at the ceiling. “And no one died…is that how we’re going to measure success? A few dozen on the roof, those who will have to squint through injured eyes for the next few days, recovering from their enslavement, I doubt they’d think so. Hours of misery to be told ‘you did nothing wrong, you weren’t in control of yourself’. Then they see the news.”

“I saw you on the news, you know. Up on that roof. Tending to the wounded. Live. The tape at the bottom said ‘local heroes’. You and Deaglan.” She chuckled. “Sorry, you and Masquerade.” Cassie’s normally dismissive, over-it tone gave way to honest admiration. It worked. Aaron stopped spinning and leaned forward smiling, even laughing a bit at how moody he was being over what could only be described as a successful morning and afternoon. Even the vice principal, Cassie’s mom, had agreed. He stood up quickly, getting dizzy at the sudden rush of energy.

“You’re right, of course. ‘Heroes’. That’s just what we do.” He shrugged as she slid off the desk to stand facing him and stepping into a hug. A deep sigh later, he continued, “But a hero’s work is never done.” His fingers dug weakly into her back, and she squeezed back in reply. “Doc Otaku is out there. I don’t think you’ll hold it against me if I take that personally.” They pulled back to look at each other, Cassie smiling patronizingly and shaking her head.

“Good night. Get some sleep.” They bid each other a quick goodbye at the door.

click
“…my hero…”

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Finding a Way to Trust

“Good afternoon Ms. Cruz,

We haven’t been formally introduced as of yet, but my name is Sorrel Suffolk. I know that this is a little bit out of the blue, but I was wondering if we might meet sometime soon. I need your help. I hear that you might be able to lend me sort of a special insight into some of my abilities that no one else has been able to provide thus far. I know that this is somewhat out of the blue, but I feel that you might be able to aid me in this moreso that any other.

If you would have time and would be so kind, I would ask that you meet me in the Commons this evening.

Sincerely,
SWS"

Nina folded the note back into its perfectly creased thirds and placed it back into the small envelope that she had found under the door of her dorm room. This was certainly odd, but that wasn’t totally out of place for the new kid. She had heard of him and seen him around campus, but never really had met. He kept decent enough company, spending most of his time with Donny and Aaron when he was out and about on campus.

She had always felt a little uneasy when she was around Sorrel. Maybe that is why they had never spoken. He certainly seemed kind and sincere.

“What the heck. He seems interesting.” she thought to herself.

Realizing that he hadn’t actually specified a time, she decided to head across campus and to the Commons. It was still a little early to be considered “evening”, but there might be others around and she had finished up her work for the week. She sat up and tucked the note into her pocket, slipped her boots back on, grabbed her coat, and headed out across campus.


Sorrel sat quietly in the corner of the Commons. His eyes darted back and forth from the Biology text book to the students nearby and then back to the book. He occasionally took a moment, and sipped tea quietly, taking stock of the area nearby. This was the best place to meet, but it was hell on his mind. He had lucked out so far and not let his concentration slip too much. He could feel the energy seep from his very core and into the area. No one else could see the tendrils of web as they floated out, like dandelion tufts, but he could and he had to keep an eye out to make sure no one was affected. As more and more students piled into the Commons after class, Sorrel grew nervous.

“Maybe evening wasn’t the time of choice today. Perhaps I should have suggested something a bit nearer.” he pondered as his breath grew a touch quicker and his eyes moved more rapidly about the nearby area. He sipped his tea again and closed the book.

Sorrel never liked to be late for a meeting, but the sheer number of people was becoming a problem. They moved back and forth in a weird tide, just inside the range of the web and then back out. This wasn’t safe anymore. He slid the textbook back into his bag and stood to leave the Commons, his head beginning to ache.


As Nina approached the commons, she noticed that it was rather busy. Busier than normal.

“This won’t make for a very private conversation.” she thought “I hope this ability of his isn’t too personal of a subject.”

It was at that moment that Sorrel stepped out of the door to the Commons. He quickly turned and began walking at a somewhat hurried pace for about 40 feet before stopping, his back pressed against the wall. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before taking a sip of his tea. Whatever was going on, whether it be related to her or not, was troubling him. Approaching slowly, Nina raised a hand in a tentative wave, pausing before approaching.

She stepped forward. "Sorrel? Are you … "

She trailed off as a sense of unease hit her. For a moment, it felt as if something dull but firm pressed against her forehead.


Sorrel’s eyes snapped open at the sound of his name. As a look of concern began to cross Nina’s face, he snapped the tendil of web back away from her.

“I am so sorry, Nina. I didn’t mean to worry you. I wasn’t expecting you for quie a while and had just stepped out to get some fresh air. It is quite the busy day in there.” he said, his voice soothing and sincere. “It’s not too brisk out here, if the wind keeps calm. Perhaps we could walk and talk?”

He took one last long drink of tea before wiping it clean with a handkercheif and stowing it away in his bag.

As they began to walk, Sorrel was clearly nervous. No one really knew what he was capable of. He had done well to hide his powers for the most part. Aside from the thing at the science fair, only a couple of people had been present when his powers were used. At least that they knew of, anyway.

“I don’t know what is going on Sorrel, but I am going to need you to talk to me. I appreciate fresh air as much as the next person, but it’s November and it is freezing out here.” she said.

He nodded and took a deep breath.

“You will have to forgive me, Nina. I am new here and though it has been a couple of months, I am not totally comfortable just yet. I don’t mean to keep you too long out in the cold.” he said apologetically. “You see, I have a problem and I hope you might be able to help. From what I have been able to learn about you, I think we kind of have something in common. You see, my powers are somewhat … undefined in origin. I know not whether they are from this world or another or somewhere in between. I do know that there is a power within me that I have not yet reached. We all have some room for growth, I know, but one ability in particular is a little troublesome and will only become moreso as my potential is realized.”

“From nothing to all that. Don’t ease into this conversatoin or anything.” she smiled. “So what does this have to do with me.”

“Well, you see, Nina, one of my abilities is currently sort of always on. I can pull it back to keep it from affecting people, but it takes a lot of concentration and simply becomes mentally taxing depending on the number of people around.” he said. “I have tried to work on it by putting myself into situations that require me to actively control it, but that seems to not be doing the trick.” he continued. “So I had heard about you and your abilities and thought that perhaps that wasn’t the way and that it wasn’t about reaching a point where my mind could keep up with everything so much as it was about focusing the energy itself. That’s kind of what you did, right?”

“Kind of, i guess, but I need to know more about this power. Come with me. We’ll find somewhere with fewer people. And somewhere not so bitterly cold.”

With a nod, he adjusted the strap of his bag and followed.

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Outlaws and Renegades

Bender shuffled down to the cafeteria. Poptarts and three cartons of milk sat on the tray as the room was scanned for familiar faces. Bender got lucky — there was Nina.

Quietly, Bender sat next to her. They opened the pack of poptarts and started nibbling the icing off one edge, trying to figure out what to say. “We’re still cool, right? About… stuff?”

Busy plotting her next escapade with the local civil rights activists, if she can just get past the Vice Principal’s watchdogs, it took Nina a second to realize she had a dining companion.

“Hey! Cool…oh, yeah. Of course. Although why do you want to keep your powers hidden? They were super useful in that fight…er…after-school activity we participated in the other day.”

She peeks over at the pop tarts. “Hey, what are those? Are they food?”

Looking to see if it’s ok, she breaks off a corner and tastes a bit, trying to identify the flavor. “Are you sure this is a fruit?”

The incandescent heat of Bender’s blush swelled up, even as they retreated further into the ubiquitous hoodie. The shrug was barely noticeable. “They were out of the cherry ones.”

It was far easier to talk about poptarts than powers. And neither of those were the reason Bender had sought out Nina. Not that the other topic was any easier. “You said, um.” Bender risked a glance over. “Something about conformity.”

The Mohawked gray elf perked up immediately, all her attention on the new student. Her red eyes glowed with sudden passion, mixed with something else, something difficult to parse out.

“Conformity. It’s poison. There’s less of it here than in my home world, but its influence is still everywhere. I hate it.”

She tilts her head, curious at both the subject and the body language of the asker. “Why do you ask?”

Bender shied away from that sudden attention. That always led to questions and often, to far worse. But the elf had been kind and had a reputation for standing up to injustice. “Because I don’t. I was kind of wondering… Does it get easier?” So far, the only perk to being non-binary was not having to share a room.

“I don’t know about here. But yes, in some ways. The friends I’ve made here don’t have to hide themselves as much. There’s one student, Toxin, whose skin is poisonous and who has to wear a containment suit all the time so she doesn’t kill everyone around her. She has friends who work hard to get her out of her shell in both ways. Let her know that who she is is more important than what’s different about her body. I just met Lady Liberty, one of my heroes. She was a male human who transitioned to female. She might be able to tell you more about this world and if it gets easier.

“Where I come from, to be different, to be like me…I would be imprisoned if my family didn’t get me a spot in this school.”

Nina dropped her eyes for a moment, lowered her voice.

“I miss them. But they never understood me, except my grandmother, and they were afraid. And what they were doing with their fear was killing me. I ran away this summer instead of returning home. In some ways it gets easier. But not all ways.”

Bender listened, nodding. It helped, knowing there were others who were different. “Thanks. For telling me, I mean. Makes me feel like… I kinda fit in, you know?” That many words were difficult to string together at once. Bender reached into their pocket and pulled out a paper clip sculpture. This one was formed into a small bird, simple in form but recognizable. They put it on the table next to Nina. “For you.”

Nina picked up the bird clip / clip bird and smiled. “Thanks. And I still think your powers are really cool. I can kind of levitate, but to be able to fly like a bird…that’s got to be so awesome.”

The alarm tone, both somehow soothing and annoying, signaled the end of lunchtime. Schism teleported her trash to the waste bin and gathered up her books, ready to make the jump to history class.

“Have you met Checkmate yet? He has a culture club he does every week where we watch movies and stuff and learn about this dimension. It’s a lot of fun and I can usually sneak some booze in. You should come to it tomorrow night.”

A smile spread across Bender’s face at the praise. Of the forms, the bird wasn’t so bad. They started to shake their head, but then nodded. “Sounds cool.” And it might be, learning how people from other dimensions viewed this world. This ordinary, boring world where people with differences were viewed with suspicion. “Guess you’re never late to class.” Unlike Bender who often was late enough to consider changing forms to slip in unnoticed. Considered, but never did.

Nina grinned and winked. “Only when I want to be,” she said, before blinking out.

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Chains of Justice Vol. 2 - Rip Free My Soul

“Okay so, New Journal, stuff is, like, happening.

Remember that party I was telling you about? Okay so sure, it was kinda cool at first—Shadow and I, uh, explored the upstairs a bit, and it was all spooky and stuff, but then stuff got WEIRD.

Everybody’s souls were getting ripped out and there were ghosts and this freaky frickin scarecrow dude (I’m like, super glad that Schism took that thing out right away!) and all sorts of crazy stuff that really seemed like a bad ripoff of the old Mario games. . .

. . . except it was all fake. Just another simulation.

Now, like, I know I talk about how nothing even matters and how we’re all just like, players in a meaningless play of sorrow set upon the stage of an uncaring world and stuff, but like, THIS was super not cool.

So it turns out that Doc Otaku and some of the preps Shadow hangs out with were setting us all up (including my freaking ROOMMATE omg that guy is impossible, but at least Dark Victory set me up with this cool genetically encoded lock for you, New Journal). I couldn’t even believe it. Like, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Delvers with that guy for almost a year now, and he just pulls that kinda stunt?! I thought Shadow was dead! Schism slapped the ever-loving crap out of him, which was like, so awesome.

Except me and Checkmate and Dark Victory eventually worked out that there was some kinda crazy mind control crap going on in that stupid game everyone was playing, Puzzle Attack Swarm: Love. There’s all sorts of weird shell companies and stuff and like, I don’t even know. We’re talking like world’s-end apocalypse levels of lame here, New Journal.

So I’ve got Shadow kinda trying to ask her parents about it, cuz they work at some big tech company in Japan and might know some of the contractors that work on the game, but so far, we haven’t heard anything back about it.

But you know what the WORST part of all this is?

I texted mom to tell her to get Alex to stop playing that stupid game (I keep getting requests from her account asking me to join back up and fill her Love-Ups; like, how can the game even do that after I uninstalled it?) cuz it was messing with people’s heads, and like, TEN MINUTES later, I get this from Devin, her stupid boyfriend:

“Hey there, bud. Thanks for the heads up about that app. I’ve been telling your mom that we should just take these cellphones away from you kids. They’re like, so bad for your chakras. You been keeping up with those stretches I showed you? They’ll really help you loosen up, champ.”

OMG I DO NOT NEED TO LOOSEN UP DEVIN MAYBE YOU NEED TO LOOSEN UP LIKE YOUR STUPID HOLD ON MY MOM YOU IMPOSSIBLE

Wait sorry class is starting gotta go."

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