8FOLD: Mancers # 6, "Big Scary Brain"

Drew Perron pwerdna at gmail.com
Tue Mar 19 19:11:27 PDT 2019

That's right, going back to last August for Mancers, because dangit, I may be 
slow but I love Tom's stuff. (Besides, Scott replied to his own post from 2017, so.)

On 8/13/2018 10:09 AM, Tom Russell wrote:
> MAILE AKAKA, age 19. Aeromancer.
> Abducted and memory-wiped by the secret circle, she now knows that she
> is in fact The Company's top field agent and assassin.

I like this dynamic where... she knows what's going on, now, but that isn't a 
trigger for immediately pulling away and going back to the Company? That's 
really interesting.

>     "I am a brilliant genius engineer," she says again as she twists
> over onto her right side and begins sketching out deep blue welts into
> the paper, southpaw style. She doesn't say it to boast (no one around
> to boast to), and she doesn't say it as some kind of affirmation. She
> says it because it's a fact, simple and clean and undeniable.

Sounds less like an affirmation and more like magic words of creation. ...not 
necessarily literally magic but maybe??

> Trying
> to listen to it and to remember the words always felt like it could
> cause permanent damage, like staring into the sun.
>     Because of that, she had never really tried. It's not that she's
> scared. It's that she doesn't yet understand the nature and scope of
> the problem. You don't solve a problem, especially a complicated and
> dangerous one, by just doing things willy-nilly. She needs more data
> before she can figure out this whole hell-gate thing. Mind you, not
> that she's gone out of her way looking.

A reasonable way of doing things, but a very particular type of reason that 
reveals much about the reasoner.

>     But here, unbidden, is more data. Because though the whispers are
> the same third-rate black speech knock-off she's been trying to ignore
> since the summer, though the lyrics and the melody are the same, the
> tone is different. None of the malice is there, none of the
> foreboding. It's been replaced by something sensual, something
> seductive, something almost friendly.
>     And that part would scare her half to death, if she got scared.


>     "I am a brilliant genius engineer," she whispers back, defiant.

Also hot.

>     There's a tap at her window, muffled but insistent. She twists onto
> her other side. "Hello, window cat," she says to the scraggly gray
> beast thumping on the glass with its white paws.

D'awww cute

> It stops and stares
> at her. Almost like it understood her. And then it thumps at the glass
> again, three more times. A pause. Three more thumps.

D'awww warning

>     "Do you belong to anybody?"
>     Cats can't frown, but the cat frowns.

Heeheehee :3

> It washes its face, then tosses its head
> coquettishly over its shoulder, staring at Sarah.
>     Sarah stares back. Cats don't roll their eyes, but the cat rolls
> its eyes. Annoyed, it turns away from Sarah and goes back to washing
> its face.

Been there.

>     The three of them turn and stare at Sarah. Her wrist is burning
> again, whispering again.
>     "Okay," says Sarah quietly. "I better follow you, then."

Indeed. o3o

>     "You're keeping me in line, huh?" says Sarah to a tiny, underfed kitten.
>     Without breaking its stride, the kitten hisses.
>     "Okay, okay, no jokes then."

Shades of Kitbull~

>     The woman stares at Sarah, smirks, and snaps her fingers. It begins to rain.
>     Sarah tugs at the cuff of her sleeve, flashing her own mancer's
> mark. "Are you with the umbrella lady?"


It took me this long to realize that the woman who *makes it rain* is opposite 
the woman whose power is in an *umbrella*. Sheesh I'm dense sometimes. X3

>     "I do," says Maile. "Do you know what we are, the two of us?"
>     "I'm a brilliant genius engineer," says Sarah. "But I guess you're
> going to tell me that you're a mancer. If you want to define yourself
> by some weird demonic tattoo on your skin, knock yourself out, lady.
> But that's not me."

That's a good attitude.

>     "Good for you," says Maile. No sarcasm, almost genuine even. "Man,
> if you had asked me five months ago who I was, how I defined myself? I
> wouldn't have an answer. That drove my dad nuts. Dad, he was army;
> that's who he was. His dad was navy. My great-grandpa, though? He was
> an architect."
>     Sarah assumes there's a point to the story, so she lets her continue.
>     "But then Pearl Harbor was attacked, and for four years, he wasn't
> an architect. He was navy. After the war, he went back to who he was
> before the war. Mostly, anyway. It's not like it doesn't change you,
> because it does, and it did.
>     "I don't have myself figured out like you do, not by a longshot,
> but this," she taps the back of her hand, "this is not who I am.
> Except for right now it is. Because there's a war on."

Innnnnteresting. How much of this is real/is actually remembered, hmmmmm

>     "Umbrella lady called it the midnight war," says Sarah. "There's
> some folks who want to bring Venus back in a big way, and if they do,
> it's the end of the world. Then there's folks who want to stop Venus
> in a big way, and if they do, it's the end of magic."
>     "We're the second one," says Maile cheerfully.
>     "And how do I know that?" says Sarah.
>     "The other guys wouldn't have sent cats to point you in my
> direction. They would have just grabbed you. They wouldn't be talking
> with you. They wouldn't even give you a choice."

Hmmmmm. And how much of this is bluff?

>     Against her better judgment, Sarah sits down. "But what happens if
> I say no? The other guys will take me anyway if I tell them no, but
> how are you different?"
>     Maile sighs, and thinks it over, then says, "I wouldn't take you
> against your will. Wouldn't brainwash you. I've been through that
> myself and I don't wish it on anybody. I'm still dealing with that. So
> I guess what I'd have to do is, I'd have to kill you. You wouldn't be
> much use to them dead."

I kinda love Maile, have I mentioned?

>     "And, what, over time, I get to know you and yours, you become like
> a family, eventually I believe in the cause or there's a moment where
> I need to step up, and then I'm in the frontlines?"
>     "Something like that, sure."
>     "It's just another kind of brainwashing," says Sarah. "Maybe even
> it's worse.

Not really, compared to literal memory erasure o3o But I get where she's coming 

>     Maile shakes her head; she sees through her. "Or maybe you just
> don't want to be a mancer. I'm not talking about how you define
> yourself. I mean, you just don't want to have it at all. You'd even
> let me kill you rather than have to use it. Bet you'd cut your hand
> off first."
>     "I tried once," Sarah says, her voice cracking. "They stopped me."

ohhhhhh. It's one of those.

> I can't let
> them out. Not again."
>     "Not even to save the world?"
>     Sarah gives a weak smile. "Just be trading one set of Lovecraftian
> abominations for another.


> Hey, if you need an engineer, great. But as a demon-summoner,
> let's just include me out, okay?"
>     Maile's eyes light up. "What if I do need an engineer?"
>     "What?"
>     "What if I need someone with an analytical mind, someone who sees
> connections, someone who builds things, someone who solves problems?
> Because lady, I've got nothing but problems and they need solving.
> What if I need an engineer?"


>     "You come with me," Maile continues, "and I'll never ask you to use
> your big scary demon powers. Just your big scary brain."

GOOD title drop.

>     Sarah closes her eyes. One minute to decide whether or not to throw
> in her lot with a total and likely very dangerous stranger. "To be
> clear, my options are still, say yes or you kill me?"
>     "I mean..."
>     "Just checking. Decisions, decisions."

Heeheehee. Love the banter in this series. :>

> She doesn't blame her,
> necessarily. Looking at it from Maile's point-of-view, it almost makes
> sense, and if her choices were between death and being reprogrammed
> and used by The Company, part of her would almost prefer death.

I'd absolutely agree with that part.

>     There's a sound like the one swords make in movies,

That's nice and visceral and expressive~

>     Standing next to her is a woman in pink. Pink hair, in a short
> little mohawk, pink jacket, pink pants, pink shoes, pink lipstick,
> pink sunglasses. A little ways from her, with his back turned to them,
> is a big hulking man in a suit. He's talking to someone on the ground
> below. Talking to Maile. It's the roof of the restaurant.
>     "Don't move, my precious," says the pink woman.

Awwwww, shit.

>     The threat was a tactical blunder, to be sure, since Sarah went
> right ahead and called her bluff.


> It hadn't occurred to her that faced with a
> choice of us or them that Sarah would want to say no to both. So in
> the moment, in the stark immediacy of it all, yes, letting her go was
> never an option. But she should have been prepared, should have had
> something else up her sleeve so she wouldn't have been forced to come
> out and say it. That's what Maile gets for improvising.

Awwwww! I *seriously* love Maile!

>  That she has to say yes to, because no
> matter how logical and brutal the calculus, she doesn't know if she
> can bring herself to kill someone who, by all appearances, is a good
> egg. And Maile wonders if she's killed other good eggs in the past,
> working for The Company, to keep them out of the hands of the circle,
> or if she willingly herded them in to be brainwashed. Ugh. This is why
> her PCs were always lawful good. Even her rogues. Especially her
> rogues.


>     "You took my powers?"
>     "Everyone's, really," says Jamison. "Useful in certain
> circumstances, but it does mean I don't particularly play well with
> others, and so my field work is rather specialized." From his holster,
> he lazily plucks out what would pass for a pistol in a bad science
> fiction film. "Dreadful sorry that we have to renew our brief
> acquaintance in this manner."


>     He lifts the gun, aims, and fires all in one swift motion. Blue
> crackling light climbs through the air, still thick and humid from
> Maile's storm. Maile doesn't move, doesn't blink; there's no reason
> to. She knows the first shot will be a warning shot.


>     Samson calls down to her. "Let us take you home, Maile. Let us fix
> you up into the vicious little psychopath I know and love."
>     "To be clear," Maile calls back, "my options are say yes, or you kill me?"
>     "If it comes to that," says Samson.
>     "Decisions, decisions."


>     Jamison takes aim. The instant he pulls the trigger, Maile launches
> one of the tacky chairs in his direction. It hits the beam and goes up
> in a quick poof of smoke, the ruins landing a safe distance from
> Jamison.
>     Be that as it may, he's looking at it, even if only for just a
> second and a half, and that's a second and a half she can use to rush
> the bum.

She's so cool!

>     Trevor hops over the fence.
>     "What took you so long?" says Maile.
>     "Nice to see you too," says Trevor. "Bet he wasn't expecting me to
> cancel out his fancy-pants gun."
>     "I bet not," says Maile.

Hell yeah

>     There's a whiff of jasmine and a flash of pink. Samson and the
> teleporter (gosh, that sounds like a cover band)


>     "No good, Samson," says Maile. "Sarah's with us, aren't you, Sarah?"
>     "That's looking pretty good right now, yeah."


>     "You can try," says Samson, grinning. "As you used to say, I get
> plus-two to all my saving throws.

Don't try to be hip to the youth you asshole

>     "So, I need to kill Pinky first. No offense, Pinky."
>     "Um, lots taken?"


>     "She would be easier to take out," admits Samson. "Slender little
> thing. One bolt ought to do it."
>     "Seriously, right here," says Pinky.

X3 X3 X3

>     "Not really," says Maile. "Because the thing you don't seem to
> understand is, you have no leverage here, you big dumb moron. I want
> Sarah for me and mine, but I'm willing to let her die. I've got no
> investment. So you've got something I want, but nothing I can't live
> without."
>     "So, wait," says Samson, "you think I'll be especially aggrieved if
> you kill Pinky?"
>     Pinky raises a finger. "I'm really concerned with my lack of agency
> in these scenarios."


>     Samson grins, ear-to-ear, and rubs his face in the palm of his
> hand. "Here's the thing about my brother, babe." He reaches into his
> jacket, pulling out his own weird electric gun and takes aim. "I've
> got spares."
>     The bolt ripples through the air. Maile and Trevor scramble out of
> its way, and Jamison's head explodes in a messy blue ball of light.

Hole of an ass!

>     That's when something reaches out of the ground and snares his
> wrist. It pulls down, hard, and the rest of him follows. Almost
> immediately a gibbering, melting mass of black tentacles and yellow
> eyes and pointed teeth boils over him and through him. Two seconds,
> three: that's all it takes. In the same instant, Pinky and Sarah are
> swallowed up in the growing, seething other.

HELL YEAH SARAH <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

>     "It wasn't," says Sarah. "I mean, I didn't. That's one of mine,
> sure, but I didn't do it. But I felt it. Like someone else was
> borrowing it from me."

...Claire *what did you do*

>     "Great. Trevor, how did Leek do?"
>     "One of them got captured by some other Company schmucks, right on
> schedule. Everything's going according to plan."

Next time: Everything goes horribly un-according to plan

Drew "all according to keikaku" Perron

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