Scene 1 – October 20th
Interior MLED Compound, Early Evening
Quinn left the room, visibly dejected that they wouldn’t be allowed to help fight against Legion. I didn’t see why – the woman was stupidly dangerous, and unlike me, they wouldn’t be working from a safe distance.
“Vulcan, call Anima and Sequoia in from patrol, if you haven’t already,” Abe ordered, speaking into a dedicated mic rather than relying on the typical monitoring to communicate with Adam.
“They’re on their way,” he responded. “Do we have a plan, sir?”
“I’m working on one, Adam. Give me some time.”
“You’ll need our help,” Simone put forward – did she really expect the offer to be accepted? Quinn’s offer had been rejected less than five minutes ago. “New Venice isn’t exactly a one-horse town – you need us to help you cover it.”
“I hate to admit it, but you’re right,” Emilia agreed, and I blinked in surprise.
“Hey!” Simone protested.
“It’s dangerous,” Abe said, as though that wasn’t obvious.
Emilia shook her head. “Nic works at a distance,” she began, gesturing at me, “and Legion doesn’t have anything that will hurt him when he’s projecting – we need him to help scout the city. Simone can be transport only, that won’t be too dangerous either.”
“I can work from a distance too,” Holly put in. “I know my hand-to-hand skills aren’t going to be worth much against Legion, but I bet I can use lasers to cut off parts of her body mass.”
“Fine,” Abe conceded. “only from a distance. And only because you’re all over 18 – Sequoia will have to go home too, once he and Miriam get back.”
“Jack can help too!” I protested. “He turns 18 in only a few weeks!” And he enjoyed heroing too much to like being left out of it, no matter how dangerous Legion was.
“He’s still under 18 until then. You’re just going to have to live with your boyfriend staying a safe distance from the dangerous supervillain.”
“Well, when you put it that way…” I had been protesting in favor of his involvement more because I knew he would have wanted me to than because I actually wanted Jack involved, in truth, so I didn’t really mind Abe shutting me down.
“Alright,” Abe said, a moment after Holly shifting into Loki. “I think I have the beginnings of a plan.” It was a pretty simple plan, and it didn’t take long for him to lay it out: I would be scouting, as my projected senses were by far the fastest traveler of all of us, sent to check out any reports that Emilia received from console. Vulcan would go with Simone to face down any Legion that I could confirm the location of.
“Nic?” he said, turning to face me. “She was reported about ten minutes south of the Compound.”
“Give me a moment,” I said, and leaned against the wall so that I wouldn’t fall when I began projecting. “I’m going to try to only send my vision so that I can still talk with you guys…” I performed the mental gymnastics that had proved most successful at this kind of separation as I began.
While I had made a lot of progress in controlling my powers since I joined the Journeymen – I could now choose to start and stop projecting, and control where the projection went as well, even if I still projected accidentally half the times that I slept – separating out my senses remained a puzzle. I knew it was possible from dreams in which I had heard voices or music from a distance, without seeing anything, or vice versa, and had even managed to perform the separation myself a few times. But most of the time…
“…no, sorry, I can’t hear you,” I muttered, a little dejected, as both sight and hearing spun through space to land about ten minutes south of the Compound – as always, it was eerie to speak without hearing it, as the words came from my physical mouth instead of my projected self. At least I had left my sense of touch behind – I could still feel my shoulderblades pressing up against the wall. “But I’ll give you updates as I go.” I glanced up to a set of street signs, and reported, “Right now I’m at the corner of Lander and Evans and continuing south. No sign of her yet.”
Scene 2 – October 20th
Interior MLED Compound, Evening
When I reached the limit of my projection, still with no sign of Legion, I had snapped back to my body to find that Abe was gone – I later learned that Quinn had called with a sighting of Legion near to the them, and the boss had gone to escort them the rest of the way home. Meanwhile, Jack and Miriam had arrived back at the Compound, and my boyfriend was leaning against the wall next to me, watching me worriedly.
I met his eyes and smiled. “It’s okay, honey,” I told me. “I’m perfectly fine.”
He gave me a gentle kiss, then led me from the wall over to a couch. “I know, Nic, I just worry. Ever since…”
Ever since I had told him that I used to have trouble returning to my body. “That hasn’t happened in years, Jack,” I reminded him as he sat, then pulled me into his lap. I leaned my forehead against his. “I’m okay.”
“Ew, you two are so sappy,” Simone joked. “Get a room!”
“You get a room,” Jack murmured, and she shrugged and vanished.
“Hey!” Loki snapped. “Don’t waste distance in a crisis situation, you brat-” he stormed out of the room, presumably chasing after Simone. Jack and I were left mostly alone – just us and Vulcan.
I sighed. “I feel like shit,” I quietly confessed to my boyfriend. “I couldn’t find Legion, and I wouldn’t be any help even if I did. I feel so useless.”
He shook his head. “You’re not useless, Nic. Just because you couldn’t help in this situation doesn’t mean you can’t ever help.”
“But can I ever help?” I asked him. “I mean, they’ve got me rated at a 0. That’s not even normal human levels of threat.”
“Threat rating’s not everything,” Jack reminded me. “But…” he hummed. “I think I might have an idea. Let’s meet up in the grounds when we can find some time for it.”
“Okay.” I leaned in to kiss him again. And again, and-
“Hey,” Vulcan said, and I pulled back in surprise – I had forgotten that he was still there. “Seriously, guys, get a room if you’re gonna go that far.” He jerked a finger at the hallway that led to the Compound’s guest rooms – mostly used by me, when overuse of my powers left me exhausted, or Loki, for undisclosed reasons. Plus the one that was permanently inhabited by Molly, of course.
I flushed bright red, then found myself yawning. “I probably should,” I told Jack, sadly. “I’m pretty tired.”
“Go sleep, Nic,” he said with an accepting smile, which quickly morphed into a grin. “I can tuck you in if you’d like.”
Scene 3 – October 24th
Exterior Training Grounds, Afternoon
I shivered despite my hoodie as Jack and I walked into the grounds a few days later, after Legion had been caught. It was starting to get cold, but I hadn’t gotten around to digging a coat out of my closet yet.
“So what’s your idea, honey?” I asked him. My boyfriend hadn’t told me yet – something had always interrupted us, or someone was around, and he said he wanted it to be a surprise in the paintball game if it worked.
“I remember you telling me once about when your powers first manifested,” Jack began, leading me to a section of the grounds that was lined with training mats for sparring. “Your senses were bounced to other places, sometimes, but sometimes it was also to other times.”
“Yeah,” I cautiously agreed, “and any amount of precognition would be great, but I’ve never gotten that to work. Like, never. I’ve tried, but the closest I’ve gotten is a jumble of disconnected images and sounds, coming too fast and too different to be able to make anything out. That and a splitting headache.”
He nodded. “Right, but I’ve been thinking… what if you were going about it the wrong way, a bit?”
“An aunt of mine is a seer,” he told me, “and-”
“Your aunt Cecelia or your aunt Cassandra?”
“Cassandra,” he said.
“Anyway, she told me once that the problem with seeing the future isn’t seeing the future, it’s understanding the future,” he said. “Apparently it comes in, well… a jumble of disconnected images.”
“Thank sounds familiar.”
“Right, exactly! She says she doesn’t see a single thing that will happen, she sees a ton of different things that are possible. She can filter it somewhat by focusing on a particular person or object to see what might happen to it, or try to find a particular outcome and see what can lead to it, but in general, the farther out she looks the less accurate and more painful her visions are.”
“Because the universe isn’t deterministic, and the farther into the future you look the more possibilities there are.” I considered this for a moment. “What are you suggesting, then? My powers don’t focus on specific things like that. Locations, I guess, but…”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry about focus – worry about time,” he said. “Shift just a few moments into the future, and you’ll be able to react to what an opponent does before they do it. If you can do that, your rating will instantly jump to a 1, at least. Even a single second into the future is enough to see someone’s next move – if you can push out even farther…”
“Focus on combat precognition, not precog in general,” I realized, and Jack nodded.
“Exactly.” He balled his hands into fists and raised them into a guard. “And I think the best way to do that is to give you reason to need it.”
Scene 4 – November 3rd
Exterior Training Grounds, Afternoon
“Why did you want to train with me?” Holly asked as we stepped into the grounds, both wearing warm jackets. “It’s not that I’m not happy to help with whatever it is, it’s just that, well… our powers don’t really match up all that much, and…”
“And you’re worried about Quinn,” I finished.
“…yeah. They haven’t woken up since the funeral. Or they haven’t left their room, at least.”
I bowed my head for a moment. “They’re going through a hard time, and you’re a good friend for supporting them. But you’re also a good leader,” I reminded her. “And I need your help right now too.”
After a moment, she nodded. “You’re right, I can’t focus on them to the exclusion of all else. What do you need?”
“I need your help with a new trick I’m starting to figure out,” I told her, starting to walk over to the sparring area. “It was Jack’s idea – a way to get a handle on my precog. I’ve mentioned that I’ve had trouble making sense of it, right?”
“Yeah, you said that it was too jumbled to make anything out.”
“Well, as it turns out, it’s because I was looking too far into the future.”
“Oh – because you’re seeing too many possibilities? And the farther you look, the more there are, and the harder to sort through?”
I sighed. “And of course you figure it out instantly, huh,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief. “Why didn’t I ask you for help in the first place?”
She shrugged. “It sounds like you already have that figured out, though – focus on the immediate future and use it for combat precog instead of trying to go too far. If you want to look far away temporally I would suggest looking into the past – you’d be a great detective that way.”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. Or backwards, I guess. But… well, I actually did manage to figure out how to get the temporal drifting working in general, I had to hold onto my real body less tightly and allow myself to drift, it’s just…” I struggled to explain. “Connecting all the near futures that could happen in the next moment – even in the next second – into something that I can use in the present isn’t easy. Does that make sense?”
She tilted her head in thought. “Hm. Do you mean that you’re having trouble interpreting everything fast enough to figure out what to react to?”
“Yeah, pretty much. Also, seeing and hearing everything one second in the future makes it easy to forget what’s actually happening in the present.”
“You just need more practice,” she told me. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any magical solutions – it’s just practice.”
“I’m pretty sure you do have a magical solution, actually,” I insisted. “See, Jack and I were sparring, but the problem is that I’m actually a better fighter than him when he’s not transformed – I’ve spent much more time on martial arts, since I don’t have super strength to rely on.”
“Ah,” Holly said in understanding. “You aren’t challenged enough that you have to rely on the precog?”
“But I’m pretty sure you’re a much better fighter than me, too,” she pointed out. “If you wanted a better match you should have asked Referee or Starling.”
“Yeah, but Molly’s out of town again, and who wants to ask Ben for anything?”
“Fair point.” She eyed me. “But you don’t want sparring, do you? You need to be forced to use the precog, not for it just to be an edge. You need something that you can’t dodge without seeing the future.”
“You want me to shoot you with lasers.”
“I want you to shoot me with lasers.”
Holly smiled, shaking her head. “Alright, I can shoot you with lasers,” she agreed. “But tell me something first – how many people know you’re working on precog?”
“Jack, obviously,” I said immediately. “Abe knows that I’ve tried to get it working in the past, but I haven’t mentioned that I’m making another attempt. Vulcan also knows that I’ve tried it before, and that Jack had an idea for me to work on, but I don’t know if he has any idea what. No one else, I think.”
Holly nodded, her smile now closer to a grin. “Excellent. I don’t know how much progress we’ll make, but… let’s keep it quiet for the next week or so, alright? It would make a great ace in the hole in the paintball game, but it would have to be kept quiet.”
I grinned, then yelped as a low-powered laser zapped me. “Hey, no fair!”
“Gotta see the future, Nic!” she called. “Get dodging!”
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2 thoughts on “2.1. Intermission (Scenes 1-4)”
As with most Intermissions, this chapter explores a little piece of the previous act that we didn’t get to see in full detail. Specifically, the backstory to how Hypnos learned combat precognition, and why Loki knew about it. I struggled over what to pick for this chapter, and nearly wrote it to be a comment section reacting to Newton’s introduction, similar to PHO interludes from Worm – in fact, I even wrote up a draft of it. In the end, however, I decided that it didn’t really add anything new to the story, while peeking into Hypnos gives us a little bit more interaction between Loki and other Journeymen as well more explanation for the precognition.
I feel like Nic and Quinn’s powers could produce something phenomenal if they worked in tandem, but I’m not sure how.