Dom and Chloe were in each others’ arms before they even bothered to check the area. I tried to pretend it was because they trusted me to keep an eye out better than they could, but the truth was when they were together, they forgot the rest of the world. I made sure there weren’t any outsiders peaking in, then focused on the guests Chloe brought with her. The girl was skittish, mousy, and not worth concerning myself with.
The boy, I got the sense was far more dangerous than he looked. He walked right up to the pair, without a concern for their powers or the damage they could do to him, with the confidence of someone who didn’t understand fear. “You know, if you’re still looking for ways to make some money, I’ve got a camera and know a few sites that-”
“Davin!” The girl grabbed him from behind and planted a hand over his mouth. “I’m so sorry!”
EmbarrassmentConcern ShockDiscovered. Domenic and Chloe pulled apart, glancing at each other as they tried to act like they weren’t acting suspicious, which made them look more suspicious.
FocusControl. Domenic cleared his throat, which sounded more like a creature from the deepest pits of hell than a person. “I appreciate the thought, but I think we’ll have to pass.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” the man named Davin said. Though the girl looked ready to run screaming from our gathering, he still showed no sign of fear. He has power, that I’m sure of, I just don’t know what it is. Must be scary, if he’s that calm. “They require you give out your civilian ID for that, anyway.”
The girl looked at me like a mouse watching a hawk. “I- I’m sorry, but who’s your friend?” Her voice changed with the word ‘friend’, a question within a question, like she was afraid I might start killing them at any moment. I smiled under my armor.
HesitationConfidence UncertainInevitable. Even they’re afraid I might do something. I’ve spent weeks playing nice, hunting nothing but wild animals, but they still won’t trust me. If I leave it to them, we’ll have a disaster on our hands. I stepped forward before they screwed everything up.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.” ConfusionSuspicion CalmSupport. Right, Chloe didn’t know I changed my voice to sound older. I turned my head away, to act like I was failing to hide fear. I am afraid, of getting caught, of how Domenic and Chloe will see me, of what happens if things go wrong here and now. “Meeting new people is… difficult for me.”
The girl smiled as she decided she was higher than me on the pecking order. I fought down the urge to look back at Dom and Chloe. She stepped forward, away from the protection offered by her Imbued partner, but kept her left arm around him as she reached her right out for a handshake. “Oh, you weren’t rude at all. I’m Jasmine, but everyone calls me Jaz.”
I kept my handshake soft, unsure, a mirror of the person I was touching. “Pleasure to meet you, Jaz. I’m afraid I don’t have a name to give you. I haven’t thought of one for when I’m in costume. The superhero thing is new to me, and rather strange.”
Jazmine laughed at me, at herself. Her neck muscles twitched as she almost looked at the guy she was with. “It does take some getting used to.”
Hmm, strange system they have with each other. She acts like she’s in charge, and he lets her, but he’s the one with the power. Why? FrustrationEnvy. What? Why’s Chloe jealous? Is she attracted to this girl?
“Ooh! I can help!” The boy broke out of the gentle hold he was in, then stepped into my personal space without any concern. “You’re obviously a Gadgeteer, what’s your Gimmick?”
“Gimmick?” I stepped away from Davin. A touch into my Fate-sense told me a dozen ways I could leave him bleeding out on the ground. What is his power? Is he another Fate-breaker like Domenic? AmusedRegret. “I… I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.”
“Your Gimmick.” Davin looked at me like I was an idiot child. “How your power works. What kind of Superscience do you use to make your Tech? All Gadgeteers have something they rely on. Even the oldschool Artificers always had some logic behind their creations, even if it was using arcane symbols and human life force to animate suits of armor.”
RecognitionSatisfied CuriosityConcern. There are people who make armor out of human life force? That is the most badass thing I’ve ever heard of. Hmm, if he’s asking how my power’s supposed to work, I should be able to use that, I just have to be careful.
Jasmine had tensed up at the mention of armored suits, though. Perhaps this man she’s with had a run in with someone like that before. “Sorry, Davin doesn’t have a filter. You can ignore him he’s bothering you.”
Ignore him, huh? Is this a test of some sort? I dipped into my Fate-sense, finding words that would sound good without making me look weak. “It’s no bother. How’s anyone supposed to learn if the ignore people different than themselves?” LossAnger UncertainSupport. I ignored Domenic and Chloe; I had to focus on Jasmine and Davin, and my victory over them. I’m at a disadvantage, the easiest way to fix that is to admit it and let them think they’re winning. “I’ve never heard of Gimmicks before.”
OpportunityConfident. Chloe stepped forward, to rescue me from her guests. “The official term is Methodology. All powers, not just Gadgeteers, seem to operate with their own internal logic. The theory is that we all alter the laws of physics around us, each in different but consistent ways, and that’s what allow our powers to function. In my case, it revolves around my forcefield, Damascus does something to metal which turns it liquid. Gadgeteers are just more obvious about it than the rest of us, because they know what it is they’re changing.”
RealizationSimilarity. “Oh.” He’s right, our powers are a lot alike. I can use that. “I’m afraid I don’t know a lot about other Imbued.”
BlameStupidApology. “It’s the sort of thing they teach in college.” Chloe kept her voice steady, but she was almost begging my forgiveness in her mind. NegationSupport. “But I’d like to know what Methodology you use, too.”
It’s fine, I can still use this. I did another small dip into my power, then held up my hand so they could see the triangle Dom designed on the back glow orange. “I use magnetic fields.” RealizationSupport ApprovalGlad. “I can boost my armor a bit, and it lets me scan for some energy or metals.” Stuff I can fake with my real powers, at least. “I can’t fly with it, but maybe with some time I’ll find a way. Please keep it a secret, I wouldn’t want someone to find a way to beat my gear.”
“Cool!” Davin smiled at his victory, learning about my powers without revealing his. “But you should know that nobody can steal anyone else’s Gadgets.”
That’s right, you think you’ve won, my power’s working just fine, and I can end you. “Doesn’t mean I want to make it any easier than I have to. Besides, this way you know something that none of your friends do. Won’t that be fun?” He seems to like secrets.
“But it’s more fun when I can brag about it!” What I hadn’t expected was a childish tantrum. My quick dips of Fate-sense didn’t see anything bad coming from it.
ConcernAnnoyancePity. Hmm, and I’m the only person here who’s surprised by all this. What is the story with this guy?
Having decided I wasn’t of concern to her, Jaz turned away from me to face the man, and placed a hand on either shoulder. “Now, Davin, you know you have to be careful about what you tell people. Heroes have to be able to trust each other, right?”
ContemptFrustration. One day, I’ll ask them why they hate other heroes so much, I just have to find a way that doesn’t make them remember they hate me. IrrelevantSuccess. That’s right, what matters now is that we won.
Davin sniffed. “Fine, I won’t tell anyone.”
DoubtIrrelevant ImpressedSuccess. “Thank you.” I still didn’t understand Davin’s strange behavior, or why he was lying about keeping the secret when it seemed clear he’d tell everyone the moment our backs were turned, but it didn’t matter. We got through all the dangers by acting like we were weak. It was a tactic I’d remember in the future.
PainLossBlameConcernLoveRegret. Chloe’s emotions hit me like a ton of bricks, and it was all I could do not to collapse in a heap.
“We should get going before our boat leaves without us,” Domenic said while Chloe and I were still fighting against our emotions. For whatever reason, he was always the first to recover. It’s not fair, why is he stronger than us? Is that part of his power? “We loaded our stuff before you got here. I can help you with yours if you want.”
Jaz shook her head. “That’s okay, you’re already paying for the trip, the least we can do is carry our own bags.” She nudged Davin toward the vehicle too fast to come across as natural. “Come on, Davin, let’s get our things.”
Chloe struggled to find words. “S-sorry, it was my fault.” GuiltFailure SupportCalm. No, you shouldn’t have to apologize.
I almost reached out toward her, then decided that was stupid and brought my arm back down. “I’m a prisoner.” RegretDefend. “It’s fine. All considered, it’s a better outcome than I hoped for. You’re the ones who could and should have thrown me to the wolves and washed your hands of me. Instead…” I stopped talking, but the emotions and our shared history floated in the air around us.
FocusDetermination. Domenic forced through the feelings, cutting them away like his power seemed built for. “The Pairbond’s flaring up again. I thought we’d gotten past that point.”
DutyUncertain. Chloe sighed, then started to speak. “From what I understand, Pairbonds whose members are different enough take a while to form an equilibrium.” LossDisgust. “But there are three of us, which the experts all agree is impossible.”
“Makes sense,” Domenic said. GuiltConcern. He looked at me. “Things were a lot clearer when it was it was just two of us.” RegretGuilt JealousyPain.
We’re going to keep going in circles over this until we all die of old age, aren’t we? “Trying to find answers to how powers work is impossible.” I allowed my lightning to jump between my fingers. “I think whatever gives us powers doesn’t want to be understood.”
DoubtRejection. Domenic scoffed. “Do you think It has the ability to want anything? What I felt was… I don’t know, but I don’t think it thinks. At least, not in any manner that a human brain can understand.”
I thought of all the times I’d dipped into the Source to improve my powers. What was there was unlike anything I’d ever heard of in this world. It wasn’t like us, but it was so much more than an animal or mindless thing. I couldn’t explain it. “I get the feeling my Fate sense knows more than it tells me, sometimes. Like, if it wanted to, it could show me everything, but it doesn’t.”
IncredulityRejection. “Even if you’re right, that just means the difference between a universe with no God, or a universe with a God who wants us to think there is no God. From our position inside, here is no difference between the two. Unless you’ve got some way for us to get more information?”
“Nothing, sorry.” You’ll think I’m stupid if I try.
“I’d have to give up our anonymity to ask any more specific questions,” Chloe said. “Which isn’t an option.” AgreementParanoiaDanger. The pair of them felt there was some massive threat which would come, if we revealed our full powers.
It didn’t take much of a dip into my Fate-senses to know they were right.
“Maybe we should take more time to learn how everything works? Try la-” RejectionImpossible. No, I’m not going to hide in a hole the rest of my life. Domenic stumbled over his words. “Okay, no turning back. Wouldn’t work, anyway.”
I looked out toward the ocean as I dipped even further into my power, checking the danger we’d be under if others learned about this new, alien form of Pairbond we had. Answers were impossible to find, as other Espers got involved and muddied the waters. “We have nowhere to go but forward. It’s the safest path.” Our choices are to hide or run, even we aren’t strong enough to fight.
DoubtResignation. Domenic sighed, also looking out toward the ocean. “We don’t have much choice in the matter, do we?”
BlameLoathing. Chloe’s thinking about her mother, and how I’m using this power I stole from her in order to kill her. FocusRegret. “Sorry.”
SupportComfortLove. “It can’t be helped.” Domenic put an arm around her shoulder, to comfort her as he always did. “We’ll just have to tolerate it for now.”