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Found 43 results

  1. Gizmo

    Time Out

    Friday, November 13, 2015 Even with Merlin around to help supervise Raina was a little surprised to find herself to be anyone's first choice for a babysitter, short notice or not. Still, Talya had been as difficult to say no to as ever and it wasn't as though the young pyromancer couldn't use the extra income. And so she found herself in the apartments above the Espadas School on a Friday night, armed with a list of contact numbers, money to order a pizza, the knowledge that one of Erik's other students would be downstairs using the training equipment after hours and instructions that, should anything go truly badly she should literally call for 'Vince', whatever that was supposed to accomplish. While little Mia Espadas sat on the carpet in front of Raina concentrating mightily on her efforts to maneuver her own foot into her mouth, her older sister Eden looked up the tall blonde expectantly.
  2. AEON Institute, Downtown Freedom 10:30 AM February 3rd 2016 Though the late January blizzard had for a time dampened the fervor of the ongoing 'Humans First' protests outside the Aeon Institute with the city emerging from it's blanket of snow they had returned with renewed spite for all the institute and it's 'Terminus Spawn' CEO. AEON security maintained a safety corridor for those seeking AEONs services but beyond the barricades the protesters had grown ten deep chanting and waving their signs proclaiming humanities preeminence over the earth and unkind variations on 'Go Home Freaks!' and worse. Pictures of the mangled bodies from the last Terminus Invasion as well as some few victims of recent super violence often attributed to those afflicted with Terminus Energy Mutation Syndrome were shaken in the faces of executive and frightened petitioner alike while slurs and occasional threats were lobbed at those making their way to the main entrance of the Institute. Thus far violence had been avoided thanks in large part to the restraint of the well trained security team deployed along the barricade and the help of the FCPD who were quick to remove any protesters who crossed the line from peaceful protest. None the less the air was electric with the tension and for those with insight into such things it was clear the situation was unsustainable without something snapping soon. The young group from Claremont made their way to the cordon where a security agent and a well bundled receptionist took down their names before beginning to escort them down the gauntlet of hateful people and their signs. The youth of these particular petitioners it seemed inflamed the protesting crowd yet further with the screams of "Freak!", "Devil Spawn!", and worse rising over the general din as the protesters pressed angrily against the barrier despite the nearby securities warnings to back away.
  3. If only Riley or Raina is there I'll edit tags. Anyone with danger sense ought have it tingling. DC 25 Notice Checks to see a more organized subset of the protesters seem to be moving purposely through the crowd a few rows back pacing the claremonters as they walk the line.
  4. Date: Halloween, 2015 Location: Faretti Mansion, North Bay Halloween was a busy time of year for Huang's parents and he'd been able to plan on them being out of the house as soon as the sun went down. Arrangements had been made for his younger self to stay at Sanctuary for an overnight long in advance and JJ would no doubt be having a fabulous Halloween with Ammy and her mother on the verdant world. Huang had been warned no less than three times by his mother as she walked through the manor, putting things in her cloak for an evening of chasing down cultists, monsters and probably making out with his dad (ick!). He'd been told to stay behind the wards as there was no shortage of people who'd like the potent blood of a dhampir to fuel their fell rituals - and not to expect them back before dawn. So, technically, there hadn't been any specific rules about not having people over. Technically. At least nothing beyond the usually secretive bent of his family in general. When his father came downstairs in his Avenger costume, Taylor kissed Huang's cheek with one last reminder to stay safe before his parents vanished. Really, they should have been suspicious at the lack of requests to come along but Huang had his own plans for Halloween. Namely, an illicit holiday party! Earlier in the week, elaborate scrolls had appeared in the rooms of certain classmates of his - those that might be receptive to such endeavors. Without fail, a sealed scroll had popped showily into existence in front of them at some point earlier in the week. In contrast with the fancy appearance, the wording itself was utterly contemporary: You know who's got a mansion and a guarantee of absent parents? This guy! Party at my place on Halloween. Folks will be gone at sunset so party starts after. Oh, bring the scroll or you won't be able to find it. Magic. J.H.F. Also, goes without saying but, no racist costumes welcome, obv. Especially ghosts. They're really sensitive this time of year. For those who followed the very brief instructions, they ended up at an over grown driveway in a ritzy North Bay neighborhood where all the houses seemed to have expansive grounds. Which, of course, left them standing at the bottom of a winding driveway, heavily overgrown and oddly foreboding. There was no mailbox or sign to mark the place but for some discolored brickwork that marked the start of the driveway. Outside it, it didn't even seem like there was a house at the end of the drive but once they crossed the line, the cracked driveway and overgrown trees parted enough to reveal a dark mansion at the top of a hill through the overgrowth. It was spooky and foreboding, with thick cobwebs knotting the branches of the trees that obscured much of their view. Apparently Huang's family went all out for the holiday spirit?
  5. Raina was in a terrible mood. She had plenty of reasons to be, good reasons. She'd hardly slept at all last night, and trying to wake up with her alarm had been torture, especially when certain nameless parties had apparently spent all night dreaming peacefully of Antarctica and the dorm room windows were frosted from the inside. And Merlin was bothering her. He'd been clinging to her shoulder all morning, and even when she'd forcibly removed him to shower, he hung from the shower curtain rod and glared ever-so-balefully at her for her treachery. She was doing a foolish thing, he'd reminded her a number of times, and potentially putting them both at risk. It would be very unpleasant, probably painful, certainly scary. Modern technology obviated the need for any of this, and why couldn't she just show some sense for once and do things the easy way? She'd ignored him, but the constant haranguing settled in as a throb behind her temples that just made her more irritated. The best reason to be in a terrible mood, though, was that it let her ignore how utterly, completely, piss-your-pants scared she was. It was so much easier to be angry and annoyed with the world than to consider even for five minutes what she was about to let happen to her. Unconsciously Raina rubbed her wrists with her fingertips, remembering how cold the manacles had been when she'd been arrested the first time, remembering how it had hurt, how lost she'd been. Merlin wrapped his tail around her neck and rubbed her cheek with his own, commiserating with her in the poorly suppressed terror department. "It'll be okay," she told him. "We're gonna be fine. It's not permanent. I'll be back before dinnertime. You just... you just stay in here, okay? I've put away your computer already, so it's totally safe. Just wear the diaper and watch TV, and there's plenty of food if you get hungry. It'll be all right, I promise." She kissed his furry forehead. Merlin accepted the affection, but felt compelled to grouse a little more about the indignity of having to wear the diaper. "Nobody's gonna see you," she reminded him. "Cathy's not even going to be here, the place is all yours. And I won't say a word about it afterwards, really." He implied that she had damn well better not, as this was her fault entirely, and also he had plenty of blackmail material of his own to break out if necessary! "I know," Raina assured him. "I remember. I'll see you later. I love you." Merlin replied, only a little reluctantly, that he loved her too, and be careful, and listen to Talya. Raina managed an insouciant grin at that. "Much as I ever do, right?" As Merlin scrambled off her shoulder and over to the bed, she gave herself one last look in the mirror, grimacing at the shapeless, style-free gray coverall she'd been sent to wear. Ugly, ugly, ugly. With more than a little reluctance, she removed her earrings, the rings from her fingers, and finally the pendants around her neck, setting them with great care into a little bowl on her dresser. The pendant glowed slightly from the touch of her fingers, dimming when it left her hand. Feeling entirely naked and extremely vulnerable, Raina picked up her bag of gifts and headed out of the dorm, walking to the large circular driveway in front of the school's administration building. She could feel eyes on her, curious eyes, judging eyes, but she straightened her back and ignored them. Shapeless gray coveralls and rubber-sole sneakers were totally in this year, and they should all feel sorry that they didn't have any to wear.
  6. The Espadas School of Swordsmanship and Sword-Fighting (!) was just a little busier than the last time Raina had shown up for her lesson. It was a small knot of largely older ladies filtering out through the door and gossiping as they collected their belongings and gathered up to leave. When she stepped past the still-empty receptionist area, the only instructor visible was Talya as she spoke with one of the older ladies in friendly tones. Unfortunately, the attractive male teacher was no where to be seen. Oddly, as Raina drew closer, the crisp British accent was gone and Talya's half of the conversation was softer voiced, her tone pitched a little higher and the faint traces of a midwestern accent and phrases peppering her speech. She hustled the lady off with a friendly smile before putting up the sign for a private lesson in progress. "Sorry about that. Delightful lady, really, but I made the mistake of mentioning that I know how to knit and now it takes a few minutes to extricate myself from discussions of patterns post class without fail," Talya sounded once more herself, assuming of course that this was the actual natural intonations of the woman in question. Today, she wore black tights that ended at the calf and a leotard over that. "Put your things down in the corner and we'll stretch out just a bit first. The last thing you need to do is cramp a calf. How's your week been?"
  7. Location: Claremont currently, later ???? Date: 9/21/15 In addition to the school's regular curriculum of classes taught by the stable of professors, there were the occasional guest lectures that were, perhaps, more akin to a college than a traditional high school. Of course, no one had ever accused Claremont of being a traditional school ever. Typically, from what the upperclassmen said, the guest lectures were for the one-off classes that the headmistress could rope active heroes into 'giving back' to the school. They were typically optional, although the staff wasn't above exerting pressure when they felt the topic was necessary for one of their students in particular. The blurb for this one had read: An afternoon lecture in magic and the greater worlds beyond. Most people will never end up trapped in an entirely different dimension but it happens to super heroes far more often than one might think. For those who signed up, they had a pass on their typical afternoon classes to attend the guest lecture right after lunch. School gossip whispered that the elusive Eldritch might have been tapped to make a rare appearance. As the students headed towards it, post lunch, it was in a small classroom located far from most of the currently active classrooms. Likely, because, magic was more of an art than a science and the headmistress was hoping any incidents would be contained in a more manageable locale. Encouraging! The room itself was small, currently empty, with a loosely arrayed ring of desks in no particular arrangement. The lights were off when the first student arrived.
  8. (Takes place directly after events in "Let's Get It Started.") By the time Raina and Anibal walked into the cafeteria, the lunch rush was long over, but the dinner crowd had mostly not begun to arrive yet. Raina'd made good use of her time in the locker room, changing back into civilian clothes that were considerably more flattering than the workout uniform and doing something to her hair that made it shinier and more wavy than before. She smiled at Anibal as she took a tray from the pile near the door. "Looks like they're just finishing up the first batch of burgers, our timing's pretty good."
  9. It took two passes over the West End for Raina to find the Espadas School for Self-Defense, mainly because the first time around, she'd discounted the building covered in plants without a second thought. Why would a dojo have a rooftop garden? On the second time around, Merlin and the GPS colluded to convince her to at least make a landing and check it out. With a much put-upon sigh, Raina landed and dropped her invisibility as she slung her broom over her shoulder, not willing to admit aloud that Merlin had been correct. The laughter coming from inside her backpack was galling enough. The school looked sort of like a business and sort of like a house, to the point where Raina wasn't sure if it was okay to just go in or not. Better safe than sorry when it came to just barging into somebody's house, she decided, with only a thick hint of bitterness, and knocked loudly on the front door.
  10. Something had been playing on Cathy’s mind all day, well several things sometime it felt like all the things. Life in the big city was certainly a confusing mess for a girl from a tiny village from Scotland. For most people this wouldn’t cause much problem, just a quiet little girl with a wide eyed looked at everything, but when Cathy was nervous she lowered the temperature around her making it pretty obvious to anyone around her. She’d managed to keep herself busy for a while sat on her bed doing her school work in her carefully neat handwriting, she wasn’t the smartest in a school with literary geniuses but she was diligent in keeping up with her school work. Finally she could bare it no longer and worked up the courage to say something. “Erm Raina you okay there?” it wasn’t the smoothest of opening lines.
  11. Danger Room, Claremont Academy Wednesday 9/15/2015 Early Afternoon When they were pulled from afternoon classes for a special assessment and Team Building Exercise Riley, Raina, Robin and Anibal were not precisely sure what that would entail though doubtless they each had ideas of what to expect. Few of them however were likely to expect what they found when they reported as directed to the athletic fields where in the distance they could make out Coach archer drilling a class of freshmen in a rather expansive obstacle course. Other than the distant coach and students there wasn't much to see other than each other for several minutes before a large man emerged from a nearby stand of trees and strode out toward them. Upon closer inspection the students could see he seemed to be made of or coated in some kind of silvery metal and from the way his footfalls left impressions in the ground it looked like he had the heft to back it up. Some of the more social students might have recognized him as Coach Capote, Archers younger larger assistant, while those with an interest in millennial supers might recognize him as the hulking powerhouse Dauntless who occasionally made the news though less so of late.
  12. Gizmo

    Unstill Life

    Freedom City Historical Museum September 7, 2015 It had been nearly a full week since most of the new students had moved into their dormitory rooms at Claremont Academy but to say the acclimation process had been going smoothly might have been a bit misleading. Fortunately enough the school's headmistress was known for her impressive foresight and instead of their normal classes the sophomore students of the girl's dormitory were ushered onto a bus and carted off for what was as much a team building exercise as a field trip. As roommates Raina and Cathy had already been partnered up in the 'buddy system' as had been outlined by the students' chaperone in an explanation that had been as cheerful as it was unnecessary. As the girls were assigned to groups for the day Robin and Hannah joined the familiar faces from their first day, the latter being given a sheet of questions about various exhibits that the quartet were to find answers for by the time they had to leave. With a friendly - if slightly condescending in Raina's opinion - reminder to keep a low profile so far as metahuman powers went they were left to their own devices by the sprawling scale model of Freedom City, circa the early 1900s.
  13. The OOC! Riley, Raina, Robin, and Anibal first day in the Danger room Special Appearance by Coach Capote (AKA Dauntless)
  14. September 2015 "Hey." Riley approached Raina outdoors in the quad, shooting a quick glance around for her monkey before saying, "I guess you got that stupid thing from Perry too, huh?" Raina wasn't in his developmental English class, but he'd heard some of the other kids complaining about the interview assignment while conducting his usual surveys of campus. After a couple of false starts, Robin had said Raina was OK, so..."You find a partner?" He was dressed in his usual fashion; hatchet on his hip, crossbow on his back, but with a brand-new three-ring binder tucked under his bare arm. He was wearing a big, bulky green and brown shirt, somebody's camo design that looked a size too big for him. Not yet," Raina said cautiously, giving Riley an up and down study. "Sounds like a stupid assignment, I was thinking about blowing it off. You actually gonna do it?" Raina was dressed for a day somewhat colder than the actual weather, in a cream-color turtleneck and dark brown slacks that actually matched quite well with the fur colors of her simian companion. Who, Riley noticed abruptly, was also studying Riley from his perch on Raina's shoulder, half-concealed in her honey-colored hair. "You're not going to partner up with Robin for it?" Riley locked eyes warily with the monkey for a moment, cocking his head to match Merlin's posture, before looking back at Raina. That monkey was weird - but he knew what a pet was. Even a creepy one. "Nah. S'posed to be somebody I don't already know. And Robin says you're pretty cool." He looked her over, wondering what secrets she held, and asked seriously "I heard you set that crazy statue girl on fire with magic, yeah? How did you do that? (1)" That earned him a moment’s hard look from Raina, who relaxed somewhat when it seemed clear that Riley’s question wasn’t an attempt to trap her or lead into some exploration of her inner villainy. “I’m a witch,” she told him with some pride. “I can do all kinds of stuff with magic. But I didn’t really set the statue on fire, it turns out there was a girl trapped as a statue and I released her. Then she totally flipped out and went crazy on us and we had to use our powers to knock her out before somebody got hurt. She’s supposed to be getting better now. So are you really from some alternate reality where everyone lives at the nuclear plant?(1)” “Uh…” Riley had evidently not expected that question, but he recovered quickly enough. “Yeah. I mean, on a typical day, people will go as far as the Interstate or the Bay, but almost everyone lives in or around Raymond. Safer.” He sat down next to Raina on the grass, carefully setting down his notebook and adjusting his hatchet, and studied her, hands resting casually in his lap. “What’s with the monkey?(2)” With nothing better to do at the moment, Raina deigned to lower herself to the grass as well, neatly folding her legs under her in a way that would minimize grass stains (as though it mattered, given her cheap blue jeans). “I’m a witch,” she answered again. “Merlin’s my familiar. I empowered him with magic, now he’s intelligent and can do stuff on his own, but he doesn’t have any actual magic. Mostly he just lazes around and surfs the internet all day.” Merlin, who had been studying the nearby elm tree as though he might possibly try to climb it, gave an indignant chitter. “Yeah, yeah, you know it’s true,” Raina told him dismissively. She opened her bag and pulled out the assignment sheet and a spiral-bound notebook. “Okay, let’s see. Already covered where you’re from, sort of. What’s your family like? (2)” “Dad’s dead,” replied Riley shortly, looking down at the grass between his heavy boots. “Had cancer doc couldn’t fix. Mom’s head’gineer at Raymond.” A thin, sharp, humorless smile crossed Riley’s features. “I guess you saw Peyton when she dropped me off. That’s my mom here. ‘Cept not really. She runs the plant here too.” He looked over at Raina and said, “How about you? Where you from? (3)” “Angel Mounds, Indiana,” Raina told him, relaxing from where she’d been braced for a different question. “Little bitty town just on the edge of Evanston, on the Ohio River. Everything that was worth visiting was in Evanston, the malls, the movie theaters, even my schools. But it was like tax advantageous or something to keep being our own town, so my dad was the mayor and they just kept on trucking along.” She consulted her paper again, then looked at Riley. “So I don’t even know if this is rude or not, or how to ask in a way that isn’t rude. Are you transgender? (3)” “Yeah,” said Riley, shooting Raina a hard, level look. “‘S’wat I am.” He’d evidently been expecting something worse, though, so he relaxed fractionally when she was finished speaking. “Question’s all right. Least you didn’t ask if I was a boy all the way down or some crap like that.” He smiled that hard-edged smile again, chewing over her words. He’d been asked the question a lot less than he’d expected at Claremont - so maybe it was just Raina was good at seeing stuff like bio-gender. Prolly a magic thing. “People here are obsessed with each other’s things.” He looked at Raina and said, “Why is that?(4) Damn, growing up, I’d have thought people in a place like this would have had better things to do with their time, like flying in planes or going to malls.” “Well, I’m not 100% trash queen, no matter what they say about me,” Raina replied, her tongue in her cheek. “But it’s not like there were a lot of people doing the not-totally-straight thing where I come from, or at least if there were, they didn’t talk about it. People love to get up in each others’ sexy business, it gives them stuff to talk about. And there’s a lot of religious fundamentalism still putting sticky fingers all over everything, trying to dictate everybody’s morality and who can do what with who because God.” She grimaced. “We’d all be better off if the nosies minded their own business more and everybody else’s less. Does it really not make any difference where you’re from? (4)” “Lotta bad things happened where I’m from. People had to lose a lot of stupid attitudes fast, or they got dead.” He shrugged. “I took _some_ crap about it, but mostly ‘cause I had to start training with the boys halfway through my first year with the Woodsmen. 14 year olds, buncha kids.” He hesitated a moment, then pressed on. “That’s where I got the name. Back home, I’m part of the Woodsmen Corps. We’re the ones that protect the people - and who go out and hunt for what people need.” Deciding to change gears (since there was no point in ruining the conversation), he went on, “Indiana, that’s westahere, right? You ever go hunting, stuff like that? (5)” That drew a laugh from Raina. “No way, hunting’s for people who drive pickup trucks to school and don’t have anything fun to do on weekends. Um, no offense,” she added after an awkward pause. “I mean, that’s how it was where I come from, not where you need to, like, do it to survive. I imagine it becomes a way sexier skillset then. But I went out riding and stuff when I was younger. I had a pony named Starlight because she had this white blaze right in the middle of her forelock. We’d go out riding around the mounds and stuff, and I’d practice my meditation where there weren’t any people. Then I got tall and she got old and I couldn’t ride her anymore, but you don’t just give away your pony, you know?” Raina frowned down at her notebook and blinked hard a couple of times. “Anyway, did you ever have a pet? (5)” “Took care of the cats when I was a kid,” said Riley. “Gotta a whole colony of ‘em around Raymond. They keep the rats off the stuff we grow in the fields, and some of ‘em still like people enough to get petted or even sit on your lap. Sometimes you eat ‘em,” he added baldly, “but only if hunting’s been real bad and if you’re out of food meat. I only had cat when I was real little. Anyway, there was this black cat I named Buddy when I was a kid, he was cool. Used to rub against my legs and purr. He’s got a whole buncha kittens now.” He looked down at his list of questions, shrugged, and said, “Okay, what’s your favorite food? (6)” Raina frowned. “Um, I dunno, ice cream I guess. Or no, no, I’ve got it. We had this housekeeper from Jamaica when I was a kid, her name was Eyana and she was super-old and needed another housekeeper just to do the second floor rooms, but she was an awesome cook. She’d make all the normal food for my mom and dad, but when they were on trips and stuff she’d make Jamaican food for me, and it was so good. There was this one pastry called gizzada that was like a shell full of coconut and spices and honey and it was so good. I went to Jamaica on vacation once and I ordered it at a restaurant, but it wasn’t even as good as how she made it. What’s yours? (6)” Riley had no idea what Jamaica was - maybe an island somewhere? “Yeah, we used to get some Jamaican spices when we were scavenging; sometimes the cook would fry stuff up in ‘em... anyway, my favorite food here is pink cotton candy, definitely.” His eyes lit up like a small child’s as he said, “Oh man, you put it in your mouth, and it just...just melts there, and it’s _all sugar_! It’s great. Peyton got it for me my first week in her house, said she thought I deserved some treats, and I just about cried. She said I was like a little kid.” He grinned, maybe the first time she’d seen him smile when talking about his other mother. “Man, the food here is so great! If I didn’t train so hard, I’d prolly have a candy gut like woah.” He rested his hand on his flat belly for a moment, then asked, “So, uh, this may be a stupid question,” he admitted, “but how does magic work? (7)” “Dunno.” Raina shrugged, turning to watch as Merlin finally made his break for the irresistable charms of the elm tree. “It’s like a channeling of natural free-floating energy through your will and your mind, so that you can take energy from different sources and make it do what you want. But like, where the energy comes from, and why it does what it does, that’s not really what I care about. I figure other people can do the research on that. But if you’ve got the right genes and the talent and the motivation, you don’t need to know how it works. There’s no magic where you come from?” (7) “I dunno,” said Riley with a shrug. “There might be, I guess. There’s nobody left who can do magic in Raymond, anyway. I’ve hearda people who could do magic in the old days, super-people and stuff, but they’re all dead now.” Or worse. “I guess that sounds really cold!” he admitted, scratching the close-shaved hair at the back of his head. “Dr. Marquez wants me to talk about it more. Jerk loves to talk.” He frowned. “But I was just a baby when everything happened. I grew up hearing about super-people, but I’ve never really lived in a world with ‘em till I got here.” He looked back at Raina. “When we’re done with all this stuff, this high school stuff, where do you wanna go? (8)” “Ugh, I don’t even want to think about all this high school stuff,” Raina replied, shaking her head in disgust. “It’s all just so much BS, pretending to give us an education while they train us to be, like, soldiers in their secret hero army. So it’s like if you have any talent, you’re likely to be used up or dead by the time you graduate anyway, right? It’s not like you see a lot of former students coming back to say how great it is that they spent four years getting tortured into being heroes. What I really need is a filthy rich boyfriend who doesn’t hesitate to throw his weight around on my behalf and can keep me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed again. I can shake the dust of this place off my shoes, give my grandparents the finger, and it will all be amazingly satisfying. Do you plan to ever go back where you come from?” (8) “Can’t,” replied Riley, his voice growing clipped and tight. “Door’s shut. Magic people, science people, can’t find it again. Got here by accident - n’ nobody on the other end’ll knowta look.” He shook his head, not wanting to admit he had no idea where he was going after high school. “Things are nicer here,” he admitted. “Cotton candy, nacho cheese, Innernet. Safer, too.” He scratched the back of his head again. “How about you, you ever gonna go back to Angel Mounds? (9)” “Can’t,” Raina replied in turn. “They took my home, our cars, the bank accounts, all our stuff. Even my college fund and my clothes, all poofed and gone into somebody’s pocket. They even took Starlight,” she added bitterly. “Then they told me I should feel lucky because I wasn’t in jail, and that I got to fill one suitcase before I went, instead of just getting tossed out in my jammies. There’s nothing left for me there, and given the hatchet job that’s been done on my family’s reputation, if I tried I’d probably be burned at the stake.” Abruptly, she gave a sharp whistle. Merlin clattered down from the tree (he was a pretty poor climber for a monkey) and jumped back onto Raina’s lap, snuggling in affectionately. “Anyway, more questions.” Raina cleared her throat and studied the sheet. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (9) “My mom wants me to be an engineer like her. Prolly gonna hafta,” Riley said with a little shrug. It didn’t look like he’d given the idea a lot of thought. “Somebody’s gotta do it - and even the youngest ’ginner’s almost 40 by now. We’re damn lucky at Raymond - half the reactors are still going, so we’ve got power for the defenses and t’keep the lights on at night. Most places don’t even have that.” As they spoke, he unfastened the hatchet at his hip and pulled a whetstone from his belt, and half-paying attention began the process of sharpening the blade. “Wanna be a Woodsman as long as I can, though. There’s a whole city out there to explore, and, heh.” He looked around the peace and quiet of the quad and added, “Maybe someday I’ll see what my Bayview looks like.” He said the words with the mixed excitement and fear of someone discussing something extremely dangerous. “How ‘bout you? You’d prolly get bored with your rich boyfriend after a coupla years.(10)” he said with a grin. “I dunno, probably going to have to do something,” Raina admitted. “I was going to travel when I grew up. Go to college in Europe, then do a world tour, meet all kinds of different types of magical people, then maybe write a book about it. Can’t do any of that anymore, and not having any money definitely sucks. I might could just be a hedge witch, sell people little potions for their sex life, remove warts, hex enemies, stuff like that. I really don’t want to get into this whole superhero BS. That’s just begging to let somebody else run your life for you, till some big nasty comes along and squashes you flat. The whole costumes and codenames thing is ridiculous, and the Claremont getup is ridiculously unflattering. Not to mention,” she added, her voice dropping to a mutter, “it’s hard to be a hero when everybody thinks you’re a villain.” She frowned and shook herself. “Okay, here we go. “What’s your favorite school subject?” (10) “Shop class. I love building stuff, and Claremont’s got a lot of tools and a lot less people trying to use ‘em.” He grinned. “And since it’s hero high, they don’t put the stupid limits on it they do at normal schools, like sixteen year olds are a bunch of stupid kids. I used to have an all-wood crossbow at home, working on making a new one here. And maybe a rack for Robin’s room.” With the signs of obvious long practice, he put up his hatchet, then took out his bow and began carefully removing parts of it for polishing. “I guess that’s what I like about this place,” he admitted. “If I was still living with Peyton and Riley, I’d be going freakin’ crazy in that house with nothin’ to do all day.” He shot a look over at Raina while he was in the middle of cracking open the magazine of the bow. “Why do people think you’re a villain, anyway? (11) Is it just that crap about your mom and dad?” “You know how it is, sins of the fathers get passed along,” Raina replied caustically. “Assholes like Madison’s parents did a very thorough job painting my family as evil, and think that I must’ve known about all of it somehow. Add onto that the fact that I’m not interested in puckering up and kissing the ass of every half-brained thug in a costume or jackass in a position of authority, and obviously I’m a bad seed. They can have my respect when they’ve earned it, and so far nobody’s gone that far. The headmistress _might_ not be quite as bad as most of the idiots, but I’m still withholding judgment. So how did the government work where you come from anyway?” (11) she asked. “Did you still have elections and mayors and stuff?” “Mayor, four people on the city council, even a police chief,” said Riley with a nod. “We hold elections every three years, have since ‘05. It’s what Lady Liberty woulda wanted. My mom was mayor when I was a kid for three years, but she said she liked tending machines more than tending people.” He shrugged. “Some people talk about maybe making a new state government, since we’re the biggest city in Jersey, but nobody really cares enough to do that. Local government’s only thing that really matters, since most people can’t travel. President Clinton’s supposed to still be alive in a bunker somewhere, but he can’t do anything either.” He made a face. “I watched some movies people made back before everything went to Hell, read some books too, and they’re so stupid. People here think human beings would just turn on each other when things go bad, but that’s not how it is where I’m from. We worked together, and we remembered who we are.” It was obviously a memorized phrase - but one he said with pride despite all that. “What’s your favorite class? (12)” Raina groaned. “Can I answer none of the above? They all basically suck. And if something interesting ever does happen, you can bet that Madison and her cronies are right there to squeeze the joy out of it before anybody can get too happy. Just trying to have a discussion in class with them around is like asking for a hard time. Otherwise Social Studies would be okay, I’ve been to a lot of the places they talk about on the syllabus, but I don’t need to hear what they think about my evil world travels. Just say study hall.” She turned a page in her notebook, absently petting Merlin’s furry head. “So who’s Peyton?” (12) “She’s not my mom,” said Riley quickly, “but she’s...close. Peyton Quinn is my mom on my world. This world has a Peyton Quinn and a Riley Quinn, but they didn’t live through all the bad stuff. When I first got here, since I didn’t have any powers, they sent me to live with her and Riley once I was outta Goodman.” He shrugged, but there was a flash of pain in his eyes. “She’s nice - she tried hard to take careame.” He snapped his magazine back into place with an audible click, the bolt-polishing done. “Didn’t work out. Her Riley’s biggest worry is getting inta good college and workin’ for NASA. And my mom isn’t that lady. She still sends me stuff, though,” he admitted. “And that Madison, that’s the one who’s always talking about her aunt?” He made a face. “First time she sees me, she goes up to me and says ‘I want you to know I totally support your lifestyle!’, then she wants me to be in some kinda picture on her phone…” He threw up his hands. “Anyway, think she was expectin’ me to be grateful or something.” He looked at Raina. “So your grandparents give you crap about the magic stuff too? That sucks. Can they at least do spells and things? (13)” “You’re her charity case,” Raina told him with a knowledgeable nod. “She’s going to use you to show what a good person she is to her asshole Facebook friends. ‘See how nice I am, being friends with this poor person who is totally weird to me?’ So long as you don’t cross her, she might throw you a bone once in awhile, but the second you do something she doesn’t like, you’re basically erased from her life. I knew tons of people like her back at my old school. What you should do is try to alienate her enough that she thinks you’re too weird to hang around with, without antagonizing her enough that she treats you like, say, me. You’ll get along a lot better that way.” Her voice was one of great wisdom and social experience, before she turned her attention back to the list of questions. “My grandparents, doing magic…. not in this lifetime,” she said with a humorless laugh. “My dad grew up using magic, my granddad was the mayor of Angel Mounds for a long time before him. But my mom got into it against her parents’ wishes. They hated everything about magic and about my family. They’d disowned my mom before I was born, so I didn’t even meet them until Social Services was looking for somebody to dump me on. And they didn’t want me, but took me on because it was ‘their duty’ or some BS like that. We really didn’t get along. They were way happy when Claremont offered to take me off their hands, but I think they’d have given me away to pretty much anybody else who’d asked, too.” She jerked her shoulders to show how little that meant to her. “Anyway, let’s see here… what is your favorite book to read? (13)” “Fiction books, not technical manuals or how-to guides?” Riley’s eyes widened as he considered what was obviously an unfamiliar question. “Huckleberry Finn, I guess. Huck lives in a crappy time and place, but he makes the best of it. When he decides to go to Hell instead of betray his friend, that’s good stuff.” He nodded. “Plus, he can go wherever he wants on that river. Must be nice.” He stood up, dusting off his hands, and eyed the tree Raina sat under speculatively. “For regular books, The Way Things Work is cool. ‘Sgot pictures and stuff of how all kinds of things work on the inside. I have that in my bunk at home.” Crouching low for a moment, he suddenly jumped upwards, a good three foot vertical leap, and grabbed ahold of a particularly sturdy branch overhead, where he hung with two hands. “What’s your favorite animal? (14)” Raina opened her mouth, but was interrupted by a chitter from Merlin. It was obvious, even to Riley, that Merlin was suggesting that Raina’s answer be monkeys, definitely monkeys. Raina rolled her eyes. “Monkeys, definitely monkeys,” she parroted dutifully. “Even though they’re really obnoxious and eat granola bars in bed.” Merlin gave her a toothy, ingratiating grin. “What about you? You seem kind of… maybe nervous sometimes around animals. Do you like them? (14)” “Sure, I like cats, and dogs, and this lady at Raymond kept these parakeets for a while.” He began doing chin-ups on the branch, slow, regular ones, without a sign of strain in his steady movements “But other animals…” He was quiet for a moment, moving up and down, then he suddenly pulled himself up, both hands, until he was perched carefully on the thick overhanging branch, his head half-obscured by fall leaves. It looked like he belonged there. “Animals are...different where I’m from. The ones that live with people are the same, but the ones from the Forest are smarter, and meaner. I once saw a wolf pack lay in wait for a hunting party, then jump out and grab the flashlights _first_ before they went for the others. I’ve heard about bears wearing human clothes, and foxes who write messages in the dirt…” He shook his head. “It’s not all animals, but I’ve learned you can’t turn your back on one without studying it first. Yours seems OK, though. How’d you meet Merlin? (15)” he asked. “I rescued him from a research facility,” Raina replied, both she and Merlin tilting their heads back to see Riley in his leafy perch. “He was just a baby and they were going to do experiments on him to see if their stupid chemicals would burn off his fur and blister his skin and god only knows what else. I freed pretty much all the animals they had caged up there, but he’s the one I took home with me. I wanted a familiar who had thumbs and stuff, you know? Didn’t anticipate he’d be so much trouble.” That earned her another very cheeky monkey grin. “Is it weird having to learn about all the technology and stuff here?” (15) “Some of it’s weird,” he admitted. “I still don’t see what’s the point of Facebook and Snapchat and all that stuff, but smartphones seem pretty nice. The Internet is great! We’ve got computers at Raymond, but they’re just for running the reactors and the super-equipment. I just have the phone Peyton bought me, but I like to look at webcams of places all over the world, like Washington, and Socotra, and London…” He had climbed to his feet now, balancing carefully on the branch, and was obviously eying the branches above his head. “You ever been in a fight? (16)” “Like a fistfight?” Raina asked, leaning back on her elbows to watch Riley more comfortably. He certainly had some muscles in those wiry shoulders, which she could appreciate even if she wasn’t attracted to the small and skinny type. “I got into one pretty good slapfight at the school my grandparents sent me to, got a bruised cheekbone and gave a black eye and a bald spot, so it was pretty evenly matched. Shouldn’t talked about my parents if she didn’t want to go a round.” She looked grimly satisfied at the memory. “But before that, my combat was pretty much always social. There are much more effective ways to hit than with your hands. What about you, have you? (16)” Riley laughed from up inside the tree - it wasn’t a pleasant sound. “Yeah.” He started climbing, impossibly graceful in those heavy boots, climbing with slow, deliberate speed as he ascended through the branches. “But if you mean like a fistfight, yeah, that too.” He turned down to watch her as he spoke, but still didn’t miss a step as he worked his way around the tree. “Even to go out in the Forest, you have to prove you can handle yourself in a fight - and between one thing and another, I got inna lot of ‘em.” He leaned back and looked down at her. “I guess you heard about the thing with that dumbass Jayawan? Heard that room still stinksapuke.” He shook his head. “Marquez wants me to talk more about the stuff I did. Like that’s same as killin’ people.” He looked down at Raina, and decided not to ask that question. “What’s your coolest power? (17)” “I heard about that, yeah, but it’s better not to believe everything you hear in this place,” Raina told him. “Jayawan is a loser anyway, you’re better off without him as a roommate. He’s like sixteen and already trying to apply to the Freedom League. Brownnoser.” She scoffed, while Merlin scoffed right along with her. “My coolest power is definitely throwing fireballs. Not always useful, but definitely cool. But I can talk to animals and fly and go invisible when I want, so none of it exactly sucks. I was learning more, but then that all got derailed, obviously. Do you have any superpowers? (17)” “Nope. I just shoot really well and I make my own arrows. I could probably cut power armor up and recycle the parts, but I couldn’t make my own, that stuff is crazy.” He leaned out of the tree to look directly at Raina, leaning precipitously out with one hand still clinging to an overhead branch. “Hold up, do you really fly?” he asked, his eyes lighting up. “Do you grow wings or something? (18)” “Course not,” Raina replied with some amusement. “What kind of witch do you think I am? I use a broom, like normal people. But I can do a little bit of it just by myself. Just gotta think of a wonderful thought.” She hummed a few bars of music under her breath, then raised her hand and rubbed her fingers together as though she were sprinkling something onto herself. She rose slowly into the air until she was face to face with Riley. “Ever flown before? Wanna try it now?” (18) “You...hell yes!” declared Riley, a look of uninhibited joy on his face that was as rare as hen’s teeth. He climbed to a particularly high branch (one with relatively few leaves and subbranches) and deftly shimmied his way over to Raina. close enough to reach out and touch her. All that was holding him up was his double-handed grip on the branch overhead, but he looked as comfortable as he had on the ground - he looked at Raina, studied his options for a moment, and reached out his hand to her. Raina reached out and grabbed his hand, and suddenly he was buoyant as well, his feet lifting from the branch as gravity lost its grip on him. She tugged him away from the tree and into the open air and then, rather alarmingly, released his hand. As it turned out, though, the physical contact wasn’t keeping him in the air, it was just the magic. Raina laughed and turned a quick somersault in the air, then pushed off of nothing and shot in a circle around him like a seal. “Kind of a trip, huh?” “I’m flying! I’m just freaking flying!” yelled Riley, and he was excited and terrified all at once, emotions that themselves were not too common in his life. It was like the first time he’d swung from one of the Pyramid Plaza towers to another, but despite the lower heights, the fact that gravity had no hold on him at all made this even more impressive. “Can you teach me how to do this!?” (19) “Well, I can’t personally,” Raina admitted. “I’m just an acolyte, I don’t know enough magic to actually teach it. You’d probably turn yourself into a frog, if you even had any magic potential at all. Lots of people can’t use magic the way I learned it, you gotta have the power inside you before you even start. I can’t really tell if people do or don’t, not unless they’re already really powerful.” She climbed higher into the air, above the level of the buildings, so they could see a good chunk of Bayview around them. “But if you really wanted to and were ready to work at it, you might be able to find somebody to assess you, then teach you if you had the spark. Just don’t mention my name, cause then nobody will give you the time of day!” she added cheerfully. “So what are you gonna do with yourself while you’re stuck here for however long? Just gonna do high school?” (19) “I dunno!” called Riley, who was taking a few tentative ‘swipes’ at the air like he was trying to swim in it. “Gonna get back there one day,” he said, “They need people there.” He gradually found his way in the air, following Raina up into the sky and looking out over Bayiew - his eyes slowly translating it from what he saw there to his own. “Raymond’s almost outta juice. Time’s gonna change.” He looked over at Raina and said, “In the meantime...I dunno.” This close, in the sky, he gradually quieted, as the thoughts of his own world weighed him down. “Prolly be a huntin’ guide, something like that. Just something so Peyton doesn’t worry.” He leaned back, popping his neck in the air. “Where’d you come up with Sparkler? (20)” “It’s a toy we have here, well, kind of a toy, it’s like the tamest kind of firework you use on the Fourth of July. It’s like a stick, but if you light it with a lighter, it starts to throw off harmless colored sparks everywhere. Kids like to take them and just run around like mad with them, they look amazing in the dark.” Raina pulled her legs up under her, sitting crosslegged like a genie in bluejeans. “They told me I needed a codename, I figured I’d better pick something innocuous. Sparkler’s fire that can’t hurt anybody. Someday I’ll have something better.” The words were light, but her face was grim and entirely serious. “So what are you hoping to get out of this whole high school thing?” (20) Riley looked down at Bayview beneath his feet - but saw a forest of oak and pine rising higher than where he hovered now, and heard the sounds of monstrous Ferals crashing or leaping through the trees, smelled the sharp, tangy scent of the Forest Primeval. He had only one good answer for Raina. “Home.”
  15. The OOC! A perfectly orderly trip to the Historical Museum where nothing noteworthy will happen, clearly.
  16. The minivan might not have gone with the whole 'supernatural aesthetic' of the rest of the haunted manor but there was a surprising number of times that Taylor had to get around Freedom City, family in tow, and not have it be reasonable to stick the whole family in her cape for the ride. The minivan, however, was growing on her. Not only could she stuff all sorts of supplies - or unconscious bodies - in with the seats down but there was a built in vacuum. The Void did not have a built in vacuum. "Huang, come on! We're going to be late to the bus stop if we don't hurry," she called as she hustled JJ down the stairs and towards the side of the van. The five year old was yawning as, like the rest of his family, he was by and large a nocturnal creature. Sadly, he was forced to a daytime schedule with his own classes starting. "In the back with you, kiddo, we have to pick up one of Huang's classmates along the way." At least the little boy was fairly biddable when tired as all he wanted to do was get into the car and nap until he was stirred once more. Taylor stepped up in to the van to buckle him into his seat and glanced into the back... which was apparently empty. "I swear I told him to put his things in the car this morning..."
  17. Sparkler Power Level: 10 [12] (201/235PP) Trade-Offs: None Unspent Power Points: 34 In Brief: A young pyrokinetic witch whose comfortable world was shattered by the revelation of her parents' horrific crimes. She is determined never to be taken advantage of by anyone again. Residence: Claremont Academy Base of Operations: Claremont Academy Catchphrase: None Alternate Identity: Raina Sanderson Identity: Secret Birthplace: Angel Mounds, Indiana Occupation: High School Student Affiliations: None Family: Eric Sanderson (father), Rochelle (Miller) Sanderson (mother), Maxwell Miller (grandfather), Margaret Miller (grandmother) Description: Age: 16 (DoB: 08/28/1999) Apparent Age: 16, unless she wants to look older Gender: Female Ethnicity: Caucasian Height: 5'10 Weight: 135 Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde Aside from being unusually tall for her age, Raina in the wild doesn't have a lot of distinguishing features. She can use makeup to make herself look considerably older and more attractive, when the right tools are available. She has honey-blonde hair that she currently wears shoulder length, and her clothes are an odd mixture of Walmart shapeless specials and a few designer pieces. Power Descriptions: Sparkler's powers are all of the Magic descriptor, and when she uses them, she is obviously casting spells with words and hand gestures. (Some of them are more subtle than others.) Some of her spells require props or components, which she carries with her in her purse or in a pouch on her uniform. Fire being controlled by her power tends to burn unnatural colors, sickly yellow or bright red mostly, but will revert to normal color when she releases control. History: Growing up, Raina always believed she was special. Not only was she an only child, she was one of the very few children at all in her tiny hometown of Angel Mounds, Indiana, so there wasn't much competition for adult attention. And not only that, but her parents were Very Important People, which made her that much specialer by proxy. Dad was the mayor of Angel Mounds, and had been since long before Raina was born (surprisingly long, though she didn't notice that till it was too late), while Mom was the most beautiful woman in Spencer County, and one of the most socially active. Their big house was always full of people and parties, and even before she was old enough to stay up past nine pm, Raina had a polished set of social manners and a wardrobe large enough to need an entire second bedroom. She went to an exclusive private school in Evanston and got excellent grades, partially because she was smart and partially because her family were Important Donors. Grownups fawned over her, other children wanted to be her friends. But that wasn't why Raina believed she was special. Raina always knew she was special because of the magic. Down beneath the ballroom and the formal dining room and all the fancy landscaping, there was another wing to the Sanderson home, one that was shrouded in grown-up mystery and thus endlessly fascinating. After the fancy parties were over, Dad and Mom and some of their good friends would slip down to those rooms and not come out till morning, usually looking exhausted, dirt-smeared and very pleased with themselves. Raina was only seven years old the first time she palmed a key from her mother's wardrobe and made her way down the secret stairs to find rooms filled with old, stinky books, weird jars of herbs and animal parts and different kinds of stones, and big iron cauldrons hanging over cold firepits, waiting to be used. She understood right away what it was all for, of course. She wasn't stupid. She'd already read the first Harry Potter book! Everybody knew that magic was real, but now it was really-real, and it was inside her own house. Having parents who were a witch and wizard (they preferred “practitioners,” but Raina knew better) wasn't always all it was cracked up to be. She'd barely been in the basement five minutes before her mother and father were racing down the stairs, looking scarier than Raina had ever seen them before, their faces hard and mean and ready for a fight. She hid behind one of the cauldrons, but not before her dad caught sight of her. He rolled his eyes, the scary look dissolving away as he caught Raina by the arm and swung her up into the air like she was a little kid, making her giggle helplessly. “We've got an intruder all right,” he told Raina's mom, “and she's a menace! A menace!” Both parents laughed, and then Dad tickled Raina until she nearly wet her pants and completely forgot that she'd been scared. After that, though, she had to explain how she'd gotten down there, which had led to the dreadful punishment of an entire weekend not being able to ride her pony or go out and play among the many strange mounds that gave her little town its name. But it was all worth it when her parents decided she was ready to learn magic herself. It was almost better than getting a letter from Hogwarts (even if she continued to hold out secret hope for several more years.) Dad explained to her that she would not be ready for “initiation into the mysteries” until she was sixteen, but there were things she could learn beforehand. They taught her useful little bits of magic to make life easier and more fun. A translation spell made foreign language classes a breeze, while a lockpick spell made pranks on classmates so much more satisfying. Learning to fly when she was fourteen was, of course, amazing, even if she could only do it while invisible. But her favorite, favorite spell of all was the fire control. Sure, it made lighting the ritual candles easy, which was what it was for, but it could do so much more. One too many mishaps with the curtains got her a stern injunction to only practice that spell outdoors, but that did nothing to dampen Raina's enthusiasm. As she got older, Raina started noticing her parents getting busier and busier. Her father often went on trips for days at a time, while her mother was frequently away from dawn till dusk, with people over at night as well, downstairs in the ritual rooms and never letting her so much as watch. Raina might have worried that something bad was happening with them, except that they were so embarrassingly affectionate with each other when they were both home. She was fairly certain she was scarred for life just by watching a couple of their reunions after her dad had been away for a long weekend. And it wasn't as though she were a neglected child. There were summer camp trips that were more like resorts, vacations with friends, new clothes, shoes and hair for every new season. She knew there were bad things in the world. At school they talked about how the unsolved murder rate in the city was at an all-time high, and the teachers warned them not to go places on their own. People told stories about weird lights in the sky sometimes, and places near the river where plants died and animals wouldn't set foot. A lot of those places seemed to be near Angel Mounds, which had some of the only undisturbed forest left in the area. But none of that stuff really had any impact on Raina, so she pretty much ignored it. Life was good for Raina at fourteen, but it was also somewhat lonely. Her friends from school lived in Evanston, and there were no kids her age nearby. When her parents were busy, she had nothing but the internet, which bored her. When she pestered her mother one too many times about it, Mom had snapped at her to get a familiar already, but not that damned smelly pony, and shut her out of her bedroom. Raina pouted, but went down to the basement and did her homework. She learned about familiars, learned how to create the bond, and had only to decide what animal she wanted. Black cats were definitely out, what could be more boring and obvious? Though she might have done it just to spite her mother, the pony was just too big (and kind of stupid, even though she still loved him). Birds were too noisy, dogs too obnoxious, snakes and lizards too icky. She was stuck for ideas until one day at school when her one vegan friend all but burst into tears while giving an oral report about the local research facility and their animal testing experiments. She gulped and sniffled her way through horror stories about fuzzy little mice and sweet bunny rabbits and even tiny little baby monkeys, and suddenly Raina had an idea. Breaking into the research facility was hardly Raina's first foray into breaking and entering, but it was the first time she'd done it for more than practice or harmless pranking. Silent and invisible, she'd snuck through the facility till she'd found the animal testing labs, quiet and dark in the nighttime. She'd turned on the lights, had a look around, barfed into a trash can, then gotten down to business. As promised, among the cages of other animals was one small capuchin monkey, scared to death and with some kind of paint smeared over his fur, but otherwise apparently unharmed. He had a clever face, Raina decided. “You wanna get out of here?” she asked him, and he indicated that yes indeed, he would very much like to get out of this place. She opened his cage, and all the other cages for good measure, and after a heart-pounding and really entertaining chase through the corridors, got her new prize safely out of captivity and home with her. She gave him a bath, named him Merlin, and performed the familiar spell, greatly pleased with her own cunning and daring. Merlin took to being a familiar extremely well. Like, extremely well. Like, all familiars got some measure of their human companion's intelligence, but sometimes Raina wondered if the monkey might not be just a little bit smarter than her. He was certainly smart in different ways. When she had to leave him home and go to school, she taught him how to use the computer and the internet to keep himself entertained. By the end of the second week, he'd started ordering parts off Amazon and building himself a new computer system because hers was too old and slow for video games. After a couple of months, he was winning tournaments and using a voice synthesizer to randomly swear at other players in order to throw off suspicion. He loved Raina, and the feeling was mutual, but she'd really kind of hoped to have a little more in common with her familiar. She might have been better off with something a little dumber. But then he showed her how he'd hacked into the files at her school and changed the faculty page of her least favorite teacher to include a number of extremely unflattering descriptions he must have learned while gaming, and Raina was sure she'd made the exact right choice. Her parents had been surprisingly unperturbed by the story of how she'd gotten her new friend, and even when Raina took him into town or the city with her, nobody ever asked a single question. Freshman year of high school kept Raina super-busy. She was at a new school, every bit as elite and exclusive as the last, but she was suddenly having more trouble than she'd ever had before. For one thing, she was getting tall. Like, really tall. Unfortunately, freakishly tall, especially compared to the tiny little freshman boys in her class. She was developing proportionately, at least, so she got some hips and breasts to go with the monstrous tallness, but that was only slight consolation. Merlin, ever pragmatic, pointed out that with her birthday being what it was, she was already older than most of the other kids in her class. She might as well hang out with older students. Some YouTube tutorials and a lot of shopping acquired her makeup and clothes to meet the challenge, and with her family's money and a few words from her mom into the right ears (Raina suspected), she was soon back on top again. She got herself a boyfriend who was a junior and had a nice car, arranged her lunch table to suit herself, and shamelessly exploited her familiar to keep herself from failing math. All of this, though, was really just killing time. She was going to be sixteen next year, and sixteen was Old Enough. When she was sixteen, she would be inducted into the true mysteries of magic. She would know exactly what her parents and their friends did down in the basement when she wasn't allowed. She would finally get a taste of real power! Raina's entire world came crashing down three weeks before Christmas. One night she was awakened from sleep by her mother shaking her roughly and telling her to get to the basement and hide, and not to say anything to anybody or make a single noise. Raina would've whined on general principle, but the look of fear on her mother's face wasn't something she'd ever seen before. Barefoot and in her nightgown, Merlin on her shoulder, she'd raced into the basement, where Dad and a half-dozen of her parents' closest friends were dressed in black robes, dark stuff smeared all over their faces. They seemed scared too, even after Mom had rejoined them and they'd all begun chanting around the largest cauldron. Raina didn't recognize any of the words, but she could feel the weight of magic in the air. It didn't feel good and comfortable and exciting the way magic usually felt, though. It felt... evil. Were they under attack? Were her parents trying to fight off some huge evil force bearing down on them? She thought about trying to help, but then the walls began to shake, and terror handily overwhelmed any heroic impulse. Cuddling Merlin like a stuffed animal, she hid her face against her knees and cowered behind the bookshelves while the chanting increased and the walls shuddered and the air grew almost too heavy with magic to breathe. She didn't even notice when the superheroes started to appear, not until the fighting started. It wasn't a very long fight. The practitioners in Mom and Dad's coven were intellectuals, not hand-to-hand fighters, and they obviously hadn't expected to be teleported in on. Raina didn't understand what was going on, but she saw that people were attacking her parents, so she rushed to help, wielding underpowered fireballs for all she was worth, not even remembering she was still in her pajamas. She was subdued almost instantly, frozen in place and hoisted into the air, Merlin still clinging to her neck and just as immobilized. Within ten minutes, the entire coven was under arrest, Raina included, and being dragged off to... she didn't even know where. She'd never been more indignant and frightened in her entire life. What right had anybody to do this to her and her family? Indignation had dissolved into hysteria when a man in green and gold had tried to take Merlin away from her, and he'd finally been allowed to stay when she was put into an empty interrogation room. Raina had thought to ask for a lawyer, or at least a grownup, but when the superheroes came to talk to her, it was more like an intervention than an interrogation. They wanted to know about the plot to end the world, but in the face of her genuine bafflement and fear, they realized quickly she had no idea what was going on. So they told her. It wasn't an easy story to believe. Raina's parents weren't evil! They were wealthy and powerful and well-connected, people liked them! They donated to charities all over the county! But that money, according to the heroes, was blood money, acquired through dark rituals and horrifying exploitation. Half the civic leaders of Evanston, and a few of Indiana, were trapped under the magical influence of the coven, willing to give them anything they wanted. Huge spells had been in place for decades to cloak and shield the practitioners of Angel Mounds while they used black magic to build their fortunes and eradicate their enemies. People who had crossed the Sandersons and their friends had been ending up missing for decades, with nobody willing to talk about it. Raina remembered hearing whispers like that, but who would believe something like that? It was crazy! The coven had used forbidden rituals to suck the lives out of animals, patches of land, even people, creating magically and psychically dead spaces near Angel Mounds, which was itself a deep well of dark power. They had kidnapped more than a dozen people in Evanston, brought them to the ritual space underneath the mansion, and ritually murdered them in an attempt to turn themselves into powerful lower beings. At that point, Raina had needed a little break from all the explaining, and had taken it with her head between her knees and a woman in white encouraging her to breathe a little more slowly. Raina hadn't wanted to believe any of it, but there was evidence, so much evidence. And there were things she'd seen, things she had noticed and just hadn't ever really paid attention to. But how could her parents be evil? In the end, it hadn't mattered what Raina believed. With barely a moment for goodbyes, her parents and their friends were all bundled off to Blackstone Prison in Freedom City to await trial for a shockingly long list of charges. Raina hadn't been arrested and wasn't going with them, but she had nowhere to go. The mansion and all its contents were seized by the police and the superheroes. Raina had been allowed to pack one suitcase of her clothes and diaries and photos, after letting an agent dig through all of it to make sure she wasn't hiding evidence. She didn't even get to keep Merlin's computer. Everything else was just gone, even the pony. And so was all the money. Broke and alone, Raina suddenly found herself enmeshed in a system she had no influence over whatsoever, subject to the whims of people she didn't know, but was supposed to trust to look out for her best interests. But why the hell would she do that, when the people she trusted most had (maybe, surely not) done such horrible things? As the shock wore off she became more defiant, more angry, but it didn't have any more effect than if she'd been pliable. She was shipped off to grandparents she'd only met twice, her mother's parents, who disapproved of magic, money, anything fun, and most especially Raina herself. Moving in with her grandparents meant not only switching schools but switching states, moving to Ohio and settling in a town far more isolated than Angel Mounds had ever been. It was far enough away that none of her friends would visit (not that it seemed likely anyway, after all that had happened), but close enough that the news had been saturated with coverage of the superbattle and the arrest of the evil demon-consorting coven. Raina quickly found herself a miserable outcast at school, with no way to fix things this time even if she'd had the energy. Home was no better; they treated Merlin like an animal and Raina like a delinquent, as though if she were given the least iota of freedom, she'd start trying to summon demons and murder people as well. Frustration and anger boiled inside Raina, and she welcomed it because it was a lot better than being afraid and lonely all the time. She began to strain against the rules, sneaking out of the house, getting into fights at school. She set one particularly obnoxious sophomore's brand new car on fire with a wave of her hand, though she'd make sure to do it when it couldn't be pinned on her. Her grades for the year were abysmal, barely passing, but she didn't care. Her grandparents threatened to put her in foster care, but it didn't seem like that could be any worse. When the representative from Claremont Academy showed up, it seemed too good to be true, but Raina jumped on it anyway. Maybe it was a scam, and maybe this was just another group trying to take advantage of her, but at least it meant getting the hell out of Ohio and into a city big enough to get lost in. One thing was for sure, she wasn't going to ever trust anything an adult said to her ever again. Personality & Motivation: Raina grew up sheltered and more than a little spoiled, but she was a people-pleaser at heart, happiest in the center of an adoring crowd. She also had a tendency to take things at face value and believe that people had her best interests in mind. All of that bit her very hard on the ass, and now she's in a rebound phase. She is defensive and untrusting, rebellious for the sake of rebelling, unwilling to believe that anybody might have an uncomplicated desire to help her in any way. She wants to learn hero work to distance herself from the crimes of her parents, both in order to silence the people who say she's a villain by nature, and to extend a middle finger to the parents who betrayed her trust. Until she truly believes she can trust someone again, she's going to continue fighting authority just to let herself feel in control. Powers & Tactics: Planning is not Sparkler's strong suit; she's never had any training and had very little fighting experience. When she is pushed into combat, she will try and stay at a safe distance, preferably invisible, and launch fireballs at opponents until they fall down or go away. She currently has little capacity for teamwork, since there's nobody she'd trust to watch her back. Complications: Stray Cat Sitting On A Fence: Raina sits between two worlds, the villainous legacy of her parents and the heroic aspirations of Claremont Academy. Neither is very accepting of her at the moment, villains see her as a quisling and heroes see her as a bad seed. Ain't Got Enough Dough to Pay the Rent: All of Raina's family assets were frozen and seized when her parents were arrested, leaving her to cope with a much different style of living. Right now she has no income and no savings, not much to her name beyond the clothes on her bck and her monkey. Strut Right By With My Tail In The Air: Raina is much too proud to ask for help in pretty much any circumstances, which includes trying to beg for friendship from people who are socially better positioned than she. This pride often manifests as aloofness and can be offputting, as well as keeping her from getting help when it would be really useful. Get Shoes Thrown At Me By A Mean Old Man: Raina's relationship with her family is pretty terrible right now. Her parents are in prison and she can only see them once or twice a month, even if she wants to. Her grandparents basically hate her, and have pawned her off on Claremont with great relief. Of course, if she were to get kicked out of Claremont... Howling in the Moonlight on a Hot Summer Night: Raina is currently in what might be charitably described as a rebellious phase. Nobody, in her opinion, can be trusted to look after her except herself, so she will make all her own decisions whether or not the rules say she can. In many ways, this makes her even easier to manipulate. Got Cat Class, Got Cat Style: Unfortunately for someone who grew up in the Midwest, Raina hates cold weather. Hates being cold, hates feeling cold. It makes her fingers numb and messes up her powers, sometimes it feels like it even makes her fire less effective. She enjoys warmth and shuns cold whenever possible. Wish I could Be As Carefree and Wild: Raina's main offensive power is throwing fireballs, which looks awesome and can be very effective, but it's also a little unpredictable. When she's doing something big with fire, especially if she's stunting with it, the chances of burning herself (or singeing off her hair and eyebrows) goes way up. This has not yet stopped her from playing with matches. Abilities: 0 + 4 + 4 + 6 + 0 + 10 = 24PP Strength: 10 (+0) Dexterity: 14 (+2) Constitution: 14 (+2) Intelligence: 16 (+3) Wisdom: 10 (+0) Charisma: 20 (+5) Combat: 12 + 12 = 24PP Initiative: +2 Attack: +6 Base, +10 The Sun, +12 Sick Ninja Moves Grapple: +6 Defense: +10 (+6 Base, +4 Dodge Focus), +3 Flat-Footed Knockback: -5/-1 Saving Throws: 4 + 4 + 10 = 18PP Toughness: +10/+2 (+2 Con, +8 Protection) Fortitude: +6 (+2 Con, +4) Reflex: +6 (+2 Dex, +4) Will: +10 (+0 Wis, +10) Skills: 56R = 14PP Bluff 12 (+17) Concentration 8 (+8) Diplomacy 6 (+11) Disable Device 0 (+3/+15) The Fool Disguise 0 (+5/+25) The Moon Knowledge (Arcane Lore) 8 (+11) Knowledge (Theology/Philosophy) 6 (+9) Notice 6 (+6) Sense Motive 10 (+10) Feats: 42PP Attack Specialization (Fire Blast) 2 Challenge (Fast Taunt) Dodge Focus 4 Luck Quick Change Ritualist Second Chance (Disable Device) The Fool Sidekick 30 Taunt Uncanny Dodge (Visual) Powers: 10 + 7 + 10 + 4 + 3 + 1 + 8 + 4 + 11 + 21 = 79PP Comprehend 5 (The Tower; Speak to and Understand Animals; Speak, Read and Comprehend Any One Language At a Time) [10PP] Damage 2 (Sick Ninja Moves, Feats: Accurate 3, Improved Critical, Innate) [7PP] Device 2 (Broom, Flaw: Hard to Lose, Feats: Restricted 2 [Raina]) [10PP] Enhanced Flight 3 (to Flight 4) (100mph/1000fpm; Extra: Affects Others, Feats: Moving Feint) [10DP] Enhanced Feat 1 (Second Chance [Disable Device]) [1] + Enhanced Skills 12 (Disable Device 12 [+15]) [3] "The Fool" [4PP] Flight 1 (The Chariot, 10mph/100fpm; Extra: Affects Others) [3PP] Immunity 1 (Environmental Heat) [1PP] Protection 8 (The Empress) [8PP] Super-Senses 4 (The Magician; Magic Awareness 3, Visual, Enhancement: Analytical) [4PP] The Moon Array 5 (10PP, Sneakiness; Feats: Alternate Powers 1) [11PP] Base Power: Concealment 4 (All Visual, Feats: Close Range, Selective) {10/10} Alternate Power: Morph 4 (+20 Disguise; Feats: Covers Scent, Precise) {10/10} The Sun Array 10 (20PP, Fire; Feats: Alternate Powers 1) [21PP] Base Power: Blast 10 (Fire, and lots of it) {20/20} Alternate Power: Move Object 10 (Extra: Range [Perception]; Flaw: Limited [Fire]) {20/20} DC Block: ATTACK RANGE SAVE EFFECT Sick Ninja Moves Touch DC 17 Toughness Damage Fire Blast Ranged DC 25 Toughness Damage Totals: Abilities (24) + Combat (24) + Saving Throws (18) + Skills (14) + Feats (42) + Powers (79) - Drawbacks (0) = 201/235 Power Points
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