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Ecalsneerg

Caffeine & Consultation [IC]

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Siobhan glanced at her watch wearily, knowing she was running slightly late. On the way to her meeting, someone's purse had been snatched, and she had to perform some quick hero work to recover it. She wiped some sweat from her brow as she approached the Black Petal Cafe.

To those inside, they'd have seen a woman with long brunette hair, in a simple black t-shirt and blue jeans, pause briefly outside, rubbing at her temples. I'm wondering if asking his advice was a great idea... I mean, we've worked together, but I hardly know the guy... Then she shook her head slightly, and walked in, looking around for Eric LaCroix.

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Eric was busy slinging espresso, waiting for the hour to arrive. He kept scanning the cafe casually, just looking for a sign. This wasn't exactly what he did. He was good at talking ghosts through their issues, but people still in the flesh were another matter. It wasn't for anything that a few of his relationships had collapsed into flaming heaps.

She just needs some reassurance, he told himself. You've handled that before. Not too wrong you can go with that, right?

The bell over the door rang, and Eric saw Siobhan enter the cafe. "Hello, Siobhan," he said as he approached. "Would you like something to drink?"

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"Hi, Nick," smiled Siobhan warmly. She relaxed somewhat. Eric was at least an approahable guy, so she was feeling a little better about the idea of consulting him. "Could you just get me a strong black coffee, please?" Lord knows I need coffee...

She glanced around the shop. "Is it normally this quiet?" she asked, making polite conversation. "Although admittedly that's a good thing for what I want to speak to you about."

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"Well, you picked a good time," Eric said. "Lunch hour's pretty much over, and the afternoon caffeine wane has yet to strike. It's not the weekend, so you don't get a lot of the out-of-town crowd for the galleries, and it's not the evening, so you don't get folks who need a pick-me-up for the clubs. It's a good balancing point." He poured the drip coffee, leaving some room for cream, just in case. "I can probably take my thirty right now, in fact. There's a good table in the back corner. Think that would work?"

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Siobhan nodded her thanks and took an experimental sip of the coffee. "That's great coffee, thank you." She took another sip. "And yeah, the back table would work. We'll probably need a bit of privacy for this, it's relating to... our other jobs." Perhaps a bit obvious a euphemism, but it got the point across.

With that, she headed off to secure the table at the back while Eric went to tell his colleagues he was on his break.

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"Taking my thirty, Steve," Eric said. Before he clocked out, he grabbed a cinnamon scone and a medium latte from the counter. His retrieval finished, he arrived at Siobhan's table and set down the two items. "One of the benefits of working at a coffee shop -- comped drinks and eats. 'Sides, I was out dealing with a poltergeist in a hardware store last night, and... well, let's just say I could use the caffeine and sugar." He took a sip. "So. What seems to be the issue?"

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"Um... well..." Siobhan was visibly struggling for words. "Ever since that incident in that town... with those kids not having a clue about magic, or much of their faith, and having to basically hide it from everyone... well, I came to a realization. I could stop this, take on a higher profile, set a good example. Parents and authorities would be more willing to take information from a superhero, and I might be able to raise awareness that there are plenty of folks who know about magic and faith, things like that... um..."

The woman ran an exasperated hand through her hair. "The problem is, while doing all this to stop kids from having to hide, I'm... still hiding who I am. So, the only way I can see clear of this is... to go public with my secret identity, and I really, really, need to talk it through with someone." She looked at Eric somewhat pleadingly.

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Eric considered his latte for a few seconds before speaking. "I understand where you're coming from," he said. "A lot of heroes do that kind of thing -- I know Siren's done her share to try to clear up misconceptions about voodoo. But... well, I mean we kinda know the risks that come with this. There's a reason I do what I do in make-up, after all. I'm not knocking your choice to go public. Given how explicit magic's been over the past few decades, we could use a few public figures to clear it up -- same way I bet atomic scientists would like someone to explain why giant ants aren't typically a side-effect of a nuclear bomb. I just want to see what plan you've got in case this starts spilling over to the people close to you."

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"Well, that's the thing," sighed Siobhan. "You can't plan for it. I can't watch my family all the time, and I'm not sure we'd get on with me doing so. There's... a lot of problems there. Because I was one of the kids who could have used direction." She smiled and shook her head.

"On the other hand... my dad's a decorated Air Force General. In terms of playground games of 'My Dad can beat up your Dad', I sort of win. They're also not likely to get much flak off this, simply because he is known publicly to be a good man." She sipped her coffee. "He's also got a good answer to the question of 'You and what army?', so, y'know..."

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Eric nodded. "Superior firepower always helps," he said as he picked at the scone. "I don't know if your parents already know about your talents -- I'm guessing you've told 'em, if you're planning the next big leap. But it might help to lead them through some of the basic thaumaturgical rituals, stuff anyone can do with the right words and the time. Wards against scrying, establishing a strong threshold, learning ways to appease any restless spirits less savory practitioners might send their way, and so forth."

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"I've already taken the liberty of setting up a couple of counter measures, not long after I told them what I did," explained Siobhan. "They're... well, okay with it is a bit much, but it's not the elephant in the living room. They're just... not especially open to the idea of magic in their home, and whether that's going to work out for the better or the worse long-term... that's what worries me."

She let out a small snort of laughter. "That's the rub. If I set up more mystic defenses, they won't be very pleased by it. If I don't... well, what if someone wants to get at me through them? The best compromise I can think of is some form of panic button that can have me teleport there quickly."

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"If they're not happy with the idea of increased magic in the house... well, maybe the panic button would work," Eric said. "I've thought of setting up a few covert wards in my parents' house -- not like barriers, but more like tripwires in case something decides to cross the threshold. But, yeah, if they're not keen on magic, might be a good idea to keep it in your purview, not theirs." He dipped a part of the scone in his latte. "To be fair, we could use an open representative at this point. Eldrich's great, but most of his work is covert. I was just wondering how you were planning on handling this. Got plans for a hotline for newbie practitioners? Or do you want to start with the publicity circuit first?"

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Siobhan nodded. "Yeah, I was thinking of setting up a mailbox and an email service especially for this. Keep it separate from my normal services, to at least minimize the cranks. But I'm obviously going to need to do a publicity tour just to get the knowledge of them out there. Maybe set up a website."

She ran a hand through her hair in an exasperated manner. "The Freedom Ledger is very pro-superhero, so I was thinking of setting up an interview there as a starting point, and go from there. Take each day as it comes. I'm not too worried about work objecting too much, thankfully. I mean, I teach theology anyway." She took a sip of coffee. "I'm just not a hundred percent sure how well this is going to work, or what the long term ramifications are."

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"Well, there'll be plenty of people dealing with pre-existing prejudice -- like we saw with Stratford, there are some people willing to believe that Ouija boards or heavy metal are signs of a youth in thrall to the occult." Eric set aside the latte. "But for every one of them, you've got five people who don't really know the occult or alternative religions, only what pop culture tells them. Some of them just treat it as another thing, some of them may show a passive interest. Going public would really help to clear things up. Set aside the lies, show the truth. Hell, it could encourage people to take an active interest in research. It could stop them from being taken in not just by people like Vigourie, but cold readers and other charlatans. Give them a measure of defense against some of the lesser entities out there -- violent ghosts, imps, and so forth. Ounce of prevention, pound of cure."

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"Yeah, they'd be welcome side effects," nodded Siobhan, draining the rest of her coffee in one long gulp, flushing red as the burning sensation in her throat made itself known. "Yow. But, much as I hate to admit it, my question was a bit more selfish. What I mean is... what happens now that I can no longer just walk away from the job if it gets too much? Can I ever have a semi-normal life? Ever get a date? At the risk of sounding flippant, ever have affordable home insurance? That's what terrifies me, and I don't scare that easily."

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Eric looked down into his latte, as if trying to avoid Siobhan's gaze. After a few seconds, he looked up. "I don't really have the answer for that," he said. "Whole reason I went secret, myself. College was kinda hard enough without worrying about people trying to attack my dorm. I can't deny it won't be tough. Some public heroes -- Captain Thunder, Johnny Rocket -- they sometimes get enemies who want to hit 'em when they're sleeping. You can probably find someone willing to deal with the stress -- lots of heroes do. But I do know that it's not going to be a walk in the park."

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"Yeah... sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are pretty much the same," agreed Siobhan. The thing is, all this is ifs and buts, I don't know if it'll go badly, or if it does, how bad things will get. It's one of these situations where there's just no way I can have any idea what to do, and I've very rarely had that feeling in five years." She sighed again, rubbing at her eyes.

"But if I need someone to talk to... I can call you, right? I mean, I don't know many of the practitioners in the city that well, apart from Eldrich, and well... it's more a teacher-student thing than friends"

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"Siobhan. You can always call on me." Eric fought back a cringe; that had been a bit too soap-opera melodramatic. He pressed onward. "Trust me, I know what it's like to weather grievances and resolve issues. Kinda comes with the territory. You need someone to talk to, you can always talk to me. If you haven't got my number, well, I hang out around Lantern Hill.

"And I'm curious -- have you talked to Eldrich about this? Like you said, it's more a teacher-student thing, but the guy's been around for a long time. He's seen lots of heroes take up their mantles; couldn't hurt to get some historical context on this next step."

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"Siobhan. You can always call on me." Eric fought back a cringe; that had been a bit too soap-opera melodramatic. He pressed onward. "Trust me, I know what it's like to weather grievances and resolve issues. Kinda comes with the territory. You need someone to talk to, you can always talk to me. If you haven't got my number, well, I hang out around Lantern Hill.

Siobhan flashed Eric a brief, radiant smile, but only for a few seconds before it faded again. "Thanks. That... means a lot. Although I could probably find you pretty easily with some simple spells, there aren't that many necromancers in the city. Mostly because most of them won't stop at the mancy, but that's not the point."

"And I'm curious -- have you talked to Eldrich about this? Like you said, it's more a teacher-student thing, but the guy's been around for a long time. He's seen lots of heroes take up their mantles; couldn't hurt to get some historical context on this next step."

"That's... a sore spot," admitted Siobhan, averting her eyes from Eric's. "Let's just say... I didn't seek him out for teaching, and it wasn't entirely voluntary on my part. But I'd much rather not go into that, I've tried for years to put it behind me... still, I'm not sure I want to see him again. It wasn't the best time of my life."

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Eric nodded. He'd gone with Eldrich willingly, but that was because he'd been scared out of his mind and beset by fears of turning into some cackling sorcerer who made ghosts dance like puppets. Eldrich had helped him master the art, and showed him how necromancy could be used for a good cause. Eric could understand, however, that others might not have taken to the Master Mage's tutelage the same way. "I understand," he said. "Sometimes you need to let these things breathe. Or throttle them, or whatever the metaphor is for this instance. But yeah, you can give me a ring if things start getting rough."

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"I'd go with letting it breath. I mean, I smoke, I'm not pretending my work area is very fragrant, but..." Siobhan trailed off and gesticulated wildly, breaking into a wide grin. "Hell, you've been in there. The incense... my Lord, it's like he got a good offer on it or something..."

She leaned back in her chair, sweeping her hair back and away from her eyes. Okay, we're getting uncomfortably close to things I would rather avoid discussion of... let's keep moving swiftly onwards? "So, enough of my problems... what have you been up to?"

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"What can I say? The man likes his joss sticks." The last of the scone went in Eric's mouth. "As for myself... let's see. Aside from the little incident with Xipe Totec, it's mostly been the usual ghostbusting and post-death consolation. Been running further maintenance on the Parkhurst -- making sure the wards all stay up, the infirmary's fully stocked, and no one's backtracing our scrying pool. You should stop by sometime, it's getting really spruced up." He paused. "There's been a few other weird things. Let's see... there was that incident with Marinette, a group of leanansidhe trying to summon one of the bigwigs of the Unseelie Court, and... an incident in a movie theater."

Discomfort crept across his face with the last item. It faded quickly. "How 'bout you? Any creepy-crawlies on your end?"

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"I've actually been really boring..." sighed Siobhan. "I'm still teaching, and thus still have a lot of work to do at the end of a semester. The worst incident was some student picking up a magical staff and rampaging after a professor who gave him a bad grade. Fortunately, he hadn't received any training in avoiding things like... being frozen stiff and disarmed."

Absent mindedly tapping on the side of her cup, she gazed off into the distance. "Oh, and I've met a few low level practitioners, but they were just simple lessons on discipline and control." She broke out into a grin. "Teenage me would kill me if she knew I was going to end up like this."

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"Yeah, teenage practitioners can be tricky," Nick said. "Most of them go to the pagan faiths or, if they want to be dark and edgy, LaVeyan Satanism. But then you've got the one guy who goes for the Lesser Key of Solomon or finds readings from the Necronomicon online and everything goes downhill fast. I'm honestly kinda glad I didn't come into the real power until I was few years into my career. I learned a little restraint, practicality, and improvisation without 'em, and by the time I had them, I wasn't exactly the rush of hormones and generic anger I'd been in high school." He ran his finger around the plate. "If any of the kids need lessons in necromancy or the patrons of the realms below, well... you know who to call."

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"Oh, I was worse. I did come into them fairly young..." laughed Siobhan. "You'd never notice now due to some healing magic, but I my ears used to be so full of metal that when I went to the beach the beach combers got a bit... annoyed. Oh, and the leather... skies above, the leather."

Subconsciously, she tapped a couple of spots on her left eyebrow where there seemed to be thinner patches. "But the problem is, we're not the only ones looking out for those kids. And some of them out there... not always on our side."

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