The Shadow Knows! (Final Update 6/3/04)

Which of the Shadow's epithets do you like the best?

  • The Cloaked Crusader

    Votes: 1 6.3%
  • The Dark Avenger

    Votes: 7 43.8%
  • The Man of Mystery

    Votes: 2 12.5%
  • The Sable Sleuth

    Votes: 6 37.5%
  • I've got the perfect one! (post it!)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    16

Steverooo

Villager
Fare Well, Shadow!

WOW! If Mr. Cooper writes better than you, then I definitely need to get one of his books! I thought that I wrote well... (Is he any relation to James Fennimore Cooper?)

Sorry to see the game end! Maybe Shadow VII (circa 2040 or so) could be a descendant of David & Carlos' intermarried kids. Maybe by then, the TT gene problems have been resolved, and the new version won't have the personality problems that Alex had?

It seems obvious, to me, that "The Shadow" is a psychic construct bound to the hat. Any TT Telepath with the hat would be influenced to become "The Shadow". Thus, like SP typed, there really pI]is[/I] something to those old "legends"!

Wah! "When Shadows Fall" made me Boo-Hoo (you beast)! :(

I didn't have the trouble with the Ultra-Tech some had... I don't find Atomic Phasers (which align the orbits of electrons within molecules, so that one physical object can pass through another) impossible, nor unreasonable. Terribly complex, maybe, but not impossible.

I do have to disagree that machines can't do psionics, though... The neurons of the brain can be replicated by electronics, and have been since circa 1960. The only reason that computer brains haven't been built is the price... As nanotech advances, and prices come down, the possibility grows! By 2040, Garrity's grandson will probably have figured out how to do it. Now all the machine needs is a soul... and, of course, Michael is still around, looking for a way to survive! If he's already a ghost in the machine, he might as well inhabit the new computer brain, with his hacking abilities...

Of course, what he'll be like in 35 years (and all that spent dodging power outages on the 'net) is anybody's guess! He may have a few issues of his own! One of the new Shadow's first adventures may be trying to disconnect the "malfunctioning" computer brain from the 'net, without killing power, as "The Shadow Knows" that "It's Alive!" :]

Feel free to use any of that that strikes your fancy. Or not! In any case, I've enjoyed your story. Best wishes for your personal life!
 

The Shadow

Villager
Steverooo said:
WOW! If Mr. Cooper writes better than you, then I definitely need to get one of his books! I thought that I wrote well... (Is he any relation to James Fennimore Cooper?)
Not that I know of, but he writes at least as well as if he were. :) Aside from an award-winning collection of SF and fantasy short stories ("The Lives of Ghosts"), and more short stories in an anthology with other writers ("Flights of Mind") he has three fantasy novels published, and more slated to be. "Gates of Sleep", "A Slow and Silent Stream", and "A Separate Power". (The first has a near-future SF edge to it too.)

The really scary part is, good as those books are, they're his early work. :) He's working on getting a New York publisher (wider distribution) for his later stuff...

Sorry to see the game end! Maybe Shadow VII (circa 2040 or so) could be a descendant of David & Carlos' intermarried kids. Maybe by then, the TT gene problems have been resolved, and the new version won't have the personality problems that Alex had?
I have no idea if their kids would be inclined to intermarry. But Grace's training would probably help more than anything in dealing with a new generation of TT kids.

It seems obvious, to me, that "The Shadow" is a psychic construct bound to the hat. Any TT Telepath with the hat would be influenced to become "The Shadow". Thus, like SP typed, there really pI]is[/I] something to those old "legends"!
Maybe. If so, I guarantee it wasn't like that before Alex. "The Shadow" persona was all his own doing. The "Lamont Cranston" persona (if it had come to pass) would have been yet one more elaborate way for Alex to reassure himself that he's REALLY just a regular guy in his secret ID.

Wah! "When Shadows Fall" made me Boo-Hoo (you beast)! :(
Thank you. That means I moved you, which is what I was trying for.

I didn't have the trouble with the Ultra-Tech some had... I don't find Atomic Phasers (which align the orbits of electrons within molecules, so that one physical object can pass through another) impossible, nor unreasonable. Terribly complex, maybe, but not impossible.
My degree's in physics, and as far as I can see it IS quite impossible. But hey, it's a game, and fiction to boot. :)

I do have to disagree that machines can't do psionics, though... The neurons of the brain can be replicated by electronics, and have been since circa 1960. The only reason that computer brains haven't been built is the price... As nanotech advances, and prices come down, the possibility grows!
You're making a philosophical assumption there, that neurons are the whole story. For the purposes of the game, SP and I agreed that they were not - that a "soul", as you put it below, is necessary.

By 2040, Garrity's grandson will probably have figured out how to do it.
Garrity... reproducing?! The mind boggles. :)

Then again, if someone mentions cloning to him, he might try it just to work out all the bugs... Now THERE'S a scary thought...

Now all the machine needs is a soul... and, of course, Michael is still around, looking for a way to survive! If he's already a ghost in the machine, he might as well inhabit the new computer brain, with his hacking abilities...
Cool idea. Might be very interesting.

Feel free to use any of that that strikes your fancy. Or not! In any case, I've enjoyed your story. Best wishes for your personal life!
Thanks! And yes, things are going much better now. I don't regret doing Alex in... though SP and I have gotten to the point of tossing around ideas for another game by now. Don't know what will come of it, if anything.
 

Lela

Villager
Well, nice to know that my attachment to this Story Hour hasn't lessened for lack of, well, the Story Hour. That probably means a few things about my psychie, good and bad, but I'm not self-anylizing today.

Brilliant work, by the way, on those shorts. That, of course, isn't new for you. But it's still brillant.

Still, it's like rekindling an addiction. I want more. I can handle it though. Mostly. Okay, I admit it, I have a problem. But screw the other 11 steps. Let's fead the beast!

Personally, I kinda disagree with you on how David would react to the tide of emotion. I see it more as a loss of belief in the father. Not on the early teenage level where you start to realize your parents don't know everything; deeper than that. On that level when you really see your father for who he is. Not perfect, not able to handle everything that comes his way; just a man.

I think he'd withdraw from Alex for a while to come to terms with it. After that, I'd expect a level of respect and comradery between the two. Both consider each other a man--literally and figurtively.

Naturally, that's from an outsider. It just reminded me of what that happened between my dad.


So, what are your thoughts on the new campaign? Care to share your ideas?


[Edit: Oh, and where you still interested in that calender we were putting together? Either way is fine with me.]
 

The Shadow

Villager
Lela said:
Well, nice to know that my attachment to this Story Hour hasn't lessened for lack of, well, the Story Hour. That probably means a few things about my psychie, good and bad, but I'm not self-anylizing today.
As SP would say, "Yes... Tell ze good doktor all about it!" :)

Brilliant work, by the way, on those shorts.
Thanks!

Still, it's like rekindling an addiction. I want more. I can handle it though. Mostly. Okay, I admit it, I have a problem. But screw the other 11 steps. Let's fead the beast!
We'll see. Though SP and I have tossed ideas around, none has yet gelled.

Personally, I kinda disagree with you on how David would react to the tide of emotion. I see it more as a loss of belief in the father. Not on the early teenage level where you start to realize your parents don't know everything; deeper than that. On that level when you really see your father for who he is. Not perfect, not able to handle everything that comes his way; just a man.
You could be right. SP said he thought the characterization of David was a bit off in that one too. (He hasn't yet elaborated on just what he thought was off; I'll ask when I talk to him next.)

However, do realize that I was mainly just getting rid of a persistent scene in my mind, one that had dated from before the campaign even started. It wasn't so much intended to reflect David as he later turned out to be. Doubtless it would have gone differently if SP had actually been playing him. (And the same goes for the other scenes involving NPC's.)

I think he'd withdraw from Alex for a while to come to terms with it. After that, I'd expect a level of respect and comradery between the two. Both consider each other a man--literally and figurtively.
*nod* A real possibility. SP and I had long ago discussed, also, what would happen when David goes off to college and takes some psych classes - he'd probably have an "oh crap!" moment and start realizing his dad wasn't quite, well, normal. .:) (Possibly, in the zeal of "medical student syndrome", he might even think Alex was completely off the deep end, but that would be an overreaction.)

One has to take into account too, though, that David lost his mom at a tender age, and therefore leans on his dad - despite their clashes - more than most teens would. Though of course he'd die rather than admit it, he really wants his father to be proud of him.

So, what are your thoughts on the new campaign? Care to share your ideas?
Like I said, nothing has yet gelled. We've been tossing around possibilities. Probably the new campaign will be more light-hearted.

But I do have one nagging idea for a game to be set in the same world as the Shadow's adventures, though quite possibly not in LA. Starring a rebellious apprentice of the Council. Unfortunately, that one wouldn't be likely to be light-hearted at all...

EDIT: Another possibility is a fantasy game (using M&M), set in my homebrew world of Terrima.

[Edit: Oh, and where you still interested in that calender we were putting together? Either way is fine with me.]
Ack! I totally forgot about that! When I quit the game, I pretty much got away from gaming-stuff entirely for months and months. If you still want it, I'll give it a shot - just be warned that I'm really busy lately.

I don't think I still have your emails about it, either. Could you resend?
 

Lela

Villager
The Shadow said:
Ack! I totally forgot about that! When I quit the game, I pretty much got away from gaming-stuff entirely for months and months. If you still want it, I'll give it a shot - just be warned that I'm really busy lately.

I don't think I still have your emails about it, either. Could you resend?
Found most of the e-mails and sent them off. There's a good amount of info there, so take your time. The last one I sent out also has a better e-mail address that'll help me keep all this organized.

Thanks Shadow,
 

The Shadow

Villager
Hey guys, just letting you know that I'm involved in a new Star Wars d20 game with SP and my brother. I'll be putting up a new Story Hour thread for it once we manage to get a second session in. :p (SP's been struggling with stress, sickness, and computer troubles lately - what else is new? No new session the last couple weeks.)

The game's set in the Old Republic. The first session was basically just a fun dungeon crawl to familiarize us with the system. (Neither I nor my brother had played it before.) But SP ended it with a HUGE bang! You know how he likes surprises. ;)

The campaign idea I mentioned above, about an escaped Council apprentice, I ultimately decided against. It's just really too dark for what I want to play right now. But I'll post the story I wrote to start it off here, if you like. It's set in the Shadow's universe, so it should suit.

P.S. Lela, haven't managed to work in the calendar stuff yet. This summer looks to be disturbingly slow, though, so we'll see.
 

The Shadow

Villager
[Here you go, Lela. Enjoy.]

I was on the way home from a bad job. Really bad. Can't write about it yet.

I paused to study my reflection in a store window. Big, check. Black, check again. Haunted dark eyes - best not to think about that. Dressed well, but understated. (He wouldn't have it any other way.) A scar along one cheek. Gotta be a story behind that.

Wish I knew what it was.

Sounds of a commotion, a scuffle, in the alley. I went to check it out. A little honest clean trouble wouldn't hurt anybody, much. Take my mind off the job.

A drug deal gone sour, looked like. The guns were coming out. I hate drug dealers.

"Leave him alone," I growled. "Stay out of this, a$$hole," one of them yelled at me without looking. For one thing, they're stupid. I advanced. "My name isn't A$$hole," I informed him friendly-like. "I think you have me confused with your girlfriend."

That made him mad enough to shoot me. The bullet zinged harmlessly off my aura, but his eyes didn't really go wide until my probe caught him by the throat and picked him up off the ground. "Ready to play nice now?" The others started opening fire, their argument forgotten. Like I said, stupid.

Never mind the details. I left them in a neat heap, still breathing, but without weapons, drugs, or money. Any of the above would just get them in worse trouble. See "stupid". The first two of the three go down the nearest storm drain - I had to crush the guns before they would fit, but hey. The third...

Ah, a church steeple, a couple streets down. That'd do. Gotta salve the old conscience somehow - even if it does make Him laugh.

Old, dark, Catholic. As I'm putting the money in the poorbox, an elderly priest came up. He looked me up and down, and gestured to one of the confessionals. "Been awhile?"

I tried to laugh, then tried to cry. Neither worked. I just looked away. "You could say that, Father." "No time like the present...?" I started to tell him no, but there was something in his words that got under my skin. When he turned and doddered off purposefully toward the box, I found myself following him. Boy, will He get plenty of amusement out of this! I thought. But... what the hell.

I knelt in the dark. Didn't have the faintest idea what to say, and I guess it showed. "Need a hand?" the old padre quavered at me. "I guess... This was a mistake." "No. I don't think it was."

His aura - a pure white but otherwise unexceptional thing - flared like the sun, just for an instant. Throwing my hands up reflexively to shield my eyes, I knew terror as I haven't known it in a long time. I'd never seen anything like that except... Oh God. "Forgive me, Mas-!" "NEVER CALL ME THAT," he hissed furiously at me through the grille. "There are more games in town than your precious Council, boy. Remember that."

Confused and terrified, I stayed quiet. He went on, "I saw what you did tonight to that family.. And what you did to the dealers after. You're not a typical apprentice." "No," I wrenched out, tears forming at last and starting to fall. "I try not to be." "Want to start over?"

"More than anything. But He'll-" "No, he won't. I've been opposing the Masters for a very long time, boy. They haven't caught me yet. If you're careful, they won't catch you, either." "But-" "But nothing. If you want to start over, drop your shields."

That scared me all over again. With as much power as he'd displayed, he could do anything to me... anything at all. What finally decided me was that anything would be better than living this way. I would've ended it all long ago, if He'd let me. I lowered all my mental defenses and shivered as I knelt there.

His light flowed around me, into me, through me. Warm, clean, soothing. Nothing like my Master's aura, that's for sure. When the sensation ended, I noticed with a lurch that the compulsions were gone. All of them. No, it's not possible. It's all a trick, a te- "No, Titus, this isn't a test," he told me calmly, plainly reading my thoughts. "This is the real thing. For your penance, devote your life to doing right with the powers you've developed. Oppose the Council when you can, run when you can't; I've damped down your aura to make that a bit easier." "I don't know what to-" "Then don't say anything. Except 'yes'."

"Yes, I will," I whispered. "Good. Now get out of here, and good luck." I started to rise, still shell-shocked, when he said, "Oh, wait, I almost forgot." I braced myself, sure that the other shoe would now drop. "What?"

"Ego te absolvo, my son. Go in peace."

So I did. Really. Life started over, right then.

------------------------------------------------------------

Not for the first time, either.

My earliest memory is of pain. Unbelievable pain and loss. I screamed and wept and begged without shame. Couldn't seem to move.

Finally it faded, and I was able to take in my surroundings. I was lying naked on a bed in a richly appointed room. I had no idea how I'd gotten there - or of anything else, really, except the pounding in my temples. I sat up, swung my legs over, when an assured voice said, "Your name is Titus." I've always hated his voice. So smug, so confident, like nothing you can do or say matters in the least.

"And I am your Master." Thing is, see, he's right most of the time.

"F*ck you," I suggested, and got up in a hurry, aiming a punch at him. I ain't nobody's slave, thank you sir!

He tsked and I howled, as agony lanced up my arm. "Shut up," he said, and I did, though the pain didn't go away in the slightest. "Stand up." I did that too. "You were wrong just now," he informed me. "You are someone's slave. Mine, to be precise. Right?"

I stood there and sweated and sweated, dying inside. Finally, I forced myself to say, "Right." "Right what?" The pain, impossibly, ratcheted up to a new level of torture. "Right... Master," I gasped. "Good. I'm glad our relationship is firmly established in your mind." The pain faded, and I hated him. Helplessly.

"Get dressed," he informed me brusquely. "You have duties to perform."

He didn't tell me anything else. It took me days to figure out the limits of my new existence. I couldn't try to oppose or disobey him in any way without paying the immediate consequences - it didn't matter if he was there or not. I could think bad thoughts about him (I later learned that he had the power to prevent even that if he felt like it - the fact that he didn't is one of the vanishingly few things I feel grateful to him for) but he would know. Most of the time he would simply be amused. The other times he would hurt me. Not always with the pain. Let's just say that he's got a really good imagination when it comes to degrading people, and leave it at that, OK?

It took me weeks before I even learned his name. Osric. At last I had a name to put to the hatred, for all the good it did me. Weeks more before I learned anything about the Council. That was stunning enough, but I really lost it when he dropped the casual comment to another Master that he'd seen the fall of Rome.

Finally, after several months, he felt I was broken-in enough to formally start as his apprentice.

See, he'd read my aura. I have potential, lucky me. I have more of the Sight than even some of the Masters... though not the willpower or the training to go along with it, which made me irresistible prey.

[In the old priest you get a glimpse of an old, much-loved character of mine, Brother Jordan. (Patron of the original Carlos.) I would have written more, but after I got to this point I realized that I didn't really want to explore it further.]

[Woulda been fun to "see" the looks on you guys' faces when Titus' story was revealed, though. It's a doozy. ;)]
 
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Lela

Villager
It took me a couple false starts but I finally had a chance to finish the darn thing.

I really can't place the guy, though the obvious bet would be either Alex or Carlos--likely the latter considering the blurb at the end.

Have you published any books yet? Seems to me that you have a major talent for capturing someone and keeping them focused (when there isn't a power tool demanding my attention). Your writing is a complete emotional ride with real characters and powerful plot.
 

The Shadow

Villager
Damn. Didn't know I was being that transparent. :) Yes, it's Carlos. This is situated after Alex's death.

No, I hadn't really considered publishing. God knows Loren's had enough trouble breaking into the market, and he's much more talented than I am. I'm open to ideas, though.

Gotten the chance to look at the SW campaign yet?
 

Lela

Villager
I've got it printed out and have almost the first page (I'm on a roll here). So far I have no comments as I just havn't had time to think about it.

I probably wouldn't have thought it Carlos if you hadn't basically said it was. In this timeline, what would have happened to David (Alex's son, if I remember right)?
 

The Shadow

Villager
I, uh, didn't say anything of the sort. You appear to have made a lucky guess based on a misunderstanding? :)

Not sure about David.
 

The Shadow

Villager
I never thought this would actually happen, but...

It seems that there will be an actual, real, in-continuity update to this thread within the week. I anticipate there being only the one, to tie up a loose end.

The story is this: SuentisPo and I were reminiscing about the game, when it suddenly came out that Alex's last conversation with David was a complete maze of cross-purposes. The two were basically having utterly different conversations, without realizing it. Alex was approaching it from the angle of, "I've been a terrible father," and David from the angle of, "Dad's disappointed in me because I'm not a telepath."

The more I thought about this, the more aesthetically displeasing I found it. Further, Alex's relationship with Carlos had ended on a high note, but his relationship with David had ended with a big question mark.

Our plans to rectify this were interrupted by my recent hospital stay. (See below.) The plan now is for SP and I to play out a scene between Alex and David this Saturday. SP needs the time to work his way back into character as David, among other things. (While I can still fall into character as Alex at the drop of a hat, even after all this time.)

P.S. Gah. I just realized that 'drop of a hat' was, in this context, a truly horrible pun. :)

P.P.S. Yes, I spent two and a half weeks in the hospital recently, nine days of which in the ICU. I'm out now, but still very weak, and will be recuperating for at least a month. Any prayers/good wishes/karma you care to send my way are greatly appreciated.
 

The Shadow

Villager
[I was looking over some of the old Shadow game-writeups to prepare for the David scene I promised a while back but haven't yet delivered on - another case of SP and I being hopeless when it comes to scheduling. And while I was doing so, this scene came to me all at once, almost in whole cloth. I honestly don't know how or why that happens, but here it is for your edification and delight.]

[This is another What If?, in a possible future where David is getting married to Twyla.]

Twyla fussed with her gown, increasingly nervous on her big day. The chatter and giggling of the bridesmaids did nothing to calm her nerves, and she started at the knock on the door.

David's father came in carrying a small cardboard box. The tuxedo he wore only accentuated the formality and reserve she associated with him. I hadn't realized he was so tall, the irrelevant thought came to her, but she collected herself as he said with a slight bow, "I wanted you to have this, my dear."

She tilted him a smile and opened the box, gasping at the vibrant colors of the orchid corsage inside. "It's... gorgeous!" The girls likewise oohed over the flower. "Thank you," he said modestly, "I was not certain it would bloom in time for the wedding, but fortune smiled upon us." "You grew it yourself?!" "I'm full of hidden talents," he said wryly.

Something flashed between the two of them, and Twyla came to a decision. "Girls, could you give us a moment?" They filed out and she looked at him more directly than she usually dared. There'd always been something a little frightening about him, the more so after that memorable phone call.

"Mr. Brighton..." "Please! Alex." "Alex, then... I just wanted to say..." She swallowed, then spilled out, "I know you've never much liked me..."

With the courteous directness she knew drove David crazy, he said, "My dear, the feelings I had toward you before this day are now entirely irrelevant. You are my daughter, and I love you." His words were sincere, and she could not doubt him. Whatever else might be said about him, somehow she had always felt he was scrupulously honest.

She dropped her eyes. "That... means a lot to me. I know you and David fight sometimes, but I've always seen how much you love each other. It's... something I never had at home." "I know," he said gently, and again she did not doubt him, though she couldn't imagine how he knew.

After a short silence, he stated, "I gather from David that there is something else you wish to ask me."

"Yes," she said quietly.

"How much has he told you about me?" "Nothing much. But it's been obvious for a long time that you're just as - what's the word you used? - 'special' as he is."

He sighed. "As I said - hidden talents." Her hand cupped her slightly-swelling abdomen protectively. "Alex, is our baby going to be 'special' too? David didn't know."

"I cannot say for certain. My own brand of 'specialness' is quite different from David's, and I do not know the reason. But yes, I think it very likely that my grandchildren will have quite the range of unexpected abilities."

She absorbed that, startled. "Different? But you can beat David in a fight, and he..." "Not any more. My skill is purely the result of training. His raw power has dwarfed any skill I can bring to bear for years now."

"Then," she swallowed hard, "then I suppose you should tell me what I can expect." He closed his eyes, letting out a long, drawn-out sigh.

After a moment, he said, "There are forty-six people in the building presently. I can recognize many of them from here, and for the rest I can tell you their locations, genders, approximate ages and emotional states. David, for example, is pacing up and down in the room down the hall; he is nervous. 'Little Dave' is trying to jolly him out of it. Your parents are downstairs getting mildly drunk. Give me a moment of concentration, and I can see and hear any of them clearly, or tell you what any of them is thinking. Give me a few moments more, and I can retrieve for you any of their memories. If there were a pressing need, I could alter those memories. Or afflict any of them with mortal terror. Or do any of a number of other things." He smiled sadly. "In the lingo of the trade, I am a telepath, an empath, and an esper. Your children could end up all of those things, or some of them, or none. I simply do not know."

She paled as she stared at him, shocked. He continued quietly, "Please do not fear me. I never spy on people unless there is a great need. I have no desire to know the inner thoughts of others, least of all my loved ones."

"Does... does David know?" "He does. But he does not understand." His eyes mutely begged her to.

After a long silence, she asked, "How do you bear it?" "At times, Twyla, I cannot."

"If... If my baby has this thing..." She could not continue, and Alex said quietly, "He or she will be able to bear it better than I can. I did not have the help of another telepath as a child, and so I had to deal with it alone and in ignorance. That fate, at least, will not befall your children. I swear it."

She shook her head, then realized something else. "What, uh, 'trade' were you referring to just now?"

"Daughter," he said with a tender firmness, "it is best for everyone that you not know the answer to that question."

"I suppose so," she said slowly, "But hear me now - my children won't be part of it." Her voice rang with firm decision.

"No. They will not be. I am as determined in this matter as you are, I promise you."

"Then I guess we have an understanding." "I guess we do." "...Am I going to remember all of this tomorrow?" He quirked a smile. "If I were of a mind to change your memories, I would have done so years ago, after the whole bandage incident." Surprised, she said, "I guess you would have. Why didn't you?" Quite seriously, he replied, "My son loves you."

That brought her to the sort of sudden impulsive decision she had always trusted: "I love you too, Dad." He closed his eyes, visibly pleased but struggling for the poise she now had an inkling why he needed. She kissed him on the cheek. "And I'll try to help David understand. He's too close to you." "I know."

"Do me a favor?" "Ask and it is done." "Read my mind as I come down the aisle." He looked at her oddly, disapprovingly. "If you wish it."

Later that day, he stood at the front of the groom's side, a fidgeting tux-clad Carlos next to him. As he promised, when she appeared on her father's arm (wearing the orchid), he opened his mind to hers. For a moment, she met his eyes, and he sensed clearly, Tradition says this man gives me to my love, even though he cares little for me. I'm glad to enter a real family.

Then she caught sight of David, and her heart swelled with joy. Alex remembered Jennifer, and discovered something new about himself:

He was the sort to cry at weddings.

[Yes, I realize that realistically they would've had this conversation weeks if not months before the wedding; it was just more dramatic this way. Plus, it preserved the original impetus of the scene:]

[Reading Alex's background again, I thought, "That's right, he likes to grow tropical plants. We never did anything with that in the game." -> "Alex is the sort to grow an orchid for somebody on a special occasion. Say, a wedding." -> "Of course. David and Twyla." -> Whole scene drops neatly into my mind, nearly verbatim.]
 
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The Shadow

Villager
Thanks, thatdarncat.

It's weird how easily I can still fall into character as Alex after all this time. He means a lot to me, the big lug.
 

The Shadow

Villager
[Remember that scene with David we were going to do, to tie up loose ends? Well, it never happened, and SP doesn't feel up to it any more. But I have this one which I wrote up when I got impatient, around the same time the Twyla scene came to me. I'd forgotten about it until the thread was bumped.]

[SP tells me that, as always when I write David, that his characterization is a bit off. But he can't articulate why or how, so it'll have to do. :)]

[This one takes place the day after the last scene of the campaign - the long-awaited Thanksgiving.]

A Tale of Two Turkeys

Alex pulled a sweater on over his dress shirt (his one concession to informality), then went and knocked on David's door. When (as expected) there was no response, he opened it, to find David websurfing idly in boxers and a tank top. "We're heading to the Vu's in half an hour, so be ready." "Yes," the boy acknowledged shortly, without looking in his direction.

Alex folded his arms and noted mildly, "I do hope you won't be sulking the entire time." David replied, using (if he but knew) Alex's careful enunciation when exasperated, "I am not. Sulking." "What term would you prefer?"

David closed the window he was surfing in with excessive violence to the poor mouse. Looking only vaguely in Alex's direction, he stated, "Oh, I don't know. How about, 'restraining oneself from parricide'?"

"I approve of the restraint, at any rate." "Ha. Ha. You slay me." "I thought it was the other way around?" "No. Restraint, remember?" "Ah."

Then, "David..." "Just don't even start, OK?" "Start what?" The boy snorted. "Does it matter?"

Alex's voice became positively Arctic: "That. Is. Enough." David flinched involuntarily at his tone. "Look at me, young man." David compressed his lips but evidently made the decision not to escalate; he met Alex's eyes grudgingly.

Alex stated, "You have a right to be angry with me. I do not deny it. You do not have a right to treat me with disrespect while living in this home." To his surprise, David took a deep breath and said, "Yeah. I'm sorry."

He studied his son for a long moment, then said, "I accept your apology. Can we agree it is past time for us to discuss our differences?"

David finally swivelled his chair toward him. "OK, Dad, let's. How am I supposed to take all this? Not only do you go out at night and beat criminals up, but apparently you also..." He visibly stopped himself from saying something cutting, breathing hard.

"Before I attempt to answer that question, may I ask you one?" Bitterly, "Sure, fine."

Alex carefully modulated his tone, trying to be more expressive than he usually permitted of himself. "Son... Where have you gotten the idea that you could be replaced?"

The dam of David's anger finally broke. He abruptly stood up, sending the computer chair flying. "Why do you even bother ASKING all these questions?! Is it manipulation or what?! Pushing me into saying what you want?"

Alex's face went blank as he retreated behind the ramparts of his mind. "I do not understand."

"Oh sure! What's the poker face for, then, huh? Guilty conscience much, Dad?" Alex let his hands slip to his sides, and repeated faintly, "I do not understand."

"The thing I don't get is, you really are a straight arrow. You don't lie to me otherwise. Is it all part of the whole 'secret identity' thing, or what?"

Alex stated with emotionless finality, "I have never lied to you. There are things I have concealed from you. But I have never spoken an untruth to you."

"Come off it! Do I have to spell it out for you? You're. A. F*cking. Mind. Reader. It explained a whole hell of a lot, when that came out last year. You always seem to know what to say, despite not being able to read a room for sh**. All those 'man-to-man' talks over the campfire? I always wondered how you worked it, because I really did start to see things your way. Must be easy when you can know exactly what someone's thinking, huh? Maybe even give them little nudges? I'll give you this much, though - at least you haven't mindwiped me like you wanted to do to Twyla. I figure you'd have done it last year if you were going to."

Alex had been shaking his head through this outburst, trembling slightly. "No." "No what?"

"David, I have only read your mind twice, and that only very superficially." David stared at him, disbelieving. Alex continued, "The first time was the day after the trial of your mother's killer. That was the day I consciously realized I was a telepath, and I accidentally read your surface thoughts. The second time was when I contacted you to send you with Jerry out of state. In order to communicate, I had to read the thoughts you consciously sent me. I got a few sensory and emotional impressions besides those, but as little as I could manage."

"Why should I believe you?" "Do you think I WANT to know what you're thinking?! Do you think I want to live that way, pushing the people I love around like game pieces? Would YOU always want to know what Twyla thought of you? What your friends think of you?"

David cocked his head. "So you don't even pick stuff up by accident?" "Not since that first day, no." "I don't get it... How does the campfire thing work?" Alex snorted. "I'm your FATHER, you idiot. I don't have to read your mind to know you well. How did you think it worked before you knew I could read minds, anyway?"

David thought it over, then said sheepishly, "I guess I figured it was a dad thing." "So it is." Alex took a deep breath, then let it out and deliberately joked, "You don't get to learn the secret handshake until you have kids of your own." "Darn. Do you get to wear funny hats?" "It's a secret. ... You still haven't answered my question." "Huh?"

"Where have you gotten the idea you could be replaced?" David suddenly remembered he was still furious with Alex. "Oh. That." "Yes."

"OK, so you haven't been reading my mind. Glad to hear it! Really, I am! But I've watched you and Grace. The way you glance at each other and get all thinky. Or cock your heads sometimes as if you're listening to something that isn't there. You're talking with each other, right?" "Yes." "Pretty rude, don't you think? But that's not the point." "What is?"

David's anger had been slowly rising as he spoke. "You live in a whole different world, Dad! Hell, even leaving the Shadow out of it, you can talk to people from miles away, erase their memories, whatever. sh**, I don't even KNOW what all you can do, and I might not even understand if you told me! I'm the stupid one in the family, huh? The 'Sucker', as YOUR dad would say. Guess I didn't get the genes from you or Mom. So then you come and tell me, 'Oh, there's this other guy out with me while I'm the Shadow. I've known him eight months, and I love him like a son.' Guess 8 months of 'A$$hole' is worth 17 years of 'Sucker', huh?!"

"Stop. You are making so many false assumptions I hardly know where to start." "Oh please! Enlighten my ignorance! Maybe then I'll be worthy."

Alex ticked off points on his fingers. "First, one reason I have never picked up your thoughts by accident is that you have a pretty good mind shield. I doubt my father could've sold you anything." "...HUH?!" "Living around me tends to do that to people." David shook his head, stunned.

"Second, your mother had no telepathic powers that I know of. I don't know where you even get the idea." "I figured... You said he couldn't control her..." "She had a shield, just like you. So congratulations, you're an 'A$$hole' too." "Gee, thanks."

"Third, the 'other guy' isn't a telepath any more than you are. Why did you think he was?" David dithered, bewildered. "I... Uh... Eight months?" "Eight months of trusting your life to someone, every day. He's saved my life at least three times I can think of. I've saved his, as well. Even so, I did not feel fatherly to him until..." Alex's face twisted, and he could not speak. David, for his part, didn't dare to.

"Until my enemies used him as a 'Sucker', as you put it. Put a mental bomb in his mind, tried to use him to spy on me. Even in the midst of THAT, even while being controlled like a puppet, he was as loyal as he could manage. But in the end I had to knock him out, handcuff him, and take him to Grace. And I felt... like I did the time when they hurt you, son. I realized all at once how much I loved him, and how I had failed him, caused him to suffer... even added to his suffering myself. It was more than I could bear."

David looked down at his feet, biting his lip. "Wow. I guess I really have been an a$$hole, huh?" Alex squeezed his shoulder, then said quietly, "Fourth, I am glad you are not a telepath." David swallowed hard. "Why?" "Because it has been nothing but a curse to me, David." He paused to let that sink in. "Perhaps for someone like Grace, who has been able to control it since childhood, it is truly a gift. But for me... it has destroyed any chance of ordinary, normal happiness. It has... kept me... from being the father... I want to be."

David hugged him impulsively, sobbing. Alex held him, stroking his back. "It is hard for me, David. I have to... hold it all in, all the time." David asked quietly against his chest, "Hold what in?" "Everything. It's not the receiving of thoughts and emotions that is the problem. It is the sending. You've had to shield yourself from me all your life, without even realizing it. Think of the other people I meet, who don't have shields. The people my father could sell anything he wanted. I have to hold it all in, and I am weary of it. Is it strange that I can't read a room, as you put it? I'm too busy trying to keep them from reading me!"

David finally pulled away and wiped his eyes, still sniffling slightly. "I feel so stupid. I'm sorry, Dad." "I am sorry too, son. I have concealed too much from you. It must have been hard for you, to wonder about all this with no hard data." "Yeah." "Shall we forgive each other, then?" David managed a smile. "Sure. You first."

Alex snorted, but said seriously, "I forgive you for leaping to conclusions and sulking about them." "I wasn't... well, yeah, I guess I was." "Your turn." "I... Damn. Dad, I just gotta process all this first. I'm not even totally sure yet what I'm forgiving you for. Tomorrow?" "Very well. Can I give you one more thing to process?" "Um. OK?"

Alex hesitated. "I want... to share something with you, David. It will be very difficult, but I think it is necessary. If... well, if anything untoward happens, call Grace, all right?" David stared at him. "Uh..." "And if it comes to that point - and I don't think it will - well, it would probably be best if you didn't touch me until she got here." "Dad, I don't think..." Alex repeated, "It is necessary." "All right..."

Alex retrieved the computer chair and sat down, his eyes on his son's. "I love you, David." "Yeah, Dad, I..." "No. Hear me out."

Alex took a deep breath, let it out. "When you were born... When I held you in my arms, looked you in the eyes..." His voice was soft, tender, more full of expression than David had ever heard it.

"I knew that my life had forever changed. I knew that my life fell in two parts. The time before I became a father, and the time after. I knew..." He had to pause, his breathing getting ragged, "I knew... that I would do anything for you and your mother. To keep you safe, to make you happy. That was the meaning of my life, from that moment on." David stared at him, mute.

Alex's knuckles went white on the arms of the chair. "I failed... your mother." He sobbed once, and continued: "I became the Shadow because I had to let it out, all the stuff I told you about. I had to. And... I wanted to keep it from happening to anyone else."

"Then, because of the Shadow..." Alex's face twisted in agony as his shields came to the breaking point. David started forward, looking frantic, but Alex held up a hand to stop him. "No, don't touch me! That will make it harder... I failed you too." "Dad, I-" "Let me speak! I don't know how much longer I can do this. ... I don't know how to bear it, son. I don't know how to bear it, putting you and Carlos into danger, but I don't know how to stop. I don't know how to stop." He bowed his head to his chest and was silent. David asked nervously, "Dad? Are you OK?"

"Yes, David. There is one more thing." "Are you sure-" "Yes. You're growing up, son. You're more a man every day." He paused for strength, then said, "I'm proud of you."

When he recovered enough to lift his head, he saw David slumped against a wall, tears running steadily down his cheeks. "Nobody can ever replace you, David. Nobody."

"Dad, I... I didn't realize. It's so hard for you to talk about this stuff?" "Yes."

"All my life, I've waited for you to say that." "Say what?" "That..." The boy swallowed hard. "That you're proud of me. I thought you were just a jerk." Alex smiled wearily. "Oh, I'm a jerk all right. Just not for that reason." He struggled to his feet. David asked anxiously, "Do you need help?" "No, I'm fine. I am reliably informed that I have the constitution of a horse." He said it lightly, but his sweater was living up to its name.

"Dad, I... don't know what to say." "I'm not surprised. You said you needed time to process." "Yeah." "...We're late for the Vu's." "Crap! You're right!" "You get dressed and I'll change."

David was quite subdued on the drive over there. Dat's questions died on his lips after one look at the two of them. Wisely, he put them both to work at once, chopping veggies and such. Soon Alex and Mrs. Vu were in their element, coddling the turkey almost to the point of putting in an IV, and discussing whether the green chili sauce needed more garlic. David for his part was kept chattering by the seemingly innumerable Vu cousins, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.

After a heavy and satisfying meal of American/Vietnamese fusion cuisine, an old two-family tradition was enacted. Dat poured a large cup of tea and held it in his hands as he recited a Buddhist blessing over it, then stated what he was thankful for before taking a sip: "Family and good friends." Passing it around the table, each person did likewise. The cup came to David first, seated next to Alex at the other head of the table. He looked into it for a time as if seeking for secrets. Then he looked at Alex. "I'm thankful for my father." Alex nodded gravely as he accepted the cup from David's hands. "I am thankful for my son."

After an equally subdued drive back home, Alex said suddenly, "I just realized something." "Yeah?" "We still have a loose end to take care of, for consistency's sake." "What's that?" "I seem to recall certain forbidden vocabulary words being used earlier..." David was torn between bemusement and chagrin. "Aw, crap. Yeah." "How many did you earn, you think?" "A lot." "Pick a number you think is fair." David rolled his eyes, and pondered. "500 at the very least. Call it a thousand." "Get to it."

David nodded, stripped off his shirt, and dropped into pushup position. "Ready." Alex asked curiously, "Are these really a deterrent for you any more, given how strong you're getting?" "From the effort? Not really. From the sheer monotony? Oh heck yeah." Alex chuckled, then frowned slightly as David abruptly went onto his fists before beginning.

After a dozen or so, Alex said hesitantly, "I need to go." Sarcastically, "What, you're going to let me count?" "I trust you." "...You're going to go have Thanksgiving with him, aren't you? With Carlos?" "Yes." After a long silence save for soft counting on David's part, "Tell him I said hi, I guess." Softly, "I will."

Alex ruffled his son's hair and went out into the night.

--------------------------------------------------------

Returning in the wee hours, Alex was shocked to find David still doing pushups on his fists in the dining room. One glance at the set of the boy's shoulders told him they had started getting difficult some time ago; and there was a puddle of sweat under his torso.

"What do you think you're doing." David gasped, "Pushups. What's it look like?"

Alex walked over and knelt by his son's head. "How many?" "Lost track... a long time ago. Suspect we'd better... call the Guinness Book... people though." "You're in pain." "Got... a bit of a burn... yeah. Real problem... is the fist thing though. ... My knuckles and wrists... really hurt. ... Shoulders now too."

"Why are you doing this." "Processing. The pain... keeps me focussed." "David, I want you to stop." "...Okay." The boy lowered his knees to the ground and gingerly pushed himself up a final time. He winced as he lifted his hands from the ground and straightened them out, sitting down abruptly. "YOW! That hurts!" Alex took his right hand and began massaging it gently. "Are you punishing me for going to see him?"

David winced again but let his father work on his hand. "No. I meant to be in bed by the time you got back, in fact. ... Guess I lost track of time." "Why, then? And I don't believe it's just processing."

David didn't answer for a long time. "I had to know." "Know what?" "If I could push myself as far as you did, just to prove a point." "Prove what to whom?" "To myself. Not sure what exactly. That I've got your guts, maybe." Alex started working on his left hand. "You certainly don't have to prove anything to me." "I know, Dad. I... know it for the first time. It's a weird feeling." "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Knock it off." "Eh?" "Apologizing. We've both been jerks. Must be hereditary or something." Alex laughed despite himself. "Must be."

David said sleepily, "Did learn one thing from the processing, though." "Oh?" "Yeah. I forgive you for being a telepath, Dad. Must really suck." "Yes. Thank you."

The boy perked right back up for a moment when his father started rubbing his shoulders. "YIKES! My pleasure. ... The forgiveness, not the shooting pains." "I gathered. Need a hand up?" "No..." Then, rapidly, "Yeah. Guess I didn't inherit the constitution?" Alex snorted as he hauled the young man to his feet. "We'll let the Guinness Book decide."

David asked over his shoulder as he picked his way to his room, "When am I gonna meet him?" "Probably next week sometime. Grace wants to check him out again on Monday to make sure he's recovering OK." "...I can't promise anything." "I know." "Well... I guess I can promise one thing." "Oh?"

"Yeah. I'm going to give him a chance. At least three chances, in fact. I owe him for bringing you back home to me." They exchanged an embrace, though David couldn't manage much of one just yet. "I love you, Father." "...You've never called me that before." "You've never called me a man before, either." "Not yet, I think. But you're well on the road." "Ah. So I still get to be obnoxious for a while, huh?" "Yes. I love you too, son."

"G'night, Dad.." "Good night, David. It's good to have you home."

[OK, yes, so the loose ends got wrapped up a little too neatly with a bow. That's what the scene was for, deal. :)]

[I also have an unfinished piece on Alex's Thanksgiving with Carlos. There's some good stuff in it, but it ended up surprisingly cathartic (the relationship between Alex and Carlos evidently pushes some of my buttons, I'm not entirely sure why), and I got stuck halfway in. I'll consider posting it after I've looked it over some more and shown it to SP, as I don't think I ever shared it with him.]
 
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The Shadow

Villager
I also just realized that I've never posted a link to my latest Story Hour, Life and Light.

It's been on hiatus the last several months, but I anticipate that it will be waking up again within the next week or so!

Oh, and there's a brand-new Shadow scene posted above this one, if you're coming in just now.
 
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The Shadow

Villager
Every once in a great while, I come back to this game and look over the logs. I can still, after all this time, fall into character as Alex at the drop of a hat (pardon the pun). And each time, I get something new out of it.

This time, it was both amusement and amazement at how quaint the game feels, technologically-speaking, after 15 years! Here's a list of some things I sent to SP to laugh over. They made perfect sense at the time, but now they feel like something archaeologists would benefit from discovering!

1. Several times, Alex goes home to listen to messages on his answering machine.

2. David has a cell, but Alex doesn't. Even more amazingly, David sometimes *leaves his at home!* Can't easily picture a teen doing that any more!

3. The ubiquity of cell cameras is such that Mental Invisibility itself seems rather quaint. The Shadow would have a LOT harder time convincing people he's an urban legend these days!

4. Alex takes it for granted that a homemade website will have a guestbook. When's the last time you saw one of those?!

5. Hooking up a new computer to the household network takes an entire afternoon.

6. Floppy disks are still a thing. (Though admittedly, they were on the way out even in 2004.)

7. Pay phones are still a thing!

8. Perhaps most glaringly of all, the only way Alex could think of to find Twyla's number was to hunt up where David had it written down!!

Also, David and Carlos would be in their 30's by now. This makes me feel positively ancient.
 

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