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> The Stormcrow, A Superhero's Tale
SubRosa
post Mar 27 2021, 08:59 AM
Post #381


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From: Between The Worlds



Renee: It is not an NPR podcast. One of the hosts simply has a day job at NPR is all. Just like Patricia is also a writer for a magazine. And Ravi does other tech and nerd-based podcasts.

Ravi sounds like the actor he is based on - Rahul Kohli. He is a regular on iZombie, and guest starred in a Supergirl episode. Here is an example.

I love the idea of January being a fictional character who is a writer of other fictional characters. It is sort of my example of literary Inception.

January's experience with Patricia is simply an example of ordinary life for someone like Jan. You never know exactly when or where it will happen, but it always does. That is why I include these episodes of January facing bigotry in these stories. I do not want to hide the ugliness that she faces. What I do want to show is her carrying on in spite of it all, and living her life.

I am honestly not sure what you think I am up to. I hope you won't be too disappointed when it turns out I am not. Unless you have an intuition about the chapter title. There is nothing accidental about that.



Acadian: January hopes the association does not draw too many parallels between herself and the courageous crow of Michigan either.

It is always very difficult to write scenes of Jan bearing the brunt of bigotry. Not just because they are uncomfortable. But also because I do not want to misrepresent people, even if they are bigots. I did research, and everything Patricia said is a direct, or nearly direct, quote of real people, such as JK Rowling. It was the same with the Nazis in Crystal Death. Some of their dialogue was word for word copies of RL statements.

Ravi and Amy were indeed totally blindsided by their cohort's behavior. That is something I took from my own life. More than once I tried to make friends with a group of people, only for someone like Patricia to rear their heads and make everyone choose between me and them. Afterwards more than one person has told me that they had no idea their friends were like that.

Quite right about the nit, thanks for helping me fix that.








Cthulhu Skater Dress


Women in Refrigerators Trope


Damsel in Distress Trope


Lack of female representation in fiction

Infographics of lack of female representation in fiction


Chapter 7.2 - Hammer Down
June 17

"Who puts the tales in my crows... podcast?" Ravi belted out once more in his English accent. "Ok the intro still needs some work. But as all true radio professionals know an intro is not something you can write beforehand. And you can't edit audio, so there is no going back and changing it."

"Of course there is no going back," Amy picked up. "But we can go forward, with this special edition of the Crow Tales Podcast. I am Amy Nixon."

"And I am Ravi Prasad."

"And together we are bringing you the best in Stormcrow approved fiction," Amy went on. "As we all know Detroit's newest heroine Stormcrow creates the Crow Tales blog, where she recommends novels and short stories every week. Her reviews are spoiler free. So we have taken it as our duty to go ahead and spoil it all, just for you, our dear listeners."

"So if you want to go into these stories cold, turn off this podcast, and come back when you have finished reading," Ravi said. "Done reading? Good, because we are going to break down each tale, and give you the straight dope on what happens, why it happens, and who it happens to."

"As you all have probably noticed, you can see us! That is because today we are having a special video episode, along with a special guest," Amy said. "So without further ado, welcome to January Ward, the author of the story we are covering today: This Spell for Hire."

"Hi," January said. She was not as bubbly or spontaneous as the first time. But she forced herself to be cheerful. She was going to make this work, no matter how much her stomach churned, or her heart raced. The first time she had done this it had been simple stage jitters that had made her nervous. This time around, her unease came from a much different source. The sour memories conjured up from her original appearance the previous day.

Never give up, she told herself. That was one of her Viking Virtues after all. She was not going to let negativity bring her down. Ravi and Amy at least seemed like decent people. She would not take her ire out on them. Nor would she allow it to fester within herself. Then the people like Patricia would truly win. She would not give them the satisfaction.

So she plunged on with the interview. This time Amy asked what she was wearing, and she had the opportunity to display her own nerd chops by standing and giving all a good look at her Cthulhu skater dress. Her mother had given it to her last Christmas, and she had to admit, it was one of her favorite presents ever. It was green and black, and filled with the looming head and maze of tentacles of its eponymous Great Old One. Plus it was tight in all the right places, showing off her waist, tummy, and even what little chest she possessed.

January had to admit, she loved it.

As before, they talked about her two main characters: Aela and Loria, and the numerous supporting cast whom they encountered through their adventure. They spent some time on how she had built the world, and of course the plot. January felt more than a little self-conscious about the latter. There was nothing special about it after all. Her two main characters had been hired to foil an assassin. There were a few simple twists and turns, a bit of mystery and detective work, a bit of action, and a wrap up. Nothing about it was truly original.

"But that is not a problem," Amy declared. "Humans have been telling stories since we could talk. All the stories have been told already. They were a long time ago. What matters is not how unique your plot is, but how well you can execute it. How engaging your characters are. How strong their motivations run."

"I give this story high marks," Amy declared. "Yes, the plot is derivative. But as I said, so what? The protagonist truly engaged me, especially since she is trans. That is something you rarely see in fiction these days, and never would have seen in the past. I really enjoyed the blending of distinct cultures you presented, and how each character's culture informed their outlooks and goals."

"Plus, it was just plain fun," Ravi declared. "You have action, you have exposition, you have world-building, you even have flashbacks that hint at deeper motivations behind your character's actions, and you juggle it all without getting too bogged down in any one part of it."

January tried not to smile too broadly at the praise. A nagging voice in the back of her head wondered if they were being so nice because they felt guilty about how Patricia had treated her the day before? January hated that voice. She hated always being distrustful of other people's motivations. But there was no silencing it entirely. It was a survival trait after all.

They moved on, and toward the end of the hour they had blocked out Ravi asked her one of the most common questions writers ever received.

"Where do you get your inspiration from?" he asked.

"I suppose the same as anyone else," January thought aloud. "I live my life, and see things going on around me. I watch movies, read books, and I think how could I do this without killing the only gay character? Or could this be done without putting a woman in a refrigerator, or making her a damsel in distress? I see a lot of good stories, that are brought down by writers using these bad tropes. So I imagine what they would be like without the homophobia, or without the misogyny, or without the racism."

"Take the lack of female characters in fiction. In most stories there seems to be 1 female character per every 3 males. Sometimes it is a lot less than that. Yes, looking at you 'The Hobbit', not one female character in the entire book. If the real world were like that, it would be a really different place. Imagine a world where most men would never have a girlfriend in their life, because women literally did not exist, except for those chosen few protagonists who needed them as trophies to win at the end, and of course to prove their heterosexuality."

January stopped talking, and started thinking about that. What would that world look like? What would it be like to be a woman living in that world?

"That sounds like it might be an intriguing idea to explore in a novel," Amy mused aloud.

"Um, yes, it would," January agreed. Her head was spinning with ideas already. Could she write this? Could she make a real story out of this? She probably could. Maybe it was time to put her next Spell for Hire novel on hold, and develop this instead?

"So our hour is up, and that about wraps up our episode," Ravi filled in the empty silence that had started to drag out. "Before we go however, it's time to pay our tithe to the sweet goddess of Capitalism. January, do you have anything you would like to plug?"

"Oh plugs," January murmured. Her head was still swirling with ideas for A Woman's World. She had already fixed upon a title. She was definitely going to write this.

"Well This Spell for Hire can of course be found in all online book outlets. There are no hard copies yet. But that might be changing in the future. I also have a comic book I am developing right now with a friend of mine that is called Artemis Argent and the Secret of Mystery Hill. The crowd-funding is still open to help us produce it. Check out Artemis Argent at Jumpstarter.com for all the deets, and see sample pages that we have already finished."

"Artemis Argent and the Temple of Doom?" Ravi laughed. "That sounds proper awesome!"

"That might be the sequel, if things go well," January mused.

"Maybe we can have you on again once it is finished," Amy noted.

"Or just as a bonus episode," Ravi offered. "No one says we cannot further explore the works of authors that Stormcrow has cited."

"That's true," the red-haired woman noted. "We could do an episode on some of Mary Shelley's lesser-known works as well."

"And with that, see you later aggregators," Ravi boldly declared, then he began to mumble more quietly. "Now how do I turn this thing-"

With that January's ZAAM screen with blank. She took a moment to turn off the video conferencing software, and leaned back in her computer chair. She closed her eyes and sighed with relief. She had completed her second podcast appearance. That had gone well. Much better than she could have hoped for after yesterday's attempt. She wondered when they would post it? From what Ravi had said, it usually took him a few days to get their episodes online.

Thankfully the first attempt would not be going online. That would be the last thing January needed. Still, she was tempted to ask Ravi for a copy of it. Somehow she had a feeling that Patricia Fine was not going to disappear quietly. She might try to invent accusations about her. January would like the evidence if she did.

She pulled out her phone, and waited for its texting app to come up. After what seemed a thousand years later it finally did, and she tapped out a message to the British podcaster asking for a copy of yesterday's show, and explained why. After several minutes he replied with an affirmative, and January put down her phone.


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Renee
post Mar 27 2021, 02:34 PM
Post #382


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Sorry, yeah, I got that confused about the podcast versus radio show.

I'm not saying what my intuition is yet, and maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm right. biggrin.gif We'll see.

I like that part "As you probably noticed, you can see us!" ... it just sounds exactly like something a host would say on NPR, and in that hushed-ecstatic, yet welcoming tone of voice. I can't imagine Rush Limbaugh saying this, for instance, in that sort of way. You definitely got the feel of public radio with the way they say things.

Yes, I imagine Jan's 'perky phone voice' is gone this episode, especially after what happened last time. sad.gif Maybe over time, over many years of living her life, that phone voice will show up less and less, though it won't go away entirely. She'll still have that side of her, although maybe it'll be reserved for safer appearances, like in front of children, perhaps. Or somebody who Jan is interested in.

I really like that Cthulhu dress.

QUOTE
and I think how could I do this without killing the only gay character? Or could this be done without putting a woman in a refrigerator, or making her a damsel in distress? I see a lot of good stories, that are brought down by writers using these bad tropes.


Yes. Agreed.

Can January provide a sample of her work, by the way? I'm curious what her style of writing looks like.

This post has been edited by Renee: Mar 27 2021, 05:51 PM
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Acadian
post Mar 27 2021, 07:20 PM
Post #383


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Ahah, the wheels are starting to turn now since you mentioned that the chapter's title is not by accident. Methinks we will soon see our sometimes friend Lighthammer again. . . .

I quite like that dress as well, though I admit more for the cut and style rather than the color and design on the fabric.

"But that is not a problem," Amy declared. "Humans have been telling stories since we could talk. All the stories have been told already. They were a long time ago. What matters is not how unique your plot is, but how well you can execute it. How engaging your characters are. How strong their motivations run."
- - Well put, Amy!

As Jan was trying to do an objective assessment of her writing without squirming too much, I could almost see SubRosa squirming (or chuckling) since I know who really created Aela & Loria, and I know your writing so well as to completely agree.

Nicely done, and I’m so glad the second time was the charm for a pleasant and insightful interview. smile.gif


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SubRosa
post Apr 3 2021, 05:27 AM
Post #384


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Renee: Podcasts are technically internet radio, so there is a fine line.

One nice thing about podcasting is that you don't have to be as formal as radio hosts tend to be. A lot, if not most, people who do create them are not broadcasting professionals, but rather people with some other day job. The podcast is usually a labor of love, something they do about a subject they are passionate about, and hopefully have some knowledge in. The Dirt is one podcast I listen to, and it is created by two archaeologists, talking about archaeology. In reSearch Of is another one about the old TV show In Search Of. One of the hosts is an IT guy, the other an archaeology professor. Both are interested in the paranormal: cryptids, ghosts, UFOs, etc... They wanted to do a show about the origins of Paranormal TV, and settled on In Search Of because it seems to have been the very first of that genre.

Jan's perky phone voice is indeed a good marker for her happiness and hope. Her losing it would indeed be a sign of her slipping into cynicism.

You have read samples of January's work. Go to the Aela fic and there you have it.


Acadian: Lighthammer might indeed light up the skies soon.

Even for a geek like me, the tentacles are a bit much. But it is perfect to establish January's nerdcore cred.

Jan at least had one good interview so far.





Ryo (RL Alex Mallari)

Three Okami Tee



Chapter 7.3 - Hammer Down
June 17

"Are you done then?"

January nearly leaped out of her skin at the sound of the male voice behind her. As it was she did jump from her chair and spin around. Standing in front of her closed door was Ryo. As ever, his hair was cropped short against his skull, and a sparse mustache and goatee sprouted from his lip and chin. The young Japanese man was dressed in his Three Okami tee shirt, depicting a trio of white wolves emblazoned with red markings. All three had their heads turned up to howl at a blazing sun.

Now January wished she had waited for today to wear her Three Wil Wheaton tee shirt, which likewise showed three images of the eponymous actor beneath a twenty-sided die instead of the moon. Still, she did adore her skater dress just the same.

"Ryo!" January gasped. "You nearly gave me a heart attack. How long have you been there?"

"Since when you were talking about your inspirations for creating the setting of This Spell for Hire," he said plainly.

"That was a half hour ago!" January stared in shock. "How come you didn't say anything? And how did you get in? Aren't the doors locked?"

"I did not want to bother you," Ryo said. "So I just let myself in and waited for you to finish."

"How very thoughtful of you," January murmured. She looked at the door to her room. Still shut. She should have heard it open when he came in. And how did he get into the house? It was summer, so the windows were open. Had he simply popped out a screen and climbed in a window? He must have, because she and her mother always kept the doors locked.

"I need your advice." Ryo said bluntly, as was his wont. He never made small talk. He was always straight and to the point.

He walked past her and spun around her computer chair. He leaped up and crossed his legs in mid air, and fell onto the seat as lightly as a feather. He did it all with a grace and ease that an Olympic athlete would envy. January knew, she had once hoped to compete in the Games herself after all. She sat opposite him on her bed, and curled up her legs underneath her.

"My advice?" January could not help but cock an eyebrow with Spockian incredulity. She could not imagine anything Ryo would ever need her advice on.

"I met a girl at Jacob's last show," he said. "Her name is Maggie. I really like her."

"And..." January let her sentence trail off, hoping Ryo would fill in the blanks. Jacob was of course Blackjack. The Knights of Nerddom loved their nicknames after all. But only Ryo ever called him by his real name. That was his style, as direct and to the point as a sword.

"And I do not know what to do," Ryo said. "How do I get her attention? And if I do, what do I say to her? I do not know how this dating thing works."

"Oh my," January tried not to roll her eyes. She really, really tried. She took a deep breath, and stared down at the floor.

"I am not the person to come to for dating advice," she admitted. "You need to talk to Rus, or Blackjack. They know way more about dealing with women than I do."

"But you are a woman," Ryo stated. "Besides, I already know what their responses will be. Rus will say to be confident, and act like you are the coolest man in the world, and that nothing fazes you. Jacob will say to make them laugh, to be a good talker, and show them you are not an idiot or a bro."

"Women do like confidence, so much so that many of them can't seem to tell the difference between it and arrogance." January mused. "And they do like a guy who can make them laugh. But you have to be careful not to get friend-zoned doing that."

"Like you friend-zoned Jacob," Ryo nodded.

"I didn't friend-zone Blackjack," January stared back at him blankly. "I'm a lesbian. You guys all know that."

"I was not supposed to say that." Ryo shook his head. "Pretend I did not."

"Wait, what about Blackjack?" January felt a weird sensation pooling in her stomach. "Are you saying that Jacob, I mean Blackjack, has... I mean that he..."

"He has been thirsty for you since you transitioned," Ryo declared. "He just never said so, because, you know, the whole lesbian thing. He said it would make things weird."

"Well he was right," January frowned. "Thank you so much for sharing that Ryo."

"I said the wrong thing again," Ryo laid a palm over his forehead. "I always do that. Usually Jacob stops me."

January felt power stir within the young Japanese-American. Not metaphorical strength, but real power, the kind that flowed through her and Blood Raven. As she stared at him, the shadows literally folded themselves around him, shrouding him in darkness. January glanced out the window. It was just a little past noon, and sunlight bathed in the room in illumination. But Ryo had almost literally faded into the woodwork.

January blinked. There Ryo was, sitting on her computer chair, sunlight streaming around him like a halo. She clearly was imagining things. The stress from the podcast, and now this news of Blackjack's feelings, it must have been too much to process at once.

"Just... don't tell Blackjack you said anything about it to me," January implored, "it will not make things better."

What on earth was she going to do about it? Ignore it, and pretend it didn't exist? Would she ever be able to look at Blackjack the same? Somehow she doubted that. Should she talk to him about it? That would be slightly less awkward than say, talking to her grandmother about sex. January wished there was a giant spider around to punch. At least that was simple.

"This really will not help, but he has a new crush," Ryo said.

January was afraid of what the young man's next revelation might bring, so she braced herself. She was thankful that she had.

"Stormcrow," Ryo said plainly. "He has been hot for her for weeks. He even wrote a song about her. We are making a video for it right now. All we have left is to finish editing the shots together."

Now it was January's turn to make a facepalm.

"I should not have said that either," Ryo lamented. "I hate all these secrets, all these games. We are all supposed to be friends. Why cannot we just be honest with each other?"

"Because sometimes honesty is just not the best policy," January lamented. "Sometimes we lie to the people we love to protect them. Because the truth would hurt them even more, and we want to spare them that."

"This is why I need advice. I never know what to say, or do," Ryo went on, as if he had not completely turned one of her oldest relationships upside down. "I do not know how to pretend to be cool and confident, and I cannot make anyone laugh."

"Don't kid yourself Ryo," January said without thinking. "You would make a great straight man."

Still, at least concentrating on Ryo's love life gave her an excuse not to think about Blackjack's.

"You just have to be Ryo," she said. "Don't try to be cool, don't try to be funny. I met this girl on Ok Eros. We talked for weeks, I thought we were really making a connection. We were finally going to meet up, and I told her I was trans. She immediately ghosted me, literally stopped talking that instant, and never replied to me again."

"You need to be straight up about who you are, and what you are," January insisted. "Don't put weeks or months into someone only to find out that they don't want any part of you because of something that is an integral part of your being. Like you being on the spectrum, or being a nerd. Or is it a geek? I forget which one of those is good now and which is still bad."

"Yes, that usually does not impress women," Ryo lamented.

"You're preaching to the choir friend," January agreed. "But it is reality. You can't pretend to be someone you're not. Trust me, I went down that road."

"So how do I be me, and still make this work?" Ryo said. "I really like this girl."

"Well, show her your best self," January said. "I mean, don't quote C++ to her. But let her see how smart you are. How you notice things other people don't. Let it drop that you do kenjutsu, and longswording, and judo. Adin has open mat on Sundays at his dojo. Invite her out and we can spar together. If seeing you in action doesn't make her wet, nothing will."

"Make her wet," Ryo mused quite seriously, "yes, we could go swimming, at the beach."

"Umm, yeah, that's exactly what I meant," January went on as if that were true. "Let her see your abs. If that does not do it, nothing will."

"Girls like abs?" Ryo looked down to his stomach.

"A lot of them seem to," January nodded. "You are one swol dude, go with it. You will probably be the only buff guy she ever meets who isn't a total bro."

"And that will make her wet?" Ryo still seemed uncertain.

"Maybe?" January shrugged. Remembering how literally he tended to take things, she added, "just don't say 'wet' to her!"

Once again Ryo seemed to fade from existence. The shadows grew around him, and this time January could swear that his body literally began to go transparent. She felt it once more, the power singing within him. This time there was no doubt about it.

"Ryo, how long have you been using magic?" January asked. If Ryo preferred honesty, well she would oblige him.

"What?" His form snapped back into full view, and the shadows dropped away from his body like a discarded cloak. Genuine surprise crossed his features. "What do you mean?"

"I mean magic," January insisted. "Right now, you were using magic to hide in the shadows. Come to think of it, you have always done that haven't you? Whenever you get uncomfortable, you disappear. Have you been using magic to do it all along?"

"I do not know what you mean," Ryo protested. "I just... do what I do."

Once more, he faded away, like a ghost. January was tempted to try to see if her hand could pass through his body. But it was growing hard to see just where he was. The room was filled with sunlight. But he was a shadow, blending into the background.

January shifted her senses into the astral. Ryo's form practically leaped out before her eyes in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors. His aura glowed with power, in a way no ordinary person's ever did. By now January had some practice with viewing others in astral space. Most people's auras were faded, like old black and white TV shows. But a magician's, like Blood Raven's or her own, were illustrated in bright 4K color by comparison.

More than that, she could feel his power in the astral, humming like electricity through a high voltage line. She could smell it, warm and wholesome, like freshly baked bread. She could hear it, singing like a choir.

If she had known more about using magic, she would have surely noticed this much earlier. But the fact was, it had still been just a few short months since she had become a superhero. She had spent even less time with the knowledge that her powers were something that she had created within herself with magic. Sensing that magic elsewhere was still something she was growing accustomed to. She knew that she still had much to learn. It was a humbling thought.

"You are a magician Ryo," she stated plainly. "You have been using it, probably for years I imagine. You may not have been doing so consciously, directly. But you have been channeling your power into an ideal. Because magic is not just about conscious designs, it is also about unconscious desires. It is about your Will, and how you use it to shape your reality. You have literally been enchanting yourself."

Ryo snapped back into bright solidity once more. He casually stroked his fingers through the sparse hairs on his chin.

"I have been exploring more of the Zen side of my kenjutsu training," he admitted. "I have been meditating more, using that in judo, and Western longswording. But I never really noticed anything different."

"You wouldn't have," January insisted. "You never had to push yourself beyond the limits of what we think is normal. You were never in that kind of danger."


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Acadian
post Apr 3 2021, 11:22 PM
Post #385


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’January could not help but cock an eyebrow with Spockian incredulity.’
- - This is a magnificent line that fits the story, situation and Jan to a tee!

"This really will not help, but he has a new crush," Ryo said.’
- - Whew, that should let Jan off the hook of awkwardness. . . .
"Stormcrow," Ryo said plainly. "He has been hot for her for weeks.’
- - Yikes! Out of the frying pan into the fire! At least Blackjack has consistent taste. Exquisitely woven and totally unexpected twist there.

"Make her wet," Ryo mused quite seriously, "yes, we could go swimming, at the beach."
- - I sputtered my coffee over this! Goodness, Jan really has her work cut out with Ryo! Excellent advice she was giving him though.

"You are a magician Ryo," she stated plainly. "You have been using it, probably for years I imagine.’
- - Yet another unexpected twist, but with more serious implications – particularly for protecting the ‘wall’ between Jan and Stormcrow.


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Renee
post Apr 4 2021, 07:25 PM
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Oooh, The Dirt podcast sounds neat. smile.gif I remember In Search Of as well (betraying our age, here). I loved that show while it was on. I also didn't know all that about podcasts, especially being on a more amateur level, so thanks for that info. Last podcast I listed to had something to do with some sort of bitcoin scam.

Sorry, I guess I forgot about Jan's work. My memory .... I'll have to go back and read it.

Good to see Ryo is back. He's the one who's sort of sneaky, I think he disappears from the company of his friends occasionally.

Jacob's advice is "don't act like a bro." laugh.gif Wow, so Blackjack wants some January. wub.gif

QUOTE
January felt power stir within the young Japanese-American. Not metaphorical strength, but real power, the kind that flowed through her nd Blood Raven. As she stared at him, the shadows literally folded themselves around him, shrouding him in darkness


Whoa, this is interesting. I had a feeling about Ryo. The way he sort of appears and disappears. And also when he did that funny way of sitting down without just sitting down.

A-ha. Blackjack does not know Jan = Stormcrow. Again, sorry. My memory... this has probably already been mentioned. I forget stuff though. sad.gif

QUOTE
I mean, don't quote C++ to her


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SubRosa
post Apr 10 2021, 04:10 AM
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Acadian: I have been watching In Search Of, so the Spock reference was instantly transported into my brain.

Blackjack is indeed consistent. He knows exactly what he likes.

About that "wall" you were talking about between January and Stormcrow...



Renee: There are some podcasts coming out in the last few years that are pure corporate-made things driven by ad revenue. And some of the amateur ones also have ads to help pay the bills. Or they have a Patreon to ask for donations. But the best ones IMHO, are all done by people who are nerds in some sphere or another, yakking about the thing they love. Be it history, bigfoot, or the worst people ever.

Ryo is definitely the sneaky one. We have not seen him directly since Chapter 2, when Jan and the whole gang went to the Techno Fest downtown. We will be seeing a lot more of him in the future.







Tardis


Chapter 7.4 - Hammer Down
June 17

"Like when you fought Lighthammer at ConFabulation," Ryo mused. "Now I understand. That is how you do it. The leaping, the strength, the wings... it is magic."

"Me?" January was flabbergasted. "I wasn't talking about me."

"I know you are Stormcrow," Ryo said plainly. "I knew it the moment I saw the video from the convention."

"That's not..." January held up her hands in mock defense. "You've got it all wrong."

"Do not try to deny it," Ryo sighed. "We have sparred together for years. I know how you move. Just like I know every line of code I write. You are Stormcrow."

She could hear the distress edging into his voice. Again, he started to fade. January knew it well. Sometimes it was easy to forget that he had Asperger's Syndrome, especially now that he was grown up. But other times his issues came to the fore. Like that time in third grade when someone had touched him, and he began screaming. The teacher had to take him to the nurse's office then. It was a long way from elementary school. But just like January herself, Ryo still had his own unique concerns in life.

"Why cannot we all just be honest with each other?" Ryo lamented.

"You are right Ryo," January sighed. "I am Stormcrow. But you can't tell anyone. Only Avery knows. No one else can. It puts everyone in too much danger if it ever gets out."

"Like Hailstorm," Ryo nodded.

"Yes, like Hailstorm," January agreed. He was the specter that hovered in the background of every discussion of superhero's identities. The death of not only his family, but of his friends, and coworkers, was a shroud that still hung over the entire caped community. Even Congress had passed laws banning revealing secret identities. But that was too late for Hailstorm. He had died in an asylum, long after the reporter who had outed him had shot himself in the head.

"That is what I mean about how sometimes we have to conceal things to protect the ones we love," she continued.

A long silence filled the room. Before it could drag into something unbearably uncomfortable, January spoke again.

"If you want to, I can try to teach you how to use magic. How to consciously direct it, and strengthen it, make it do what you want," she offered.

Ryo stood for long moments, and stared at his feet. He tended to do that. He did not like looking in people's faces, and especially not into their eyes.

"Yes, I think I would like that," Ryo finally said. "How can I not? If this is part of who I am, I have to embrace it. I cannot pretend it does not exist."

"Preaching to the choir my friend," January smiled in spite of herself. In some ways, they were so alike that it was eerie. But in other ways, she could not ignore the vast differences between them.

She quashed her grin a moment later because of that. Smiles were stressful for Ryo.

"It is hard when people laugh or smile," January remembered a text that Ryo had sent her years ago by way of explanation. "It is difficult for me to understand why people are doing that. Body language makes no sense to me. So eventually I wonder if they are laughing at me. Eventually I have to get away to decompress. Interacting with people is so much easier through computers and phones."

January had no trouble empathizing. She had similar problems with people, even if for very different reasons.

"Ok, to start with magic is a part of everyone, not just us. We can all use it. Most people just do not believe they can, or that it even exists in the first place." January thought back to everything Blood Raven had taught her, and all the things she had read in her books as Branwen Renner. "Magic is... You know what, I am still learning myself. But there is someone I know who can help."

She needed Sága so that she could speak over an encrypted line. But her digital assistant was built into her armor, which was locked away in her motorcycle down in the garage. January closed her eyes, and called up her mana. She ran her elemental mantra through her head, and used it to shape her energy into an instrument of her will.

Fire give me passion and energy. Transform me in the night sky.

Just like that, she was wearing her Stormcrow armor. She knew from experience that her clothes had taken its place in the fake gas tank bump in her Victory. She slid aside the metal plate that protected Sága's screen, and spoke clearly.

"Sága, call Blood Raven."

A window popped up on her forearm-mounted computer's screen, displaying the new phone call being made. An icon denoting that the transmission was encrypted appeared in one corner of the window. But January still chose her words carefully when Blood Raven answered. You never knew who might be listening, or what sort of meta-tech descrambling gear they might possess.

"Yes?" Blood Raven said simply.

"I have someone here I would like you to meet," January said. "He knows who I am. He is a friend of mine, and he is a magic user. He could use someone to help him, like you've helped me."

"You are at your abode?" Blood Raven responded.

"Yes," January replied. "But we can come down to the Raven's Nest any time."

"Convey him upstairs to the sanctum," the older heroine replied.

"We don't have to do this right no-," January let her words trail off. She glanced up. Her mentor had probably already used the gateway that she had long ago forged between her downtown lair and the Witch House's inner sanctum.

"Okay," January turned back to Ryo, and made an effort to not look him in the eyes, "time to meet Blood Raven. Don't worry, she's not as fearsome as she might first seem. She's really a very nice person."

"You mean the Blood Raven?" Ryo looked startled. "I did not mean for you to... I mean she is..."

January was not used to seeing Ryo flustered, certainly not at something as mundane as meeting an icon. People looking at him or touching him, absolutely - meeting a famous person, no. In fact, he was usually as unflappable as the Zen warrior he appeared to be, which of course, he was. It was oddly reassuring to see that he was still human after all.

"The Blood Raven," January said. "She is the one who taught me. Who's still teaching me. She knows even more about magic than you do about writing code, which is saying something. So come on."

Before Ryo could reply, she opened her bedroom door and stepped into the hallway outside. She only paused a moment to glance back to make sure he was indeed following. Then she led him to the front corner of the house, on the side that bordered the driveway. She waved a hand across a blank wall, and golden light spilled from her fingers. As it faded, a narrow stairway was revealed behind it. She took the steps up to the entirely ordinary-looking door at its top.

January extended her hand to the door knob. Mana dripped from her fingertips as she took hold of it. Once again she concentrated upon the spell that Blood Raven had taught her to unlock the sanctum. Golden light spilled from her hand, and sank into the metal of the knob. A moment later came the click of a lock turning, and the door swung open on its own.

She led Ryo within. It had been weeks since she had first experienced the sanctum sanctorum that Keziah Talmadge has crafted so many centuries ago. But it still took her breath away.

The ceiling rose high overhead, and the walls spread out far around them. The room was clearly larger than the entire house. As ever, January could not be sure what the shape of the chamber even was. It shifted to and fro, as she followed the designs that curled their ways through the pebble mosaic that decorated the floor, or the metal strips laid into the walls, or the beads that hung from the ceiling. It was a labyrinth of colors and materials, ever reshaping itself to conform to her will.

"Is this a Tardis?" Ryo actually stared, with his mouth agape in wonder. January did not blame him. She had the same reaction the first time she had seen it herself. It was still the most amazing thing she had ever witnessed.

"Another science fiction fan I see."

January turned at the voice, and saw Blood Raven striding across the room to meet them. She was clad in her red and black armor. Even though there was no breeze within the room, her crimson hair flowed out behind her in a halo. Her eyes glowed a similar shade of red, and January felt, rather than saw, the raw power that crackled and flowed about her being.

That power reined itself in after a just a moment, like water draining down a spout. Her hair fell down to her shoulders, and her eyes dimmed to a shade of rust. Still, her gaze was only slightly less imposing as it cast across Ryo's frame. Her eyes met his for just a moment. Then she looked away, even as he did himself.

"You must be Ryo then," she murmured.

January looked at the other woman sharply. She had not used any names over the comm link.

"Yes, I know who you are," Blood Raven explained. "I have made it a point to learn something of January's friends, should an emergency ever arise."

"Blood Raven," Ryo finally said. "You are the real Blood Raven. I did not expect to meet you today."

"We are all filled with surprises," Blood Raven murmured. Her eyes moved to January, then back Ryo. She did not look into his eyes, which was unusual for her. That made January wonder if she knew that he was on the spectrum, and doing so made him uncomfortable.

"I can feel the power in your aura," Blood Raven went on. "January was wise to bring you to me. I can sense that like her, you have been using magic to enhance yourself physically. I should imagine for years. These slow, but steady enchantments are the most powerful, much like granite raised up over millennia."

"Tell me, where were you during Ferndale Pride?" she asked bluntly.

January balled her fingers into fists. She knew exactly where that question was leading. Goddess, the nerve that Blood Raven had, to imply that Ryo could be the Summoner!

"I was at work," Ryo replied just as plainly. "It was crunch time for a software firm in San Jose, and they needed help troubleshooting their new code. I work as a consultant. I went through 1,763 lines of their code that night, to discover the errors they had committed."

"How many were there?" Blood Raven actually cocked an eyebrow. January could see that she was taken aback by the response, just as direct and specific as her own question.

"Three," Ryo said. "I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I cannot be more specific."

"I like this one," Blood Raven breathed. She laid a conciliatory hand on January's shoulder as she walked by behind her. "I suspect Cray shall as well."

"Cray, the old school hacker?" Ryo wondered. He looked from Blood Raven to January. His eyes settled on January's forearm, and the computer hidden within the armor plate there. "He works with you, just like Avery works with January. Now I understand. That was Sága I was writing the code for weeks ago."

"You wrote Sága's code?" January stared down at her wrist with shock.

"77.38% of it," Ryo said. "Avery did not tell me what it was for. He wrote most of the original code himself, and asked me to verify it. I took it back to the baseline and wrote most of it over from scratch. I did not leave my room for three days. I do not know why that worried my parents."

"Surprises indeed," Blood Raven murmured. "You know a great deal about January and Avery. I pray you understand just how dangerous that knowledge is to you."

"I know what happened to Hailstorm, and all of his friends and family," Ryo said. "We all learned about it in school."

"Then you know the danger of even a single slip of the tongue," Blood Raven said. "I say this not as a threat, but as a warning. You are not placing January in danger. She is placing you in danger. That is the price we all pay, when we don these capes."

January looked down at her feet. More than once, she had thought about the danger that she placed her mother in, and the Knights of Nerddom. She had weighed the good she could do wearing a cape, versus the harm that she might cause them. It was still not an easy calculation to make.

"I understand," Ryo insisted. "That is why I have not said anything before."

"Then the next question is, do you wish to learn magic?" Blood Raven asked. "You need not do so. You can live a full and virtuous life just as you are. There is no requirement for you to do more."

"You mean do I wish to be a superhero?" Ryo said. "That is the real question you are asking, is it not?"

"One step at a time," Blood Raven cast a sideways glance at January. "Even Rome was not sacked in a day."

"It took the Visigoths three days," Ryo noted dryly.

January fought a smile. She had said exactly the same thing when Blood Raven had made that quip to her.

"Yes, I want to learn magic," Ryo said. "I know that I would always regret it if I did not. When it comes to being a superhero... I will have to think about that."

"Good," Blood Raven. "I advise you to weigh your decision carefully. As I said, you may still be a virtuous person without doing so. You can still make a positive impression on the world."

"Are you this dissuasive with January?" Ryo looked between the two women.

"Yes, she is," January admitted, "and for good reason. I went into all this too fast. I didn't think about what I was doing. I just did it. I almost got a lot of people killed in the process, myself included. Don't be as stupid as me."

"If people were not stupid, then there would be no heroes," Ryo said plainly.

That brought a laugh from both January and Blood Raven.

"I do like this one," the older superheroine breathed. Then she took on a more serious disposition. "Very well then. As I have told January, it has never been my intention to train a generation of magical warriors. It still is not. But I can help you find your magic. All I can do is show you the way. What you accomplish is entirely up to you. As I have also told January, the most difficult part of teaching someone magic, is the fact that no one can teach you magic. You must find your own power."


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Acadian
post Apr 10 2021, 09:19 PM
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It makes perfect sense that Ryo would have pieced everything together, given how well he knows Jan as a friend and that well he knows her what her fighting style looks like in action well enough to see through her armor and mask.

Giant step, introducing him to Blood Raven but I agree with the older superheroine that Jan was wise to do so. Honestly, I don’t think there was any other choice than to bring him into the Corvine Coven.

"If people were not stupid, then there would be no heroes," Ryo said plainly.’
- - As we have both written in our stories from time to time, ‘Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.’ wink.gif


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Renee
post Apr 15 2021, 01:20 PM
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Ryo knows Jan is Stormcrow. closedeyes.gif That's so wicked awesome. I like how she tries to play it off too, but she also knows she's busted. And she also knows Ryo will never tell (I assume). nono.gif

Ryo also knows the way she moves. There was a recent arsonist here in Maryland who got caught. He had been setting fires for years, and getting away with it. Well, he got caught because of a security cam. One of the detectives who saw the arsonist on this cam knew the way the guy walked. Turns out, this arsonist was a former cop (I think he may have been Chief somewhere) and the detective who caught him noticed the way he moved & walked as he went by a home security camera.

Ryo is very astute, is what I'm meaning to say.

Ha, that would be fun, to change clothes (or armor) just by willing it. Sounds sort of like Sims 3, actually.

"You are not at your abode?"... Goddamn I love the way Raven speaks. wub.gif

Ha! He already knows her special room is a Tardis!

"77.38% of it" he says. laugh.gif Goh, this episode is full of little surprises.

QUOTE
"One step at a time," Blood Raven cast a sideways glance at January. "Even Rome was not sacked in a day."

"It took the Visigoths three days," Ryo noted dryly.


rollinglaugh.gif snap!

Have a good weekend, Florens.
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SubRosa
post Apr 17 2021, 07:49 AM
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Acadian: Being on the Autism spectrum, one of Ryo's gifts (and curses) is that he sees everything, and notices every tiny little thing that is out of place. That is what makes him such a good coder. It is also why he knows that both Stormcrow and January fight, and simply movie, in exactly the same way.

I was originally going to have some scenes of January trying to teach Ryo, and failing spectacularly. But then I realized that Jan is smart enough to know that she would fail spectacularly if she tried. Hence she turned to Blood Raven. That is the kind of moment that mentors are for after all.

Jan definitely has some good experience by now. It took a while though.


Renee: Ryo is a very smart guy, and as I noted above, he takes everything in. That was a great example you made of the detective realizing who that arsonist was by how he walked. It is like when you live with someone for years, you can tell it is them just by the sound their footsteps make when they are walking.

In the old Champions RPG there was a power called Quick Change (or something like that). It was cheap in cost, and allowed you to instantly change from your regular clothing and into your costume, or vice versa. The book suggests you take it, and I agree. Every hero should invest a point in it at character creation.

Ryo can be a fun character to write. Though like Blood Raven, he is a challenge to, since I have to change how I think in many ways to get in his head. In other ways though, his nerdiness fits like a comfy pair of tights.



Editorial Note: The ending to Season One is something I have been wrestling with for a while now. How I have planned it has just not been sitting right with me. I had a brainstorm a few nights ago, and decided to take it in a different direction. For the most part it makes no difference to what has already been posted here. The only change is that in this new timeline no one died in the Ferndale Pride summoning. Instead of a human sacrifice there, it was a dog instead. I have already updated the Pride chapter. I am currently going through the following ones to fix any other continuity issues due to that one thing.




Mōnandæg

As always, you can follow January's flight on the Stormcrow Map



Chapter 7.5 - Hammer Down
June 17

Blood Raven's introductory magic lesson took several hours. January had been through it all before of course. So she quietly made an exit and left them to it. She changed back into her skater dress, and went to work on her burgeoning idea for A Woman's World. The hours rolled by, and soon she was obliged to start dinner.

She took a moment to warn her guests that her mother would be home soon. She invited both to stay. Not surprisingly, Ryo elected to leave. But Blood Raven did transform into her current alter-ego as Aunt Branwen. She remained to participate in January's taco and Spanish rice feast.

"I thought tacos were for Tuesdays?" January's mother noted.

"That is what everyone else does," January replied. "I have Taco Mondays, because Mōnandæg likes tacos."

That brought incredulous looks from the other women.

"What?" January said. "Monday is named after Mōnandæg, or the 'Moon's day'. Máni is the Old Norse moon god. I read in the Edda that he loves eating tacos and posting on Instantgram. I think Abe Lincoln gave him the recipe."

"Was that the Elder or Younger Edda?" her mother asked.

"I suspect it was the Zoomer Edda," Branwen observed.

"That was definitely it," January said. "I saw it on the internet, so it must be true."

Dinner went well. Everyone seemed to like the meal. Or at least concealed their distaste well enough that January did not notice. Conversation bounded from January's Cthulhu dress to her podcast appearance. That led Branwen to suggest that January's mother Barbara start a literary podcast of her own.

"You could call it Taken From the Stacks, January interjected, "or Stack Exchange."

"I don't see myself as an internet radio personality," her mother actually blushed.

"There is nothing you cannot do Barbara," Branwen insisted. A look seemed to pass between the two women. It felt like part of a conversation that January was not privy to. She wondered what that might be. Was there something her mother thought she could not do? Then inspiration struck from the blue.

"You have not read comics in a long time," January thought aloud. "Maybe we could do Barbara Reads Comics, where we review comic books together, with you coming in cold and me already knowing them. Other people have done it with Star Trek already."

"I don't know..." January's mother pushed her Spanish rice around her plate.

"It sounds like it might be fun," Branwen said. "I have been reminded lately that I should have more fun in my life. You should do it. The worst that could happen is no one will listen."

"I can reach out to Ravi, from PodGeek and the Crow Tales Podcast, and find out how he does the technical side. If we can't figure it out then we can get Blackjack to be our engineer. He's the producer for all of his band's music."

January almost regretted saying Blackjack's name. He was both a musician and comic, and certainly knew his way around recording equipment. But after Ryo's revelation that Blackjack had feelings for her... well that was still unsettling. They had been friends since they were little kids after all! How in the world was she supposed to reconcile that?

Sometimes being an adult really sucked.

Branwen left after dinner, and January got back to her writing. The hours flew past as she brainstormed ideas and put them all down in her notes. The next thing she knew it had grown dark, and her mother was wishing her a good night.

January's phone warbled. It was not her normal ringtone, or the chirp from a text message. It was the tone that denoted a call forwarded from her Stormcrow number. January was across the room in an instant, and swiped the screen to take the call.

"It's Lighthammer," a male voice gasped. She heard the staccato racket of gunfire in the background. "I'm hurt bad, I need back-"

The line went dead after that. January stared down at her phone in horror. Lighthammer's vigilante life had finally caught up with him. There was no question of what she was going to do. She was clad in her armor in an instant, and out her bedroom window the next. Then she was cutting her way across the night sky and headed south. He had mentioned Cleveland once before. She imagined that might be a good place to start.

She was about to have Sága call Gadget, when the meta-inventor's voice came over her comlink.

"I take it you got that?" he asked.

"Affirmative," January answered. "I'm in the sky right now. Can you give me his GPS?"

"Tracking it from his phone right now," Gadget said. The sound of plastic keys clacking rose up beneath his voice. "My best guess right now is somewhere in Ohio, so head that way until I can nail it down."

"Already on it," January murmured. She focused her will upon her flight. Her trip across Michigan with Gola had given her a great deal of practical experience. She had even improved her time on the way back. Now she would have to push her speed even more. There was not a second to waste. Lighthammer could be dying even as she winged her way south under the stars.

January focused on speed, more and more speed, and nothing else. She poured her mana into the razor edge of that idea. Her wings moved from independent limbs sprouting from her back, to fuse with her arms. As ever, that gave her more power in the air, and she pierced the sky like an arrow shot from a bow.

Before she knew it she was passing over the Downtown skyscrapers, and the narrow band of the Detroit River beyond. She did not turn to follow the course of the water. Instead she continued on over Windsor. Detroit was one of the few places in America where you went south to get to Canada, rather than north. She hoped that she would not get in trouble with the Canadian border patrol, since she did not exactly have a passport.

She cut her way across lower Ontario. Once past the city of Windsor, the lights beneath her thinned out dramatically. She imagined that she must be over farms or forests, like most of Up North had been. Without the sun to judge her direction, the best she could do was dead-reckon her way south and east.

January resisted the urge to turn on her night vision. It would light up the night realm and made every home and tree stand out clearly in its blue-white phosphorescence. But she remembered what she had told Lighthammer at the Flint airport. Using things like diamonds to amplify his powers was a crutch, and would ultimately hold him back from reaching his full potential.

She should be taking her own advice. She should be reaching her full potential, rather than relying upon Gadget's gadgets. So instead she went low-tech, and relied upon her instincts and meat eyeballs. She briefly considered reaching out in the astral, or trying to create her own magical night vision, perhaps using the power of Air.

But she did not want to distract herself from her present task: reaching Lighthammer as quickly as possible. This was not the time for experimenting. This was the time for speed. That remained her focus. Her focus became her reality. The miles melted away under her wings.

Things lit up once more as she passed over what must have been a large town or small city. Then things went completely black underneath her. The sound of gently lapping waves came to her ears, and she could smell the dampness of fresh water. January imagined that was Lake Erie beneath her. She was getting closer.

She could barely make out the horizon between the inky black waters of the lake below, and the starry sky above. If not for those stars, she would have been completely lost, and probably would have wound up in the drink. As it was she had to concentrate on keeping her flight level, always fixing upon the lowest stars ahead of her and using them to steer her course.

"Ok, I got his position," Gadget said. "He's a long ways west of Cleveland. Damn, he's in Sandusky, no Cedar Point!"

"He decided to go on a rollercoaster ride?" January wondered.

"Maybe he's checking out the Valravn?" Gadget murmured.

"That would have been a good name..." January mused.

"Feeling a little Stormcrow regret?" Gadget asked.

"No," January answered honestly. "Gilda gave me the right name. She's good at that, crazy good in fact. Maybe that's her superpower."

She saw lights ahead, and banked in that direction. Soon she found herself flying over a large island, lit by a few scattered buildings below.

"I have no idea where I am," January said. "You are going to have to guide me."

"That's Pelee Island beneath you," Gadget said. "Bear a little to your right, and Kelleys Island will be right ahead."

January adjusted her flight as he instructed. Soon the second island he mentioned slid by under her belly. It was much smaller, but seemed to have more civilization, given the greater amount of lights glowing from the darkness below.

"Maybe you could add a quest marker to my helmet" she murmured.

"Already working on it," Gadget replied. "Just give me a few more days."

"No, don't," January reflexively shook her head. "I need to learn to do these things on my own. Besides, I think you've got more important things to do."

"Hey, I thought we were a team?" Gadget argued. "You can rely on me too you know."

"I know," January agreed, "and we are, and I do. I don't know what I'd do without you. But I also need to find my own power. And you have other things on your plate."

"You know, if there are as many little abandoned islands in Lake Erie as there are in Lake Michigan, one might make for a good training ground." January turned the conversation onto a different subject.

"Since the Packard Plant is now practically a movie theater, with all the spectators watching for you in the sky overhead?" Gadget noted. "Yeah, you should come back in the daytime and look around."


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Acadian
post Apr 17 2021, 06:32 PM
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A delightful Taco Morndas ‘cuz Mani loves tacos! I enjoyed the fun banter among the three ladies; it really highlighted the distinctive nature of each.

Uh-oh! Hammer down indeed! And the need for speed as Stormcrow races through the night sky, finally getting some GCI (ground controlled intercept) assist from the reliable Gadget.


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post Yesterday, 01:40 PM
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QUOTE
Ryo can be a fun character to write. Though like Blood Raven, he is a challenge to, since I have to change how I think in many ways to get in his head.


Yes, we do this all the time, for sure, change the way we think as we write! ... That's one of the best parts of writing. At first sometimes it might seem like 'how am I going to crank out some material with Slick Rick' or Ryo or whomever. Next thing, there's half-a-page of delivered lines & words and in my case, I actually have to trim them back sometimes.

Aunt Branwen is back. cake.gif Love Spanish rice, myself. Dang, now I'm hungry.

I think over time, Jan will get used to the idea of Blackjack wanting to be her beau. wub.gif It can be odd though, right? On the one hand, Jan might feel flattered, on the other, she feels downright awkward. Wishes she won't have to ever confront the situation, and so on. Welcome to being a full-fledged lady, hon.

Oh crap, Lighthammer's down? ... Whoa, Lighthammer has a phone which can be tracked? Well duh, he just called her. ... Still. I shouldn't be surprised, yet I kinda am! I wonder how Lighthammer would go about getting a phone? Would he walk up to a T-Mobile kiosk and get connected? Would he buy a cheap throwaway from Walmart? I can't picture him doing either. Maybe he orders a prepaid online.

QUOTE
She hoped that she would not get in trouble with the Canadian border patrol, since she did not exactly have a passport.


biggrin.gif

The description of her flying through the dark trying to figure her way is riveting. Hope she makes it there okay.



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