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TC: Sami, would you care ṭo explain your ṭaking charge of ṭhe children?

AA: Oh. Nothing's really official yet or anything. I'm just trying to provide more direction to the team.

AA: And no one else seems to be doing it.

TC: While ṭhis is ṭrue, do you really ṭhink ṭhey should be looking up ṭo you?

AA: I don't know. Probably not.

AA: But someone has to do it.

AA: And no one else seems to be taking the reins.

AA: Why, are you interested?

TC: I could say yes and no in equal measure.

AA: I had been wanting to talk to you before I made any official move for leadership anyway.

AA: But things have gone a little crazy in the last few days.

AA: So I've been having to take a more active role than I really wanted to.

TC: You are an acṭive class.

AA: Yeah, I think it's safe to say this is definitely not how I planned for things to go.

AA: Well yeah, but I meant active in leadership.

AA: Not active in....hitting things with tornados.

AA: Originally I just sort of wanted to be the wind in everyone's sails, but now....someone's got to kick some sense into people's heads.

AA: And before you say it, yes, I'm aware of the irony of me setting myself up as a bastion of common sense.

TC: Ṭhis is relaṭed ṭo ṭhe creaṭure Ryspor ṭraded off ṭo Jack for no reason, righṭ?

AA: Yes.

AA: His name was Thiago.

TC: I undersṭand ṭhe oṭherworld you was someone all ṭhe children respecṭed or feared.

AA: So I'm told.

TC: Jack's properṭies do noṭ deserve ṭo have names.

TC: Nor does Jack, buṭ iṭ's difficulṭ ṭo idenṭify him wiṭhouṭ assigning a nickname.

AA: Don't be like that Meouet. He was....he hadn't done anything to deserve what happened to him. Not yet.

TC: He was conṭracṭed ṭo Jack. He was guilṭy by associaṭion. Ryspor knew ṭhis was a poṭenṭial ouṭcome.

TC: And Rilseṭ did noṭhing ṭo proṭecṭ ṭhe ṭhing eiṭher.

AA: Actually, hey, do you mind if we talk about this in person? I've been extra paranoid about twinks spying on pesterchum conversations lately.

TC: ... I suppose.

AA: Where are you? The Ark or the Base? I just came back to the ark so I could get some stuff from my room for an exorcism I have to perform. We could talk in the library if you like.

AA: Or I can meet you in your room if you prefer.

TC: I would prefer my block be lefṭ ouṭ of ṭhis. I will meeṭ you in ṭhe Library.

AA: Okay. Meet you there.

AA: * * *

AA: Sami arrives at the library, dark circles under her eyes. Her hair is stringy, like she hasn't re-braided it in a few days.

TC: Meoueṭ is already siṭṭing aṭ a ṭable wiṭh a noṭebook. She's joṭṭing down an iṭinerary of some sorṭ.

AA: Sami sees her and comes over. "Hey."

AA: She sits down across from Meouet with a sigh.

TC: "So whaṭ cameras and oṭher recording devices including oṭher servers from enṭranṭs long dead are we avoiding?"

AA: "Mostly just Pesterchum stuff. I don't like the idea of Scarlet or Jack knowing certain things that I might be willing to talk to you about."

TC: "If ṭhey were going ṭo kill eiṭher of us, ṭhey'd have done iṭ long ago."

TC: "We are sṭill useful ṭo ṭhem in some way."

AA: "Yeah, but there's information that, if they spread it, could really hurt team cohesion without killing any of us."

TC: Meoueṭ ṭaps her pen on ṭhe paper for a momenṭ or ṭwo.

TC: "Alrighṭ, so whaṭ was so imporṭanṭ?"

AA: Sami frets at her lower lip for a bit, looks away as if fussing over something, then turns back to Meouet after having made the decision.

AA: "I was talking to Libby the other day about the issue of Master Classes. When she found out that Thiago had risen to Lord of Hope, she was concerned. Talking about the danger of Lords that rise via shenanicite."

TC: "Cheaṭing is wrong."

AA: "It really freaked me out. Sounded like the danger Master Class players represent is potentially deadly to everyone....and the ones who seek out that power via shenanicite, especially, are prone to abusing it."

TC: "Ṭhere is a reason ṭhere is a journey programmed for us ṭo overcome."

TC: "Of course ṭhey are. Could you imagine you, posṭ enṭry, wiṭh all ṭhe powers you have now?"

AA: Sami nods.

AA: "Right. So I was going to place a hex on his dreamself where I could activate it with a command word, and if it was triggered it would fill his lungs with carbon monoxide....a gentle, painless death, and a failsafe against him going Supervillain on us."

TC: "Ṭhis sounds clever. I like iṭ. Go on."

AA: "Only the next day Libby messages me to tell me that Thiago has started using his powers already, and that he's created another Acenia somehow. And she tells me that my idea for a 'leash' was something that....if Thiago ever found out about it, he could easily remove. A Lord of Hope is powerful, Meouet. Maybe the strongest classpect imaginable."

TC: "Anoṭher one of Scarleṭ's children. Like ṭhere aren'ṭ enough insṭances of her."

AA: "Yeah. So the thing is....if he got to God Tier, there would be absolutely no way to stand in his way." Sami looks miserable. "So....after talking to Libby....I decided I couldn't let him get that far."

TC: "Hope could be sṭrong. If you're noṭ hopeless from ṭhe beginning. I mean, iṭ was a maṭṭer of ṭime before someone else ṭook him ouṭ."

TC: "You know whaṭ Jack does ṭo his ṭoys."

AA: "Yeah. And in fact, Libby said that she would do it if she had to. But that if she did it, it would be painful."

AA: Sami nods. "But still....he hadn't done anything wrong yet! I mean not really. He did something stupid, and I'm not even really sure why, but....he didn't deserve to die for it!"

TC: "Righṭ. Like Pellok. Or Jossik. Or Aura. Nobody deserves ṭo die in a deadly game."

AA: "No, they don't. And that's why I decided to do it. But I still feel like a horrible person for what I did."

TC: Meoueṭ raises an eyebrow.

AA: She sighs. "And now I have to try to keep the team together, because people are trying to take revenge on Nate."

TC: "Do you know how many of ṭhe ṭeam of parenṭs wouldn'ṭ have grown as people if ṭhose oṭhers had lived? Ṭhe lessons ṭhaṭ people would have never learned?"

AA: "Yeah. I know." She sounds depressed.

TC: "Granṭed, I ṭhink all of you cheaṭed in order ṭo godṭier. I don'ṭ know why I'm boṭhering."

AA: Sami sighs. "I didn't intend to cheat to godtier. But the decision got taken out of my hands."

AA: "But it was still due to bad decisions I made."

TC: "You're going ṭo have ṭo make choices ṭhaṭ your homeworld never prepared you for. Mosṭly because iṭs primary form of educaṭion was senseless coddling and idealism."

AA: Sami snorts. "Yeah. That's pretty much what Libby said. And that this was part of being a leader. And all my guilt over this was all just 'growing pains.'"

TC: "She's righṭ. She's always righṭ."

AA: "But isn't me feeling bad about this the only thing that separates me from someone like Jack or Scarlet? What happens if I keep having to make decisions like this and I get to where I no longer even feel bad when I have to do this?"

TC: "Is ṭhe ṭhing ṭhaṭ separaṭes you ṭhe ṭhing ṭhaṭ makes you sṭronger?" Meoueṭ draws a sṭag beeṭle in ṭhe margins of her noṭebook. "Because ṭhey've lasṭed a long ṭime. And you have barely made iṭ as far as you have."

AA: Sami sighs. "Maybe you're right. And I can't deviate from my goal now. If I do, Thiago's death will have been in vain."

AA: "Maybe I *am* no different from them. Maybe that's why the Horrorterrors chose me as the next Oracle."

TC: "Ṭhaṭ's cerṭainly a voṭe of confidence ṭhough. Aṭ leasṭ you don'ṭ seem ṭo be a ṭemporary ṭool ṭo ṭhem."

AA: "Maybe. But it sort of depends what they're after. If they're out to erase all existence, I'm not sure the fact that they see me as a useful long-term goal is a compliment."

AA: "But I have no idea what they're up to."

AA: "They won't tell me."

AA: (( Useful long-term tool, rather ))

TC: "Isn'ṭ ṭhaṭ weird. Ṭhaṭ feeling. Of being used as a ṭool."

TC: "Ṭhaṭ feeling I aṭṭempṭed ṭo communicaṭe as ṭhe only role of a Seer..."

TC: "Buṭ you geṭ iṭ now, righṭ?"

AA: Sami looks ashamed. "I know. I'm sorry. I've tried to make it up to you, but I know I haven't done it yet."

TC: "I don'ṭ expecṭ iṭ ṭo be made up. I jusṭ ask for consideraṭion and undersṭanding. And iṭ's raṭher difficulṭ unless one has walked ṭhe proverbial disṭance in anoṭher one's shoes."

AA: "Well, in that case, yeah, I guess I understand. I've been used by Scarlet, I've been used by the Horrorterrors, I've been used by Jack, and....ughh. I always seem to be dancing on someone's strings. So yeah. I do sympathize with you, Meouet. And I'm sorry if I've ever made you feel that way."

AA: "Unfortunately, I think if I do this Leadership thing I'm going to end up doing it to a lot more people before I'm through. I'm doing it for their own good....but I know that doesn't make it any less dehumanizing. Or detrollifying. Or whatever."

TC: "Well, if iṭs noṭ ouṭ of misundersṭanding... buṭ for ṭhe good of oṭhers insṭead of yourself... Doesn'ṭ ṭhaṭ fiṭ ṭhe good of human sṭandards?"

AA: "Some people would see it that way. Other people would see treating people as less than human to always be evil, even if it's for their own good. Human morality is complicated."

TC: "Expecṭ iṭ ṭo be ṭhankless ṭhough. Nobody ever appreciaṭes ṭhaṭ..."

AA: "Yeah. I think they're going to find out soon that I'm the one who killed Thiago. Lily already suspects....and her proof is going to be hard to refute. I might be able to lie about it, but I suspect it's going to come to light eventually."

TC: "I would love ṭo see ṭhem survive ṭhe alṭernian miliṭary ṭraining."

TC: "Ah. Here is where ṭhings can come in handy."

TC: "Ṭhere is someṭhing I can do... She's upseṭ by his deaṭh, yes?"

AA: "Yeah."

TC: "I will ṭry ṭo see. Consider iṭ a gifṭ. If I noṭice her geṭṭing close ṭo any proof, I'll have you noṭified so you can blow iṭ away, so-ṭo-speak."

AA: Sami sighs. "She's already seen video of me doing it. Albeit video that was of some sort of 'scary ghost Sami.'"

AA: "I suspect the Horrorterrors are involved somehow. But Doir put two and two together on that, and if Doir did, I'm not sure how I'm going to keep anyone else from figuring it out."

AA: "But I would appreciate any support you're willing to give me, anyway."

AA: "Do you really think it's right to lie to them though? Or should I just admit it, and take what's coming to me?"

TC: "Video? A virus. Programmed by Jack ṭo ṭhrow ṭhem off of ṭhe ṭrail. Cerṭainly he needs ṭo be accepṭed by ṭhem sṭill, buṭ he musṭ keep furṭhering his plans. How foolish of ṭhem all ṭo fall for iṭ." Meoueṭ's mouṭh ṭurns up aṭ ṭhe corners.

AA: Sami nods. "That thought crossed my mind. But I'm nervous about framing a twink for something. They're all clever about finding ways of making something like that bite you on the ass."

TC: "Whaṭ is more imporṭanṭ ṭhen? Ṭhe accepṭance of ṭhe children or ṭhe reṭribuṭion from Jack? Which do you ṭruly fear? And if ṭhe Horrorṭerrors ṭruly have plans wiṭh you, will ṭhey really leṭ you die ṭo Jack?"

AA: "I'd be more worried about him taking it out on someone else. If Jack killed me somehow, it would almost be a relief--maybe Darmok would survive, then."

TC: Meoueṭ quieṭly facepalms.

AA: "But Jack knows me well enough to know that the real way to hurt me is to hurt someone I love."

TC: "So he can kill your doomed child."

AA: Sami winces.

TC: "Or ṭhe one ṭhaṭ disappeared."

AA: "Oh god....what if this is it? What if this is the reason Darmok is doomed?"

TC: "Darmok was doomed long before ṭhe game sṭarṭed on his world." Meoueṭ seems ṭo be looking off inṭo space.

AA: "Huh? Have you talked to Sorser?"

TC: "Really ṭhough, aren'ṭ we all."

AA: "I don't know. Maybe. At this point I think my punishment for who I'm becoming is to be the next Oracle forever."

TC: "Ask him yourself. If you can grab ṭhe messages from his panicked liṭṭle squeaks and whines, maybe."

AA: "But I guess that's a type of doom, too."

TC: "I would feel bad for doom players if ṭhe whole game wasn'ṭ doom."

AA: "Yeah, I guess it kind of is. A cycle of death and rebirth, inescapable and inevitable."

AA: "Do you think Sorser is good enough to see what's going on with Darmok yet, then?"

TC: "I wonder whaṭ iṭ'd be like ṭo know ṭhe leasṭ ṭerrible ways ṭo die. Buṭ ṭhaṭ you can'ṭ prevenṭ iṭ from happening compleṭely. Whaṭ does ṭhaṭ do ṭo a person?"

AA: Sami sighs. "It'd be pretty depressing. I feel terrible for him."

TC: "From whaṭ I have seen recenṭly, ṭhe children are all geṭṭing assisṭance from more Scarleṭ Children. Albeiṭ dead."

AA: "Huh?"

TC: "Yes, he should be fine ṭo ask if he can keep himself ṭogeṭher."

AA: Sami nods.

AA: "Yeah, I might have to talk to him then."

AA: "Meouet....I haven't decided what to do yet. Whether to still try to be the leader this team needs, or whether to be the wicked witch they all unite against and slay for the good of the session. But if I do become their leader, would you be willing to support me? I trust you more than anyone else to know what the right thing to do is, even if it's cruel or hard."

AA: "I don't want to just use you....but your help would mean a lot to me if you're willing to give it."

TC: "I ṭhink you aren'ṭ able ṭo be ṭhe villain ṭhey need yeṭ... You will need ṭo delegaṭe ṭhaṭ..."

TC: Meoueṭ's eyes briefly glinṭ purple. "Definiṭely noṭ yeṭ."

AA: Sami looks concerned. "I don't like that 'yet.'"

AA: "It sounds like you think I'm going to be even more villainous than I am now, at some point."

AA: "And if that's the case, maybe someone needs to do to me what I did to Thiago before I can hurt anyone."

TC: "Everyone has poṭenṭial. Ṭhink abouṭ ṭhe you's in oṭher ṭimelines. Whaṭ made ṭhem capable, and why?" Meoueṭ brushes some hair behind her ear. "Yeṭ merely refers ṭo ṭhe paṭhs you choose ṭo ṭake. You'd besṭ ask Sorser. I'm noṭ a doomseer afṭer all."

AA: "Okay. Sorry."

TC: "All I can see is ṭhaṭ you aren'ṭ passionaṭe enough abouṭ ṭhaṭ paṭh. And unless someṭhing pushes you, you will never be."

TC: "Buṭ ṭhaṭ's all I know."

AA: Sami nods. "But if they see me as a villain, it doesn't matter if I am one or not, does it? If they slay me and I die a Just death, that's all they need to know to know they dispatched a villain."

TC: "I don'ṭ know whaṭ ṭhaṭ ṭhing is, or why or when iṭ happens. Or if iṭ ever does. I don'ṭ know if ṭomorrow iṭ will change because you brush your ṭeeṭh a few minuṭes laṭer ṭhis evening."

AA: "I understand. I know you guys can't just tell us the future."

AA: "I trust your insight though, Meouet." Sami reaches over and pats Meouet's hand.

AA: "Even if it's not backed up by Visions."

TC: "A villain is a villain because ṭheir cause is misundersṭood or incorrecṭ. Ṭhe human Hiṭler was a villain, yes? Buṭ in his book he says he is cleaning ṭhe world ṭo make iṭ beṭṭer for his people."

AA: Sami makes a grimace.

TC: "You have ṭo be willing ṭo be a monsṭer even if you are never seen as one."

TC: "And if you are, ṭhen you were wrong. Ṭhaṭ's ṭhe difference beṭween a hero and a villain, righṭ?"

AA: "You....think I'm like Hitler?!"

TC: "Was he wrong?"

AA: Sami's just stunned.

AA: "Yes!"

TC: "Did he know he was wrong?"

AA: "I....don't know."

AA: "I guess maybe he didn't! But....he killed millions of people!"

TC: "He ṭook a risk for whaṭ he ṭhoughṭ was beṭṭer. Have ṭhe convicṭion of Hiṭler. Buṭ make sure you are righṭ or you will be ṭhaṭ Wicked Wiṭch."

AA: Sami just stands there staring at Meouet with her mouth agape.

TC: Meoueṭ seems confused. "Is ṭhis sṭill a sensiṭive subjecṭ for your race?"

AA: Sami is still too stunned to really reply properly.

TC: "Forgive me if I've pressed any culṭural buṭṭons. You are righṭ. Human moraliṭy is difficulṭ." She packs up her noṭebook.

AA: Sami shakes her head as if to clear it. "Look, Meouet, I'll write that off as cultural misunderstanding. But....that was kind of like being punched in the gut, right now."

TC: Meoueṭ adds her noṭebook ṭo her sylladex and pushes her chair in. "Maybe Seriad can assisṭ you?"

TC: "Buṭ culling ṭhe weak is whaṭ all culṭures do ṭo some exṭenṭ. Yours is noṭ exempṭ. Keep iṭ in mind."

AA: "I guess that's what my future is."

AA: "Meouet--do you think I'm the wrong person to lead us? Would you rather take the reins?"

TC: Meoueṭ ṭurns away from Sami. "Where you have ṭhe chance noṭ ṭo be a Wiṭch... I would mosṭ cerṭainly be a villain. If you wanṭ a villain for ṭhem ṭo uniṭe againsṭ, we already have Jack. I don'ṭ ṭhink we need ṭo ṭhrow poṭenṭially useful people under ṭhe yellow meṭal schoolfeeding ṭransporṭaṭion vehicle when uniṭy can be achieved by more peaceful persons like yourself..." She pauses. "I once would ha

TC: ve voṭed for Kaṭe... Buṭ more and more I am realizing ṭhe chaos of Doir is somewhaṭ fair."

TC: "Naṭe is unpredicṭable. Ryspor is a damn fool."

TC: "Seriad... I am noṭ sure."

AA: "And Rilset is Scarlet's."

TC: "Is ṭhaṭ really all we have lefṭ..."

AA: "He'll help us where it suits them both to do so, and move against us where it doesn't, and there's nothing anyone can do about that. Either way, he's not leading the team."

TC: "Ah. Beau."

AA: Sami smiles. "Yeah, Beau. Beau would make a great leader."

AA: "But he'd be stuck up here. None of the kids have even met him in person."

TC: "He is mysṭery, which can be fear. Who rebels againsṭ ṭhe Condesce? Dead people."

TC: "Fear is good for a leader."

TC: Meoueṭ shuffles her feeṭ.

AA: "There's Maenam, too. I've been worried about telling her because I know she's a Princess and she might take offense to me taking charge."

TC: "Where has she been... I honesṭly keep forgeṭṭing abouṭ her."

AA: "But....I mean I'm pretty sure there's more going on beneath Maenam's party girl facade, but I don't think she really wants that kind of responsibility yet."

TC: Meoueṭ realizes whaṭ she said. "Ṭhaṭ sounds ṭerrible."

AA: "Oh, she's been around. She was part of the LOCAS team with us."

AA: "Me and Doir and her were their vets."

TC: "Perhaps you and she should ṭalk abouṭ iṭ."

AA: "Yeah, I intend to."

AA: "Assuming no one finds out I killed Thiago and puts me to the gallows first."

TC: "I'm going ṭo grab someṭhing ṭo eaṭ and ṭhen head ṭo ṭhe base ṭo meeṭ some of ṭhe oṭher children."

AA: "That sounds like a good idea."

AA: "How are things going with your kids, by the way?"

AA: "Like not just your offspring, but the ones on LOBAE?"

TC: "I will kill anyone who murders you, Sami. Ṭhey would be wrong."

TC: "Ṭhey're... ... difficulṭ."

AA: Sami shrinks down a little, surprised by this. "Really? You're that vehement about this?"

TC: "I would raṭher noṭ be sṭuck wiṭh mosṭ of ṭhem again."

AA: Sami nods, but then sighs. "The thing is Meouet, while I'd love to respect your wishes on that front, I also think you're probably the best chance difficult kids have of getting some sense thumped into them. But I'll keep it in mind when I do team layouts."

TC: "Ṭhey do noṭ need my passive ṭough love. Ṭhey need ṭheir hands held."

AA: "Oh. So they would do better if I were on their team, then."

AA: "Hmm."

TC: "And ṭhe cerulean one may need a loboṭomy."

AA: "I was thinking of being on the Reserve Team though."

AA: "I haven't figured it out yet."

AA: "Cerulean? Which one is that?" Sami looks through her sheet. "Tethys?"

AA: "I haven't met her yet. She's Kikate's daughter, right? Kikate and....Glissa?"

TC: "Sure. Ṭhe one ṭhaṭ kicks ṭrees and ṭhen geṭs upseṭ when ṭhe consorṭs aṭṭempṭ ṭo murder her for blaṭanṭ disrespecṭ."

AA: "Well....it's understandable to be upset about being murdered, even if you bring it on yourself, Meouet."

AA: "I'll write down 'needs strong guidance' next to her name, though."

TC: "I wanṭ ṭo sṭay close ṭo Kolena if possible... "

AA: "Oh, so you're getting along with her then? That's nice. I still haven't talked to her, either. For some reason we never seem to be online at the same time."

AA: "I might have to defer to you on anything regarding her. She's as hard to track down as Maenam's son."

TC: "Anoṭher Ṭyrian. I may forgeṭ he exisṭs as well."

TC: "Male even." Meoueṭ visibly shudders.

TC: "Sami, would you like ṭo grab food wiṭh me?"

AA: Sami looks surprised. "Sure, Meouet, I'd love to."

TC: Meoueṭ leads ṭhe way ouṭ of ṭhe library

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