Paragon City Stories: Meanwhile at the Superbase
Hosted by UNINVENTIVEHEART
Chapter I, Scene 1
Place: The Arcade Hall
Tahquitz and Paige have met in the prior game, “The Carnival Without”. This is Requiescat’s first appearance.
Paige, Tahquitz and Requiescat are sitting, watching other heroes playing video games. Frost-Kid’s high score on Centipede is about to be broken by Solaeus Primiti, a twitchy scrapper who anyone would be scared to offer a cup of coffee, let alone anything else caffeinated.
And drinks are the reason why Tahquitz and Paige are here, since the Bar is reserved to those who can legally drink.
Requiescat, on the other hand, can’t drink alcohol ever again unless she doesn’t mind being unconscious for months at a time. But with her eyes closed, she can’t see the giant screen anyway, so she’s just here for the company.
Rebecca stretched her arms over her head, yawning deeply. She wasn’t bored, it was the only way she could catch enough oxygen when inactive. And since she’s permanently asleep, she can’t sleep anyway, which makes her enjoy being around the teenagers who revel at the idea of staying up into the late hours.
Sitting or standing idle from midnight to seven a.m. is an exercise in self-torture when you’ve read most of the books in the Superbase already.
Req is thumbing through a Farmer’s Almanac she picked up from the Library earlier, “Did you two know… that the Phyllophaga, commonly known as a May Beetle, were responsible for three crop famines in the Midwestern States in the 1980’s? I think I remember that as a little girl. My uncle was a Corn Farmer in Bremen… we ate a lot of canned soup that fall.”
She sees Tahquitz who isn’t paying attention, watching Solaeus trying to beat the high score.
“Well, I thought that was interesting,” Requiescat said telepathically, still flipping pages.
As she’s typing, Paige starts entering in “May Beetle” into her phone from Req’s talking, “Damn it,” she said deleting her entry, continuing to text her friend at Steel Canyon.
“I did hear some species of fly hide on June Beetles who burrow under their carapace and eat their host before undergoing metamorphosis,” Paige replied, “Hell of a thank you note, right?”
“Are there any June Beetles in California, Tahq?” Paige asks.
“June Cleaver? She died in Santa Monica a few years ago. I’m watching Sol try to beat the high score… busy…” Tahquitz passively replies, eyes fixed on the screen.
“Clearly… That wasn’t what I was talking about you idiot,” Paige laughs.
“So is that what you do when we’re all asleep? Read books all night?,” she asks Requiescat, “Because if I could do that instead of sleeping without any consequences, that would be awesome.”
“It seems like that, but the part where I tell you that this is the 5th time I’ve read this particular book is when it seems less exciting, right?” Requiescat said to her directly, not bothering with Tahquitz.
She continues to Paige, “I can’t retain a whole lot anyway… most of what I read goes in one eye and out the other. But I loved reading as a little girl, so it’s easier to pass the time instead of trying to watch a TV I can’t see, or listen to radio… both of them turn to non-stop advertisements after 2 a.m. anyway.”
“Tell me about it… countless red eye deadlines and term papers. My classmates laugh that I have a TV in my room instead of watching shows on a laptop or a tablet, but it’s handy at times. After 2am, it’s easier to shut it off as background noise, but without leaving it on to catch the 5AM you can’t tell it’s morning until the sun comes up and it’s too late.” Paige sits closer to Requiescat to continue talking away from the boys, “It’s strange that I’d feel more afraid of staying up past day break than the deadline itself.”
“I remember that last semester… I was writing my Sociology paper for class after finishing a mission. The deadline was 10am and I finished the paper at 9:15. But every minute after 9:15 felt like an eternity to me until I handed in the paper and got out of class. Then it was coasting back into my dorm and falling asleep. I don’t even remember how I got there.”
“That’s my first three months after this spell took hold of me… you ready for a story, Paige? That is, if you want to hear it.” After seeing Paige nod and tuck her legs in on the couch, Rebecca starts…
“When I first started out, I was a transplant from the midwest who attended Paragon City University, like you did, in 2003. I was trying to get my credential and teach in K-12 schools. I wanted to be an art teacher ever since I learned about art in High School.
“But I never finished my studies. After some hardships, I dropped out of college and was in hell trying to repay my loans. I left student housing and got an apartment in the city. After 6 months, I lost my lease on that too. Ended up living on various friend’s couches, until I met Raymond White.
“I was swept off of my feet. He took care of me, he was so smart and funny. I never met anyone like him. I thought I finally made it, that I could go back to school, become a teacher, start a family… I was ready for it all.
“I see you pulling away from me, Paige, it was a little naive of me. But after spending years moving from couch to couch, having some degree of normalcy was making me change my perspective on a lot of things. We got married two years later in Woonsocket in a small church on the outskirts, then spent a week out on the beach. It was amazing.
“But like all amazing things, it didn’t last. They never really last, do they? But those few amazing moments I’ve had are addictive enough to spend a lifetime trying to chase after them. I tried getting back into college, but it’s been too long… my classes weren’t recognized, the standards changed, and in order to be a teacher, I’d have to start over from year 1. So I stopped pursuing that, and skipped into married life playing homemaker.
“Two years later, Raymond was getting more into work, and becoming more and more distant. During the recession we moved from his penthouse in the nice part of Talos Island to a condo in Brickstown, which to be honest, there is NO nice neighborhood. I had problems having kids, which led to him resenting me. We had fights, got into marriage counseling, got out of it, and fought some more.
“The night the whole facade broke apart was back in 2011. Raymond took on a new job that had him away from home for months at a time. It was the third time it’s happened and I was going stir crazy being alone so much. My friends were turning away from me, saying that I needed to find a hobby or leave him because I drove them nuts talking about it. And at my lowest point, in October 2011, I was abducted.
“I lost track of large amounts of time after that. I remember being captured, gagged and in a shipping container with others. It felt like weeks in there waiting for food here and there, or any hint of light to show where we were. Then when the doors open after we felt the container drop on the dock, I saw them. Ghost Widow. Arbiter Yardley. And that Fortunata who did this to me. She stepped forward, and waved her hands over us, putting us all to sleep.
“It was the last thing I would ever see in my life. I hope that isn’t true, but the doctors are not hopeful about my prognosis, and it’s getting worse, but I’ll save that towards the end.”
“Okay, you two have been sitting on the couch staring at each other for the last 5 minutes. What’s up?” Tahquitz asks.
“The national hero’s pasttime.” Requiescat said to Tahquitz telepathically… “I’d wink if I could.”
“Ah, the ‘Origin Story‘. It’s a good one Paige, wait until she tells how she broke out of a hospital…” Tahq says, grabbing a slice of pizza, seeing Rebecca’s head turn and furrow her brow at him… “Sorry! Go on,” he said as he took a bite and walked away.
“…jerk… I was getting to that part,” Requiescat said to Paige, “Anyway… to continue…”
“Yeah, try watching movies with him… he’s impossible.” Paige adds in. “I don’t know how PulseFire puts up with it.”
“So I was a latent psychic all along… it took being put to sleep to realize it. I should have realized it when I couldn’t manage to find a boyfriend until I got to my husband.
“When I was asleep for the first few months, all I saw was shadows of people. I would later learn it was my closed eyes showing Phosphenes that my psychic abilities were altering to show what I was looking at. Shapes stumbling about, none any different from the other… so when I was approached in the hospital by medical staff who were sedating me over and over whenever I moved, I knew I had to do something to stop myself from getting a Thorazine drip for the rest of my life as a vegetable woman, so I just lost it.
“I tried telling them to stop telepathically, but my ‘volume’ was too high, and they all clung to their ears in pain when I did so. That failed. A nurse injected me from the floor and I fainted.
“I tried getting up and running out, but I learned that my physique was negatively affected by being stuck in Delta Wave sleep. I have the energy and physicality of a woman about to head to sleep. Forever. So, that failed too as a orderly caught and sedated me again.
“The only option I had was to do to them what has been done to me. I’m stuck in sleep, and if I want to get out of the hospital, they’d have to join me. I reached out to their minds and sent them the same sleepy feelings that I had… and it worked. Boy did it work… I put some energy behind it and I had 5 rooms worth of medical personnel and patients in deep slumber all at once. I tried to reach the rest of the floor, and the limited vision I had receded to the point I couldn’t see anything, so I knelt down and breathed in slowly until my ‘vision’ returned. This was how I could control my energy… if I overextend myself, my assisted eyesight starts fading to black. When I pass out, I’m done.
“I had to be careful and slow in doing it, but I canvassed the floor, putting folks to sleep as I went. Some security guards almost got the drop on me, but they were easy to convince to join the sleeping masses before they reached me as long as I kept the sleeping ones behind me at all times. Then I found the stairwell, and made my way down to the exit, wearing nothing but a hospital gown, a ID bracelet, and a loose pickline stuck in my arm. There’s no pleasant way to say this… It… got caught on a bannister going down the stairs, so I have a terrible scar on my left arm which bled profusely. I got down to two blocks before I ran into Madeline Casey.
“She, Janet Kellum, and Angus McQueen brought me to a FBSA field office who then took me to a private clinic. There I could recover from the hospital exit, my arm could get treated correctly and I was tested as to what happened to me. They struck paydirt when on their third try they brought me a psychic from MAGI, which is when I met Ventus vis Vires. Through her, she told them my story of what happened…
“And through her, she told me their story of what happened… Raymond was not a captain of a security outfit as he told me when I dated him. He was a part of the Council and climbed through the ranks to become an Archon, which explains why his whole demeanor changed. I was a cover for him… we really weren’t married in spirit, only on paper. Arachnos considered him to be a liability and assaulted his team. They killed him in the process, while losing the quarry they were after.
“So, to try to get back what they were after, as well as to send a message to other Council members, they took a page out of The Family playbook. They kidnapped the immediate families of people who crossed them and drilled them for information about their villainous loved ones. Whoever gave them info, they kept and continued to interrogate. Whoever didn’t, they left for dead in an alleyway behind a Rogue Isles hospital. It was a surprise to learn my husband worked in the Council after I was treated… you can imagine how little I knew under their custody.
“The part I didn’t remember was someone finding me there and bringing me back to Paragon City. I have no idea how that happened in the least.
“So, with VV’s help, I learned the extent of my abilities, trying them on real opponents and simulated ones… I think I lost count on how many times I put Tahq and Frost-Kid to sleep during exercises. I’m not as strong of a psychic as you, Paige, as I can’t enter people’s minds at will. I think my current state is why I can’t… my hippocampus and subconscious is on overdrive being stuck in the state that I am. It’s my limiting factor. If I could awaken, that would stop and I’d probably could train further.
“So that brings me to today. I work with VV, Tahq, and Frost-Kid who help support me while I try to find a way to infiltrate Arachnos and stop their Fortunata program. Ambitious? I know. But it’s not a naive move: I am also participating in studies and research at Paragon City University in Founder’s Falls to try to find a way for me to wake up. Both Science as well as Magic have yet to find a way to break the spell. But I have to keep trying.
“I don’t have a choice. My permanent sleep state is deteriorating my neural system. My muscles grow weaker and weaker in atrophy as I can’t do what I used to… and I have neuropathy in my extremities that is increasing. I can’t feel heat or cold in my hands and feet at the moment. And it’s spreading. If it gets to my torso, I’ll be bedridden in a couple of years. In a couple of more, it’ll attack my sympathetic nerves and shut down my organs. At this rate… I won’t live to see 40. I’m going to be bedridden at 36.
“Last week, I turned 33. I’m very patient and relaxed when I talk to you guys, but I’m a living clock whose time is running out. If I can’t figure out how to wind myself up, I’m stuck on my own inertia and I don’t have much left.”
“My God. If I knew I was dying… I don’t know what I’d do or how I’d react. How do you go on day to day like that, knowing each day might be your last?” Paige asked her, “We’re not taking your situation anywhere near as serious as it is, Req. We got to–”
“That’s sweet of you… but it’s been four years. I’ve been through all of the tests. I’ve ingested countless potions, had all of my chakras ‘checked’, my pressure points acupunctured, my muscles ‘cupped’… I even visited folks that I had no idea what they do like Reiki healers or Shen Balancers. I’ve also been through EKGs, MRIs, X-Rays … probably enough of those to get cancer by now if I do manage to wake up…” Requiescat laughed gently as her lips made a half-smile, “If I could smile larger I would… Paige, my dear friend, I love your energy, but if there was a solution to wake me up, I would have found it by now. I’m half-way through my shelf-life, and I have to start thinking about my legacy. What I can do to make an effect while I still can. And I’ll do it at the only pace I can manage… slow, deliberate, and methodical… so when I do get my revenge on Arachnos, it’s been happening for years and like a tidal wave, it’ll be impossible to stop. That’s how I’ll win, not through rash action or lightning strikes.”
“I’m working on something very soon to begin taking action… as soon as I’ll be able to use your help, I’d love to have your support if you can offer it. But I refuse to put my comrades at significant risk to do so… I promise to keep you safe.”
“But you don’t know if someone will take you out before you can act. Before your plan is made… before–”
“To be fair, I could say the same about you. None of us know what tomorrow brings, what tomorrow will do to us, or even if there’s no tomorrow in the first place.”
“I listened to The Flaming Lips when I was in college, and they said it beautifully… ‘All we have is now. All we’ve ever had is now.’ I will do what I can. If I fall, I fall. But I’ll still try.”
“If you don’t mind Rebecca, can I try something with you?” Paige asks… Rebecca nods in approval.
Paige touched her forehead and reached into her mind directly… unfortunately the spell that’s affecting Rebecca passed into her and Paige falls backward into heavy sleep.
“I’ve had other psychics do that with the same result… it was nice of you to try, I do appreciate it.” Rebecca thought to herself, knowing that Paige wouldn’t get the message being in sleep at the moment.
Fortunately the other psychics who tried to enter Rebecca’s mind all recovered in 6-8 hours, abnormally well-rested to boot. She’ll be fine.
“That was entertaining…” standing in the doorway, Tahquitz throws the crust of the finished pizza slice into the trash can across the room next to the couch having come in just before Paige tried to enter Rebecca’s mind. “Well, the food wasn’t, Paragon Bros. always burns the cheaper pies…”
“Did she react the same way I did when you told me the story?” Rebecca turned her head towards him and nodded. “She really is my sister…” he laughed. “The one thing I couldn’t do was try to enter your mind, but it turns out we’re more alike than I thought.”
“It was nice meeting her, Tahquitz… you were right, I do like her.” Requiescat said.
“The footstool at the end of the couch opens at the top… inside is a couple of blankets if you want them, or you can cover Paige up.” Tahquitz walks out of the doorway, “It sounds redundant to call you by your hero name while saying good night, so good night, Rebecca. And sweet dreams, cricket.”
Tahquitz walked out of the room 30 minutes ago… It’s 2am now in Paragon City, and everyone’s off to bed.
Rebecca grabs two blankets from the footstool, and covers Paige up first. She then drapes the second blanket around her shoulders and looks at the video wall that’s now shut off. If only she could see video screens instead of a block of light.
Instead, she’ll have to settle for books in favor of the Internet. She picks up the almanac, then heads to the library to find another, more interesting book she hasn’t read 10 times through yet.