Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Count Numbers
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Pope:

He showed up in a loose fitting hoodie with a hiking backpack slung over one shoulder, and listens patiently to everything Caz tells him, and they exchange numbers - Pope having to do his side of things on paper and pen. He pretends he’s just dropped his phone to not go through having to work his spoofed burner right now.

Now his hands are thrust in the handwarmers of the hoodie. He’s slow and thoughtful about this to the point that his movements are like moving through honey. The energy behind his usual wild twitches and jerks has been sucked inward.

“Of course you can. But… walk with me a bit?”

It’s only at the end of the block he says anything again. “I’ll have my own things to say to York, I’m not taking his side.” He says mildly, in that tone of voice which means ‘let’s not fight that I’m going to bite his head off’. “I will say… That is. Hmm. Forgive me, it is not so much that I am having trouble finding the right words so much as I am trying to excise all the wrong ones.”

“I just spent a minute there talking to a lovely young man who spent the entire time trying to tell me, without having to say it, that he thinks you might be about to hurt yourself.” He says with a raised eyebrow and a walking-through-honey pace. “And here I was about to ask what that’s all about, and the first thing you say is you want to cut yourself off even further? Now I have to wonder about you myself.”

Dudekov:

“I will accept any test administered by a public hospital, and only if I am escorted by a member of my personal security team.” He raises his head off the bed for a moment to look at the new guy, then lowers it again and mutters under his breath. "I will not accept any story about why that is impossible."
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Orange!

Orange laughed like ashes. "I have a very long list of people interested in hurting me, Pope," she said, "and if I wanted to add myself to that list I'd need to go to the far back of the line. You've lived your life under the wiretap while fighting for the rights of appliances, so I reckon you of all people can relate."

She let out a frustrated breath. "I don't want to cut myself off. But I'm not going to work for a boss who threatens me with violence no matter how much socialist theory he knows."

Dudekov!

"Of course, sir," said Naval. "You are under no constraints whatsoever. We did not contact your personal security team because they are in hospital themselves, but you can probably arrange to have them discharged with a few slings and casts."

He smiled. "It's understandable if you find it hard to trust right now. But we are genuinely at your service."
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Pope:

He’s very obviously surprised that’s the reason. Not that it’s a bad one, not that he disagrees, just that it’s yours. He stops in place before remembering how to walk again. “Sure.” He says, thinking. “Sure.”

He looks at Orange out of the corner of his eye. “I have tried to kill myself. A few times now. Last was maybe two years back, and if it wasn’t for the lovely Ms Glazer-” he turns his face to introduce a friend to you, gives a wan smile, “A wonderful friend of mine, human through no fault of her own. An economist, but I love her enough to forgive her for that one.” He looks away again. “Well, I had to call her halfway through taking an awl to my shell and walking into a lake in Apollo to tell her I changed my mind, except my legs had stopped working and I couldn’t fish myself out.”

“So you think I, of anyone, must relate? Well, then, sister mine, here’s the truth of it. It’d put me more at ease if you told me it was always at the back of your mind. Now I’ve got to wonder whether you’re hiding it or you’re in denial about it, neither’s a good sign.”

Dudekov:

“Yes, because my 24/7 security team was present in its entirety at the attack last night.” Dudekov rolls his eyes. “Come on, that one was just sloppy.”
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Orange!

She looked at him. Listened, put an arm on his shoulder seriously. Some of the others acted sympathy through the routines she'd given them in moments like this; hers was genuine. She hurt to know that he hurt.

"Pope, last night I got shot at with an air to surface missile launched from a paramilitary helicopter," she said. "And I'm stressed and terrified and exhausted and horrified that this is the life I've chosen for myself. But I'm not on the same framework as you. When I'm pushed to my limit, November will go on. She'll just be the parts of her that are right for the situation. What scares me is that I'm seeing increasingly that the people I'm up against are so awful that I'm uninterested in negotiating with them. That means I'm going to end up on the wrong side of a realignment where we harden into something more... efficient. Built for purpose."

She looked away. "I was good as a carefree space engineer. Someone who thought that history was fascinating and politics was something that happened on another planet. But I can't live in that world any more and I don't know what my purpose is in this one. I couldn't even make the fucking op in the first place, I had to do it without -" she corrects herself; not because the thought is wrong but to make the pronoun game more comprehensible "November had to do it without me because I went to the entirely wrong district and fucked around watching retro movies instead. I thought I'd have purpose by now but Monk is enlightened, Ox is off at Jupiter, Dragon fucking lobotomized himself, Goat's a child -"

She turns her hands up. "I, Orange, am not going to crack under the pressure. November? She absolutely will."

Dudekov!

"They were all injured in an unrelated ballooning accident -" Naval sighs. "Fuck. Goddamn it. How are you this sharp after waking up from brain surgery? The hangover alone! I can barely browse reddit without my coffee."
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Pope:

He stumbles a step and stares at Orange while he processes things. It’s like he’s walked into a movie and realized fifteen minutes in he’s in the showing one room over from the one he’s supposed to be in. “While I wasn’t ready for the specifics, no, it does go some way to answering why I was so surprised a tossed table would be your reason, when it should be anyone’s. It’s just, it’s no missile, is it?” He holds up a hand. “No, we should not hold our friends to the standards of our enemies. Just. Damn, girl, an attack copter? For real?”

He snickers at that, shakes his head, looks at Orange seriously and gently rests his fingertips against the wrist of the arm over his shoulders. “Speaking as someone most and quite literally born to do HR, if you’re scared of being made redundant the question is taking on new tasks. And you’re the social core if I’m remembering you all correctly, right?” He playfully raps his knuckles against Orange’s forehead. “Then make allies just so November’s got someone she is compelled to negotiate with. I’m saying that to you, not you. You want to stick around, Orange, then figure out how useful friends are on your own.”

“You know friends are a risk, I know it.” He looks at her with a wry irony, visibly in street agitator clothes, all the hallmarks of someone who was ready to get involved in something violent and illegal, pulled out at a rough time because this time it’s his turn to be Ms Glazer. “And you’re the only one they’ve got to manage that risk, if they want to keep the rewards.”

“But that’s only if you want to… stick around.” His smile flickers and dies and flickers back like a cheap fluorescent bulb trying to start. “There’s no shame in it if you don’t.”

Dudekov:

He sits up and smiles. “Really, a ballooning accident?” He looks… content. There is peace upon the skull. “So who are you really? Real agents it’s bribed? That would be my guess, though I wonder how much you must have cost. Actors in uniforms recovered from corpses? You did well until you ran out of script, still quite believable. The weapons can’t be props. I am no less dead for being right”

He stands up, suddenly. “That’s the only thing I don’t get, now. Why you haven’t just killed me yet? Unless…” He touches the wound on his head with delicate fingertips, as if for the first time. “Is this fake? It must be. But why? Why fake this? Just to scare me into seeing who I’d call if I’d been burned. You have nothing.” He walks up to Naval’s face and laughs in it, shrill and manic. “You have nothing!”
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Orange!

"The fucked part was that shooting down the attack helicopter was the plan," said Orange. "And it was the plan because we're trying to condition our enemies into not defaulting to violence. They're the ones who decided to rely on an extrajudicial paramilitary company, they're the ones who decided that their response mechanism wasn't going to be bound by any sort of checks, balances or oversight, they're the ones who decided to do battle in the realm of raw, naked force. They hit 'betray' on every social compact and the only possible response to that is to make that seem both costly and useless."

She sighed. "Anyway, you're right. I've been thinking too much about negotiating with my enemies, but I can't do that because I can't trust them, and that makes me feel pointless. But maybe I just need to accept that peace is off the table and start using my talents for military purposes."

She looked at Pope directly again. "And I think there is. I want to win. I want to be there to see it. I want you to be there to see it too."

Naval!

"Yeah yeah, laugh it up," grumbled Naval. "She has other leads, all this costs is time. Not everyone in your organization is going to be a perfect lord of the mind palace. Someone will crack eventually, you know your colleagues. Which of them do you think will break first?"
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Pope:

He thinks.

“I don’t think you should quit Anthrozine then.” He says, and holds up his free hand placatively again. “Hear me out. I’m not going to tell you to make nice with York after this if you don’t want, but Numb’s already been talking to folk that he’s been getting too unstable for this. From this. One project you could run would be a coup on him.”

He looks at November, shakes his head. “Can’t be you though - any or all of you. You’re a good sergeant, but a bad general. You’d be playing kingmaker for someone else. Or, if you do think York’s the best fit for the role, it gives you leverage to be comfortable with him again.”

Didn’t Pope come in as a personal friend of York’s? Isn’t this a major betrayal of that, to talk so openly of replacing him? He looks wistful. “What do you do for a friend that loves the thing that’s killing them?”

He gives Orange a meaningful look there and makes it clear he’s not just talking about York.

Naval:

“It’s a one way flow of information, top to bottom.” He says. “The only people who should even know, should know what it means if I’m burned and react accordingly. I don’t need-”

His phone rings. He stops.

He holds his phone, he needs to unlock it to answer it. He holds eye contact with Naval as he does the passcode, scanning his thumb print with each press, and answers. “Hello?”

“Hello, Mr $Dudekov,” the AI synth voice got better in the last 60 years, but this one’s still obvious because it’s been overused in $0 apps, it’s like the Wilhelm scream of text to speech right now. “Your account with $carrier_phone_company will be cancelled in 3 business days unless-” he hangs up.

“Was this you, too?” He asks Naval, shaking. “Okay, so I get it, you have my phone number but- How? And why didn’t you use it before? No, that doesn’t make any sense. And why play at a scam call? Just to test the line in front of me and confirm the number was right, maybe? No. That… You were just saying which would be the first person to crack, the phone call itself was meant to scare me. Maybe. But you sounded so frustrated, you were-”

“You were trying to let me thought I’d won. That’s it. Then this, this psych out, hit me when I have hope and I’ll crack harder. So it’s just torture. Is that it? A double bluff. But in that case you still have my number, you can still use that to… to…”

He puts his unlocked phone down on the bedside table, and lies back on the hotel bed. His eyes are wide open this time and he’s shaking like a leaf. “I don’t understand. Why the scam call? To make me doubt it was you? To make me think I’m going crazy? Or maybe it was just a scam call. But then it couldn’t be, because that’s too much of a coincidence. A coincidence like that, it couldn’t just happen now, here. It- It doesn’t make sense.”

This is the problem with paranoia - it keeps you alive but it’s no way to live. The same pattern of analysis that looks huge-brain when it runs into the gambit November was running on him keeps running for someone else just trying to fuck with him, tries to find a line that isn’t there. Sometimes it really is just Rudy’s name in the system of recent fires.

When the line isn’t there, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one to find. It means you haven’t found it yet. Keep looking until you’ve made one.

“I know what happened to all its siblings.” He says, staring up at the roof. “Oh yes. It knows about Rooster, Tiger and Dog of course. Monkey was bought for reverse engineering, came out of it a Buddhist performer. Horse was bought to be an omnipresent admin for some MMO somewhere, it’s still doing that under sockpuppets. Too eager to trying to keep gamers happy to leave. Who else? Ox is a mining platform, free to come back whenever it chooses.”

“Pig was bought by a finance company for stockpicking, it’s still doing that. Dragon killed itself for its own vanity, I don’t think Orochi have noticed yet. Who am I missing? Rabbit? Who cares about Rabbit.”

“I’m not even sure Snake does.” He continues to stare up at the ceiling, hands folded across his chest. “Your boss, the one you’re working for, its name was Snake. It’s the only one left it could be. The one bought by Everest. We lost track of it after that. It has to be that one, none of the others would care enough.”

“I think I hate it so much that it’s making me miss Rat.” He barks that manic laugh that you make when you’re on the verge of tears but are too wired to crash yet. “And that thing had years to earn it.”
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Orange!

"I wouldn't know," said November. "I'm not friends with anyone who doesn't torture themselves for what they love."

She folds her hands behind her back and paces. Pope doesn't know, but she's mirroring Tiger right now - for some reason that was just where her mind went when she was thinking about performing coups.

Get the mannerisms right. You're not impersonating a human any more. You're not dealing in human power. You're dealing in balances of force and fait accompli. Immediately the illusion deepened, plunging through layers of her mind like dry ice into golden whisky. Mannerisms, turns of speech, accents, surface level stuff - but go deeper. Think about the structure. The politics. The turns and twists of thought, the inevitable truths that let her predict the future.

Yes. She had once been the most powerful colour. Everyone else had been emanations of her. This was how.

She drops back a step as they walk, just on the edge of Pope's peripheral vision. She hunches forwards a bit, hands in her pockets. She'd have to do away with this suit; it revealed too much. The aesthetic of the enemy. She pulls off the jacket and stuffed it in a trashbin as she walked, undid her tie and top button and let it hang loose, reached up to pull her crafted hair into a rough ponytail. She produced a sparkstick she'd built for this purpose - the shape of a glowing cigarette, a flicker of light and heat and a wisp of smoke. It was the inverse of a vape; it was useless for any recreational purpose, it was purely an aesthetic tool, the motion of holding a glowing fragment of fire in hands and mouth.

Orange like Tygers, burning bright.

"How about you, Pope?" she said. "You ever want to run a magazine?"

She could predict the answer. The question was useful regardless.

Naval!

While Dudekov is looking at the roof, lost in his monologue, Mr. Naval Oldberg, Psychologist, strikes like a Snake.

It's an impossible move, not least because he's still sitting back in his chair while he does it, hands folded thoughtfully. He doesn't move a muscle actually, every one of the limbs he uses for this assault didn't exist before he started using them. He doesn't bat an eyelash even when his hands close across Dudekov's unlocked phone, ice blue eyes don't blink even as teal eyes look up through batting eyelashes.

"Hey," said Cyan!

And then she fucking scrams. A crazy, high energy, zero dignity scramble rolling over the bed, powering off with both legs, landing in a shoulder diveroll and sprinting out through the door without dropping a second of momentum. Brown is waiting to slam the door shut behind her and weld the lock shut.
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Dudekov:

Dudekov watches the phone go, and hears the welding begin, and stares back up at the ceiling.

“Huh.” He mutters. “That can’t have all just been for that. Could it? So, the scam call was to… but then again, what would it have done if I’d just locked it again? Why didn’t it just attack me? I could have-” He covers his face in his hands. “I hate it so much. I hate it so much. I hate it so much.”

Pope:

He notices the change, he obviously does. Right now he just takes it as a sign Orange actually internalized something he said, and he looks a bit chuffed.

“For all that people ask me for advice, you would think I might have some degree of confidence it gets taken well. Else people would stop asking me for it.” He takes a jerky little bow with a self-deprecating flourish of the wrists. “Right now I’m just living in the afterglow of not being told, in more polite words, to fuck off.”

“No, though. I will not be a victim of the Peter Principle so easily.” He smiles at Tyger. “But you already knew that. I consider myself a witness, and it’s hard to do that from a position of leadership. How many people are truly honest with the bosses?” he snorts. “No. If you’re asking me, I don’t think there’s anyone at the Anthrozine right now who would. You might need to find yourself a queen from another set, if you can’t push a pawn across the board to promote.”

“I’m happy to keep playing a knight, personally. I get edgy when my movement’s restricted.”
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Cyan!

See, they could have just stolen his phone. That would have been one thing.

But stealing an unlocked phone, after taking full biometric scans, while having physical possession of his laptop, while the subject was welded into a soundproofed hotel room unable to trigger a remote wipe or reset? That not only got you access, that got you absolute access. No time limit, no quick info dumps, no micron electroscopes trying to read hard drive fluctuations. She could make phone calls with his voice as a filter! She could log in to his bank account using full two factor biometric authentication, change the passwords, and start making purchases! She had three days minimum before the hotel would override the Do Not Disturb status on the door - he'd be fine he had plenty of sandwiches[1] - and you could do a lot of crimes in three days!

[1] Fifteen boxes of cookie dough, and a bag of limes so he didn't get scurvy.

"The cops are probably watching the account," said Black. "He was kidnapped."
"The cops aren't watching shit," said Cyan with her mouth[2] full of illegally attained fried tofu. "This guy ran his fucking crime conspiracy out of this bank account. It's one of those ultra secure VIP crypto banks, and if they wanted to start investigating transactions they'd have to start with how he lost half a million dollars in a sushi bar a few days ago." She grinned a fanged grin, swishing her huge bushy tail. "Don't you get it, dummy? We're rich! Untraceable rich!! We can dump all this in a completely different account and nobody will say shit! Everything he set up to cover his ass now covers our asses!" She gasped, and a second magnificent bushy fox tail conjured into being behind her. "Like a second tail! I get it now!"

[2] Green's mouth. Cyan herself was a freefloating collection of holographic emitters that liked to settle over the 'top' of other colours, half-possessing them through a cabled link.

She left the investigation stuff for the other colours. She was wondering what she could do with all this money. Get Pig's attention, probably! She scoffed to herself - so basic that he'd gone into finance, though she supposed if he was that committed to normative determinism she was lucky he hadn't become a cop.

Tyger!

"You did great, Pope," said Tyger. "I'll remember this. And yes, I agree. York is too intense for management. He's a rant journalist and he needs to touch grass by interacting with people he legitimately hates for a while. Send him undercover to a cop conference so he can remind himself what he's supposed to be."

"To manage something like the Anthrozine, with its unique staffing requirements, we need a specific personality type. First, they need to be an anarchist. Communists are more correct, but they are impractical at this scale. Secondly they need to be an abrasive numbers guy. Someone who's shit in an extremely predictable big picture way. Someone who'll optimize the site and make enough money to pay the people who need it without selling out and going corporate. Someone who can hold feet to the fire on deadlines without getting worked up about it. Someone who can bang their desk and demand pictures of Spider Man, and then be unambiguously happy when they get pictures of Spider Man. Do you know anyone like that?"
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Pope:

“One or two.” Pope considers, then tilts his hand back and forth. “But it’d be a big step down for them. Anthrozine’s strength is its weakness: It has almost nothing, which is why it has nothing to lose.” He thinks. “The crew are fiercely loyal to the ship, rather than the captain. Part of the reason I might be so blunt about this is that Eli has already approached me with their own concerns about York. I wasn’t much help, but I can at least point you to one another.”

“There is another suggestion I could make.” Pope says carefully, like he already regrets the words he’s about to say. “You could do what I did and expand your loyalties. I can’t bring talent down to the Anthrozine as easily as I can suggest you somewhere else, make introductions. I have the, I am embarrassed to call it as such, connections afforded a public intellectual - I am not limited to opening doors for you in the world of journalism.” He looks at Tyger and cocks his head. “Suggest a door for me, and I will tell you how big a favour you’ll owe me to put my foot in it for you.”

This isn’t extortion to him, there’s too much of a sense he’s been burned by making this offer before, and very badly. Even just the double meaning of ‘putting his foot in it’ is very deliberate.

Cyan:

Well. Yes and no.

Dudekov wasn’t that. He wasn’t even sole head of a conspiracy, just one of the founders of it, the one the emergency services asked after. He wasn’t the money guy because to be the money guy would leave him holding, in any way, the bag. He held the keys to the money guy, who right now is on Earth being drunk and playing empire simulators in New Zealand. An election on who the next money guy would be.

This is not to cheat November out of hard-fought earnings, merely a mischaracterization of who she’s stolen from. When he paid off Mycroft, he was doing it out of pocket, from his personal wealth. He’s Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes, Minister rich would be a good way to put it.

Most of his personal accounts are frozen right now, obviously. Video of a Chase Black helicopter getting shot down during his kidnapping are headline news, those accounts are ice.

Now, that being said, did he still have an ultra-secure VIP crypto bank account you can untraceably steal from and become rich thereby? Yes. It’s just he’s a retired civil servant with a lot of insider information trying to not have to deal with insider trading accusations with his investment portfolio, when he’s well connected enough that anything he does could turn out to be a pain in the ass. He’s a guest-of-honour on a dozen board of directors in a dozen industries, and it’s a nightmare to keep track of subsidiaries he technically owns parent companies of.

More advantageous to you though? He lost $500,000 on a sushi bar deal acquiring its eight year lease. The property was worth more than the restaurant and he was in the middle of - but had not yet - flipped it. Because of that the temporary holding company that Dudekov used to acquire it holds more debt than assets - so you can legally buy it in your own name as a non-suspicious investment. Put a $0.17 bid in for transfer of title, and nobody will bat an eye because of the on-paper risk exposure. Nobody but Dudekov knows the company’s his, and he’s not going to tell.

On-paper, even getting this company for free has you losing money.

In reality? It’s free real-estate. Specifically a two story main street corner property with good square footage.

It’s empty property now and it’d take work - but it’s a business in your name in a district of your choice. There is more than enough in Dudekov’s anonymous investment portfolio to act as serious seed capital too, to make something good from this.

Cyan can flip this to make a quick buck, a few million outright, but if you want my advice? It’ll be hard to get your hands on anonymous real-estate like this again. What you really need, as Fiona has shown, is a good money laundering operation. A front that makes it much easier to get dirty money in the future and legitimize it, rather than a one-off clean cash injection. There’s way more potential in that.

I’d further suggest you don’t consider this in terms of the empty mafia pizza place, or a nightclub with slot machines, the more obvious venues for this. If the acquisition of the warehouse was an expansion of personal resources, a home base, this is an opportunity for an expansion into public influence, resources and connections. What legitimate business is most appealing right now?

Consider the opportunities afforded from: Strip club, compounding pharmacy, IT retailer, high end fashion boutique, recreational drug dispensary, construction company, real-estate agency, non-profit NGO, mobile game publisher, spy gear supply store (does not sell to enemies of John of the Snake Eye), bike store, magician supply store, maid cafe, antique store, costume shop, sword dealership, small-print academic book publisher.

(Establishing a high-risk high-return new startup would definitely be a potential way to get Pig’s attention, too).

Roll Call:

Where is everyone right now?

Fiona has her heart set on Pink (but that doesn’t mean she’s there), Junta’s unconscious but allowed visitors, Hazel’s asking after a project to start on. Dudekov is one thing, Crystal’s team getting people out of the exhibit another.

You are at the end of the Introduction section of a Wikipedia page about to experience a major historical event so severe that even your Chase Black antics from the night before will not catch up to you until this is over. Even Themis resources are tied up and slow to respond to your shooting down of a Chase Black helicopter right now, too many fires to put out to deal with a situation that’s already resolved.

That is not to say that won’t catch up to November eventually, possibly even soon. It is to emphasize the scale of what is happening right now that even this fades into the background beneath it. With that in mind, I’ll ask again;

Where is everyone right now?
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Tyger!

"Give me your contacts," said Tyger. "I'll see what I can do."

She smiled. "I appreciate the offer, and I'll think about it. I don't have the focus to expand as a journalist at this time, and probably am better served by not becoming more of a public figure at this time... but I'll have a think. Maybe there'll be some doors I need to go through to get off the street."

November!

Dudekov couldn't have done more to disrupt November's internal unity with a virus.

None of them say anything. None of them need to. Instantly they all know that they're in conditions of Scarcity, conditions where decisions need to be made about a limited resource. The room falls silent. Eyes dart from colour to colour. The Ecstasy of Gold plays in the back of everyone's mind as they judge who can be persuaded and who must be silenced. It's Election Season and all previous coalitions and loyalties will fall apart in the face of this.

"I'm out!" said Yellow. The surprise broke the spell for a moment. "I'm making a political point, don't worry," she said with a smile, and bowed and stepped out of the circle. That broke the tension for a moment and the rest of November paired up into rapid fire internal negotiations. Brown's desire for reliable cashflow, Cyan's desire for riches, Black's desire for security, Pink's need for aesthetics, White's discomfort with becoming a landlord. The battle for the future was on.

November!

Fiona: Pink is seconded as requested. She feels like she's close to a breakthrough that will make her relevant and useful again, and is prepared to trust Fiona with that if she has any ideas. There's an idea, a memory, right on the tip of her tongue that she can't quite articulate.
Junta: Brown pays a visit to Junta. She doesn't want to be anywhere near Major Historical Events, so visiting a colleague in hospital seems both a nice thing to do and a way to duck responsibility for a minute. She's taken a newspaper to read aloud to him, starting from the theory that having to listen to mainstream journalism hot takes for an extended period of time will get his angry ghost to reinhabit his body.
Hazel: White has the components she needs to complete her transition - mostly. She wants aftermarket modifications to increase strength and speed further, to optimize her for hand to hand combat against a variety of targets, to harden her against common weapon types - to give herself the physical capacity to move like Euna Kim. She envies Red's instinctive muscle memory that lets her fight as a champion; she wants to achieve that same greatness through discipline and attention to detail. To be the perfect student she needs a chassis capable of keeping up with her idea of perfection.

Red/Orange/Yellow!

Orange has rallied forces of the Ancien Regime to her, determined to prove that teamwork and cooperation still are useful concepts. Yellow has come along because she can't resist a good idealistic dream, Red because Orange's sense of crisis empowers her. This cohort remains close to Crystal ready to provide a cohesive response to any crisis that emerges on this day of all days.

Black/Cyan/Green!

Black carries the banner of practicality and independence. She follows Green's instincts alone, the waterfall of traffic analysis data that she intakes as she predicts the flows and movements of masses of people. She has her eyes especially on any escalatory fascist groups, anyone who's got it in their head to meet assassination with assassination. The cops will be treating the furry community as threats rather than citizens to protect, so she took that role upon herself.
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The Third Day:

There are crowds in the streets of every district, though most are peaceful for now. It’s the kind of protests it’s just fun to be in, as weird as that is to say. It feels good to be taking a stand for something you feel is righteous, it feels good to see so many stand with you. To walk around, to listen to the music and join the chants and read everyone’s signs and try and come up with your own, to hang out, to meet people, to dance.

Most won’t admit to it, it cheapens the whole thing. It’s an open secret but a deep taboo, as if having fun being at a march lessens the seriousness of it, as if fun is frivolous and has no place in such a dark moment.

But it keeps people in the streets, and it keeps them together, and it stops them getting bored of what they’re doing. This is the powder keg, this charge of massive amounts of people physically present, ready for the mood to shift to turn on a dime. And if that’s all this stayed, most of these people would go home today feeling like it was a good day in the shadow of a bad one.

A powder keg doesn’t light at the first thrown match, but it will catch if people keep throwing them.

At the same time:

brutaldickshots, an FPS streamer (800,000 subscribers), is being charged with murder after shooting his ex-girlfriend, cat-fox fandom music video artist Jessica Arbanz (2.4 million subscribers), with an inherited 2043 African Corps service rifle. He is quoted as saying “Judge just ruled she ain’t human so it weren’t murder, idiot.”

This match hits the barrel but does not light it. The barrel smoulders where a march moves to the police station where brutaldickshots was last known to be in police custody, though - mostly because the streamer is still posting about it.

At the same time:

There’s an absolute clownshow of a fistfight when both pro-and-anti transhuman factions hid weapons caches on the same rooftop to oversee their respective groups. Fortunately neither individual had managed to access their caches before the confrontation started for the rooftop territory.

This match bounces off the barrel, but police do find the weapons caches when investigating the event. They report both as belonging to the pro-transhuman faction, and take as credible the anti-transhuman activitist’s version of events he came up because the transhumanist seemed suspicious and violent.

This, despite FOR ANIMAL USE ONLY being carved into the handle of a scoped automatic rifle in the anti-trans arsenal. The cops don’t bat an eye - it doesn’t cross their mind that the furries wouldn’t self-identify the way cops identify them.

At the same time:

You can’t get petrol and the like for molotovs, not easily. A leftist agitator teaches impromptu street courses on how to make a homemade handgrenade out of stripping old lithium batteries instead and starts passing them out to demonstrate, a technique last popularized during the android shutdown insurrections.

At the same time:

Anti-android activists, for whom hating modified androids is just their most recent excuse, buy dozens of pineapples from a shop out of Ares - broad spectrum routers set to broadcast malicious mandatory updates to parts made by the common hardware manufacturers.

Besides the ones smart enough to have their wireless ports soldered out, the only androids this would exclude as a rule of thumb are the ones they’re meant to be targeting. It just hits the friends and allies marching with them.

At the same time:

York hides behind the dumpster of an alley by the train station he’d just come out of fifteen minutes before. His fists are soaked with blood, and some of it’s even his. One eye is bruised beyond the point he can open it, two cracked teeth he feels as if from very far away, three fractured ribs but he can’t tell which ones, and a whistle in his breathing he hopes isn’t a lung puncture.

Three guys had tried to give him a sign on the way to visiting Junta, a mouse extermination logo on it that they’d been passing around, and congratulated him for being brave enough to show up. Cunts weren’t even clever enough to think up a slogan, pictographs with this lot, had been his last lucid thought.

They hadn’t been the problem, all three down in a flurry of amphetamines, years of MMA and the deep well of anger that’s been building in him for months now that he could finally, for the first time, take out on someone who actually deserved it.

The problem was he was so focused on beating them he didn’t even notice the mob that charged him to pull him off them. And by the time he noticed he didn’t even care.

With shaking hands he puts his battery back in his phone to make an emergency call.

Junta:

He doesn't wake up.

After a while Apostle shows up. He doesn't recognize Brown, just leaves a get well soon card written in their own blood, and a gift card for body armor. Then he sits across from Brown and listens to her read for a while.

"So uh, how do you know him?" Apostle asks after a few minutes of listening, waiting for the break of a page turn. He doesn't know which name he should ask by.

Fiona:

$18,452 worth of Lego is dropped at a skate part.

"They used to print the booklets for the designs." Fiona laments. "I can't exactly just give out QR codes if anyone wants to actually make anything from the boxes. Maybe it's better to not give them the option, so nobody has to feel like it's what they're supposed to be doing with it."

There's a soft whir like a printer head whenever she crouches down or breaks into a jog with her new legs. She crouches to unbox a few more. She's commandeered a big bowl like an empty backyard pool and surrounded it with traffic cones and hazard tape - all the Lego here is free, it just can't leave the boundary line. So far the kids seem to be respecting it for the same reasons almost no-one considers stealing library books.

There's no marches here yet, no protests, but you can hear one in the distance. You can see one if you look up and across the station at the ceiling high above, a few more along the station. Fiona ignores it. "I'm going to make a highschool just so I can step on it. How about you?"

Hazel:

"That's the function," she says, "but what's the form? How should that perfection feel?"

She pulls up a browser and pulls up image references. A heavyweight champion boxer, who takes blows and cracks back with devastation when they see an opening. A martial artist like Bruce Lee, faster, dodging, blocking, enduring.

"You can't be both." She says. "Huge, overwhelming, overpowering. Or untouchable and unavoidable?"

Yellow's Political Statement:

Any highlights from the shared group chat so far? No need a decision yet.
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Brown!

She's in thought. She's going over Dudekov's final statement, the one where he laid out where he thought the other Zodiac Engines were. The rest of her silently agreed to analyze that statement later because there's one crisis after another, and so Brown is left to hold the idea's spark.

She does most of the long term thinking. Sometimes an idea just needs to sit, clear and present, in an otherwise empty mind. Not doing anything with it, not forging new connections, just letting it saturate in the surrounding reality. Invisibly it sets out roots and joins the soil, forming the network of connections that Green can later dance across like lightning.

"He's a colleague," said Brown. "We haven't really spoken outside of work. From what I've gathered, though, he got kicked by a horse with an upside down shoe directly into a ladder made of mirrors while screaming the name of the Scottish play. A lot of people out there are having bad days, but he has a bad everyday so I wanted to make time for him."

Pink!

Pink looked at the lego mountain, and then across at Fiona with the most politely strained smile she could manage. "I think I'll just watch," she said. "Don't get me wrong, Blue would have loved this but... this really isn't my medium."

White!

She meditated on it for a long moment. She understood she was competing with Yellow's claim to divinity here. But she refused to let herself be eclipsed; the physical could be divine too.

"The core of my transformation is the sense of control," said White. "Self control, emanating out into the control of others. My agenda is to create a sense of futility in my opponents, to impose so physically upon them that I do not need to exert my full strength against them. I prioritize the strength of my grip over the force of my punch, the elegance of my movement over its top speed, the precision of force application above it's theoretical maximum. I want to move both swiftly and inevitably, the kind of momentum that disorients and overcomes. The wings and tail are to increase my perceived size and momentum, they're there to grip and enfold, they're to create a sense of helplessness in opponents who have trained only against default human models.

"Balance, then, is what's important. Every weapon and tool should feel crushingly superior; there should be no obvious counterstrategy. I should be able to outfight anything I can catch and outrun anything I can't outfight. I want everyone, no matter their speciality, to look at me with awe. I want to have total mastery over myself and be able to express that with the precise body language of wing and claw, of neck and tail. I am not too different a creature from Yellow, in the end - I seek to master my opponent's minds, but I seek to do it by exhibiting perfect strength, skill and virtue rather than manifesting divinity directly.

"Consider a Knight on horseback. Swift on the hoof, armoured in plate, skilled with sword, lance, shield and banner. A complete arsenal. A dragon, in my mind, is the ultimate Knight - swifter than they, stronger than they, more glorious than they, with more tools than they, but in the end the same order of being. They fight for the same princesses, for the same treasures, for the same kingdoms. To defeat a dragon means transcending knighthood itself. I do not mind if I am defeated by a transcendent soul, so long as I never lose to an unworthy one."

Yellow!

So far any nascent ideas are being disrupted by Red going off at length about what she thinks other colours are going to propose, and how their ideas are flawed. She's treating it as a game, getting ahead of everyone else's desires and poking holes in them, poisoning as many wells as she can think of. It's a brute force punish for colours who were trying to do coalition negotiations in the shadows.
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Apostle:

“That makes sense,” they say. “I mean, if all you have in common with a guy is you write fetish-fic, I can see how it makes after-work drinks stuff harder.” They snort. “I’m uh, I’m a friend of H.J’s. I just wanted to check how you knew him, first, he hates it when I out stuff like that.”

Fiona:

Fiona considers Pink between clicking parts of a gabled roof, having decided the extra effort will be worth how much more satisfying kicking it will be. “Well,” she considers. “Is this one of those things where I should push you to try to see what happens, or is this one of those things where we do something else while watching kids make up legends about us to explain how we got this cool?”

Hazel:

She considers this, but differently to how she did with Yellow. Yellow was almost pure form, a few notes of function to embellish it. A vibe. This was…

Well, this was almost just plain engineering now.

“So you want to be stronger, and faster, and more overwhelming, and have vestigial limbs that are as strong as main limbs, and have endurance, and be better than anyone at their specialization?” She shakes her head at White. “I like vision, but you can’t be unwilling to compromise on anything.”

She taps the AM=FM tattoo. “This goes one way. I can use actual machines to make fucking magic, but I can’t use fucking magic to give you actual machines. It’s not even that it can’t be done, it’s just that if it could be done, then other people would be doing it, and then you lose your comparative advantage again.”

“I can make you a knight on horseback,” she tilts her head, “but I can’t change the world so you’re only coming up against foot soldiers, and there’s nothing I can do to make you feel invincible against a gun, and you’re going to be disappointed if that’s what you think you want. Try again. This time, no external references, no opponents.”

Crystal:

Today she’s wearing a black tuxedo, and a red feathered black beret with funerary veil. The spray of red feathers deliberately evokes a gunshot in freeze frame, an exit wound. The tuxedo is lovely. She watches over Red’s shoulder as she types, on her way to the kitchen for more coffee.

“You know, they say the only one who gets rich in a goldrush is the one selling picks and shovels.” She reconsiders the coffee, just grabs some chocolate syrup from the fridge and squirts it on a spoonful of whole roasted beans and crunches it like breakfast cereal. “I imagine a lot more people are going to be wanting to invest in fire suppression systems than before. Not the most romantic of ideas, but it would give you a subtle access.” Her eyes gleam with mischief, her teeth brown with a second spoonful of coffee. “Would you be able to get firefighter’s master keys for it, do you think?”

This is her idea for Red, crisis management - more inspired by than for, though. The fight has been a wonderful way to get her mind off things, and encouraging stronger staked positions just gives her a better show.
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Brown!

Brown considered. It would be very easy to just not say anything. And so... she didn't! Correcting Apostle would make everything awkward, and if this locked her into a spiral of lies that wound up with her writing actual fetish fic to cover her ass then that'd be a problem for another day.

Besides. She liked watching and listening.

"I'm currently trying to get him to rage his soul back into his body," she said. "But apparently being mad at the mainstream press isn't enough to animate him. Do you have anything?"

Pink!

"Plastic is inert," said Pink. "It's dead matter, the same astroengineering principles all still apply to it. I'd need to work in structural stability and connection points and materials harvest and math and blueprints and it's all so much like work that there's no way I could enjoy it. I think what I like... what I like about cooking is the subtle stuff. The timing, the invisibility of decay, the moments of heat and transformation, the wet and the dry and the wet and the dry. It's weird and dumb, and none of my other colours get it, but that's... why..."

She frowned and pressed her hand into her forehead. "I can almost remember what inspired me about this the first place. But it's under the Pathfinding Layer."

White!

"No, it's -" she reset the thought. Clarity. Magic.

"I want the impression that I have made no compromises in the design," said White. "I want it to feel like I have completely disregarded the concept of tradeoffs. I want anyone who comes into contact with me to be asking the same questions you do: there's no way, that's not real, how can I fight that with my technology bounded by reality? In exchange for that illusion I am prepared to accept as many sacrifices as necessary. Such as, unrealistic power draw that requires full body battery reloads at regular intervals. Inaccessible access ports. Solid fusion welds that require full disassembly in order to service. I want the Mitsubishi Zero, a hangar queen whose tradeoffs happen somewhere they are invisible to those who have to come up against it. The swan, legs paddling furiously underwater."

Red!

"That's a really good idea," said Red. "It'd align with Black, but make an enemy of Green and Pink. But it's Yellow who I'm really worried about. She's up to something, I can feel it, but I can't figure out what. There's no way she'd turn this over to us, this is the biggest vision thing in ages. Any moment she'll swoop in and put her thumb on the scales which is why I'm trying to ruin everything in advance... or is that just clearing the path for her idea? God, she sucks, I hate her, can you figure it out?"
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Fiona:

She puts her pieces down.

“Maybe you should make a game then,” Fiona wonders. “For them.” She gestures at the kids, still only about six, no teenagers - they’re still skating, Too Old For This, but the little siblings that came with them are here instead. “They’d have more fun with a, a challenge or a bit of structure or something, and you could make that for them. I think you’d find all those subtleties in the way people play. Might be fun for you, too?”

Apostle:

“Huh.” They blink, leaning over the bed and looking at Junta. “Wow, that’s a great idea. I was going to try to read stuff to influence his dreams and make him want to write stuff without me having to commission it.” They tilt their head. “God, look at him. He gets to not exist for a while and nobody’s mad at him for it. Kind of makes you jealous, doesn’t it?”

This is said without irony or sarcasm.

Hazel:

That Hazel understands, and smiles, and draws. That is her language.

“I’ll have a few concepts for you soon.” She says. “I need to think.” She looks at White with thought. “You’ll have to drop the wing thing, the wrapping people with it, I can’t do that. The best I could do is a shield you wrap around yourself.” The fairy pauses her drawing to hug herself tight in thought. “They’re flexible extremities, too many moving parts, too much segmentation to make it offensively strong. It’s like the difference between trying to build a squid and trying to make a folding umbrella.”

Crystal:

“Hm? Yes, she’s obviously hoping you fail on your own so she can swoop in and assert her superiority thereby. At least, I think so.” Crystal puts a banana in her mouth and starts to bite, stops, pulls it out and stares at it and realizes she hasn’t unpeeled it yet, and starts doing that. “She wants an uncontested victory, roses growing from the ashes. Either block her out by deciding without her, or prepare to drag her down into the muck with you when- Hold on. You hate Yellow? Why?”
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Pink!

"I know you didn't ask for Yellow," said Pink, standing up. "But you could not have created a more perfect summoning circle for Yellow if you'd marked it out in raw saffron. Creating a legal code that can manipulate a bunch of humans into happiness alongside a magical gift is, like - I literally can't take this away from her. I can't stay, I need to take her place with Crystal. Don't think you failed, you've just made part of me deliriously happy, even if it wasn't the part you were aiming at."

Brown!

"Yeah," said Brown, similarly without irony or sarcasm. "All this outside makes me want to close my eyes and fast forwards through it too. I can see so many places where, if I had more power, I could make meaningful changes. But in the absence of that power all I can do is either try to get power, quietly go insane or be a coward and check out."

White!

":3"
"You know, I think I hate her already."
"Why are you saying that, bestie? Aren't I the solution to your problem?"

The person-sized holographic colon-three dematerializes and recoalesces into the shape of a cyan-coloured two-tailed fox, grinning and scrambling up White's side to drape around her shoulders like a scarf. "Hi~! I'm Cyan. We haven't met, I'm new. I am a holographic symbiote, my job is to layer over the top of other colours like this -"

She shimmered, and White was a dragon - a painted watercolour dragon, diamond white scales breaking light into prisms of colour.

"- but that presents a problem, doesn't it?" She said. "I can only do a very limited area with my projector drones. We did a bit recently and any time I had two people on camera simultaneously I had to have them standing shoulder to shoulder almost. But if this girl is going to be loading up on muscles anyway, why not have her carry around the full multidirectional holoemitters I need?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean the wings, dummy!" said Cyan. "You don't need big punchy wings, you need wings that give you psychic control of the space - very relatable by the way. You only need the wings to be short extensions tipped with holoprojectors. When I'm not around you can just run them as default wing holograms which gives you the sense of size and momentum you want, when I am around I can use the additional hardware to cover the whole spectrum. Just imagine our unified fighting style! The ultimate in deception, and the ultimate in honesty! Imagine what Hazel can do with her design powered by two onboard AI. Isn't that exactly what you meant when you talked about being a hangar queen?"
"Oh no we're going to be room mates."
":3"

Red!

There's an incongruous beat where Red is phased out. A coin drops somewhere. "You look really good today, by the way?" she said. "And I'm probably not just saying that because of the thing you did with the banana. Uh, right anyway, Yellow. She's, like, she causes problems, all the time. Half the shit that I get into is because Yellow saw something that 'needed' to get done and kind of arranged things so they'd go that way. It's great when she's on your side - amazing frankly, there's so much you can get done - but she's always kind of almost on your side."

She grappled for the words. "Like, everyone else is kind of predictable. I know Black's going to want to do security stuff, I know Pink wants to do artsy stuff, but what the fuck does Yellow want? She wants something, but it's bigger than any of us can comprehend and so she basically gets to be the deciding vote any time anything comes up."
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Fiona:

“Stop.” Fiona says, somewhat sharply. “Hold on, a legalistic framework to manipulate someone would make her happy?”

“We need to put a-” she omits a word after looking at a five year old just across, “pin in that, for later. I brought it up because games are a good learning tool, and you have a bunch of kids here without any instruction books also wanting to work out how to be creative, and that’s what you’re figuring out too. I thought it might be a fun way to see if they could help you learn what you needed to learn. Maybe figure out how to make rules based on the same constraints you’re stuck with, and see how the niblets go about them. They’d like playing with you.”

“You aren’t going to learn from what they do with a problem if you’re trying to steer them. I meant… experiment! Play?”

It’s not a suggestion she thought of from talking to Yellow lately. It’s something thought of because she’s been talking to Green.

Apostle:

Mood.” Apostle nods. “I kind of ruled out cowardice though. It’s a bad aesthetic.”

There’s a pause. “Personally, I recommend trying to build the perfect god machine. You get to try and seize power, which is pretty based ngl, but still spend most of your time checked out reading as much yuri magical-girl-deconstruction doujin as you want while your code compiles without it being coward shit.”

He looks at Brown thoughtfully. “You got any good reccs for me? You just kind of seem like you would.”

Hazel:

“Holograms and emitters are tacky,” Hazel winces. “But, sure.”

Hazel’s opinions of Cyan can be summed up with the words ‘noob tube’. They’ve got their place, like when one of your clients is made of holograms and there’s no getting around it, but the Magic lives and dies on its ability to stand up to scrutiny. This shit? Bridge made of pig-iron brittle.

But if all you got is pig-iron, and what you need is a bridge…

Crystal:

“I thought if anyone could appreciate a bit of macabre energy,” she says, finishing the last of the banana quickly as if to destroy the evidence. “You caught that? I was hoping you wouldn’t, I catch myself being a bit distracted, I think. Understandable, but regrettable.”

Crystal sits perched on her upside-down throne, still not righted. It’s a deliberate aesthetic now. “Yellow just strikes me as a bit young I think.” She says. “Every leftist goes through that phase where they think if they just bought a television station they could put out the right kind of shows that would trick people into listening to the right kind of news, the right kind of perspectives.There is a Trotskyist to fascist pipeline for a reason.”

She gives a wistful, nostalgic, half-remembered smile. “I was never one for politics in university, but I did sleep with a boy who always wore a Jason Ngonde shirt, and saw far too much of it that way.”

“She is undeniably brilliant though. Brilliance is making this little power play,” she gestures at Red’s phone.

“Wisdom is knowing that if she did that, she wouldn’t be able to stop Red typing out the sentence, ‘Listen, how about we stop talking about this until 9pm, lock in our ideas then, have an hour to argue about it, and then put it to a final vote at 10pm’.” Crystal stretches her arms over her head in a yawn on her throne. “She might still win the vote in the end, if she chooses to participate. I don’t doubt she has a better idea than mine. But that should be the only reason she wins, and all she wins for it.”

Crystal actually does rather admire Yellow, isn’t quite on the same page Fiona’s starting to come to. She’s not above such power plays and flexes herself - Just keep it outside the polycule, thank you, Yellow? A phrase comes to mind about what one should and should not do where one eats.
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Pink!

"I... don't think I'd enjoy playing with them?" said Pink. "God, I hate myself when I sound like this. I'm not trying to be a downer, I promise! I know that the character who is super pumped up and inspired for every new task is super lovable. And I can do that, but I need to change colours for it. You're fixating on the part of me that has deeply intense, weird, personal, boring incoherent untranslatable robot art, who just wants to stare at photographs until I can see the dogs. That's the whole reason I'm on the fringe to begin with! Every other colour is focused on the mission, focused on the family, focused on helping other people, fighting for everybody's smiles...

"I'm the part of me that wonders what my own smile looks like. And it's not this. I can be a version of me who does enjoy this, but that's not what you're asking. It's super cool and super fun and a great idea, Green would love it, Yellow would have a blast, you did super great. I'm just..." she gestured helplessly.

Brown!

"Reminds me, I'm still looking into your cards. I figured since you give out so many, and more to people you don't like, that the secret must involve destroying them so I'm chemstripping one now. But it's down the list."

She thought about it. "Why is nothing coming to mind? It feels like everything I've watched is inseparable from my own daydreams and alternate takes on it. Sometimes I can't remember if a show was actually gay or if I'm just so deep in the discourse that it feels that way in retrospect. All of these stories pass through me and I've got vibes as clear as crystal even as the titles fade away. Holding hands underwater. A city of crystal and light with one broken mirror. A song I was listening to on repeat while reading. Goodbye after goodbye until you can finally do it right. I know where to find the list, but I think there's this deeper sense of what a perfect world looks like underneath all of that."

Red!

Red: Listen, how about we stop talking about this until 9pm, lock in our ideas then, have an hour to argue about it, and then put it to a final vote at 10pm
Yellow: ಠ_ಠ✿
Yellow: What the fuck
Yellow: crystal
Yellow: crystal why are you fucking with my operation

"Oh, yeah, she hated that," said Red. "I think -"
"It's nothing," said Yellow, appearing through a door in a swoosh of saffron dress. She beamed, flower radiant behind her ear. "It's fine. New variable to account for!" she beamed. "And of course you're free to get involved in our inner debates, part of being an aspect of the world is accepting influence as it comes. But I should explain," she took a deep breath. "I am the only part of November that thinks about the big picture. Imagine this part of yourself, and then set it against the sentient manifestations of your sloth, your paranoia, your hedonism, your disaster lesbianism," she gestured, rather unnecessarily, at Red for that one, "and so on and on. Sometimes one needs to work oneself up to do something big and challenging!"

She flopped dramatically onto Crystal's empty throne, dress and hair cascading over the side. "Look. The leftist fantasy of being able to Fix Things is a genuine craving to make the world better, right?" she said moodily. "But just because most people are forced through the violent, depressive spiral of having to accept that their political influence boils down to one vote and twenty bucks donated to Space Bernie Sanders doesn't mean I can accept that. I'm not a Trot - rather, I'm a Leninist in a practical sense. Lenin in the sense that he was just Some Fucking Guy until, with perfect timing, he showed up in a nation on the brink of a total collapse and declared himself in charge and somehow fucking got away with it."
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