Four Painful Years

Four Painful Years
RE: Four Painful Years (URGENT POLL, CAST YOUR VOTE!)
Hey, I'm reading this now. It's wonderful, I love it.
Isn't it time to change the title (to no longer say "hey there's a vote" anymore)?
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RE: Four Painful Years (URGENT POLL, CAST YOUR VOTE!)
(09-30-2018, 04:14 AM)Xindaris Wrote: »Hey, I'm reading this now. It's wonderful, I love it.
Isn't it time to change the title (to no longer say "hey there's a vote" anymore)?

Thanks! :D

Also, nice catch, thank you.
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RE: Four Painful Years (URGENT POLL, CAST YOUR VOTE!)
(09-30-2018, 04:11 AM)KingMomo Wrote: »Resist the urge to pat his head, settle for shaking his hand.

He’s like a child… An incredibly well spoken, white-skinned, noseless child with a voice befitting the host of a nature documentary. He’d probably take it pretty poorly if you patted him on the head, so you return his handshake instead. He has a strong grip, but it feels artificial and weightless, like he isn’t really there.

An indentation appears in the wall. Your eyes well up and your head throbs uncomfortably as it slides open, flooding the dimly lit room with sunlight. Ushered towards the opening by Cottonhelm, you’re able to see what lies beyond the cramped conference room you’ve been occupying for the last forty-or-so-minutes. You blink a couple times. You see the front door of your apartment building.

---

JULIE: “How…?”

COTTONHELM: “We were in Gudrun’s limousine.”

JULIE: “Oh.”

---

A familiar face approaches from around the corner. It’s the cute nurse from before, but this time he’s in a black suit and tie. He’s carrying everything you had on you before the scuffle at Grosvenor, as well as your clothes, freshly laundered and folded. With a light bow, he beckons you outside.

Your heart races. This is not the same planet you grew up on. Everything looks the same, but it all feels so different... Untamed, bristling with energy. Before you step out onto the sidewalk, you duck back into the doorway to both say your goodbyes and catch your breath.

---

JULIE: “Well, uh… It’s been real.”
JULIE: “Will I see you guys again?”

GUDRUN: “You can count on it, hon. I’ll be checking in every so often to make sure Cottonhelm hasn’t spoiled you rotten with his incessant ‘counselling’ and ‘positive reinforcement’.”

VERMILLION: “YES, COTTONHELM IS BIG PANSY. YOU CAN COME TO THORNS HEADQUARTERS FOR PROPER TRAINING WHEN SCHEDULE PERMITS.”

COTTONHELM: “Alright, alright, that’s enough you two. I’m going to see Miss Mitchells up to her flat. Won’t be long!”

GUDRUN: “Take care, Julie. Thank you for your cooperation!”

VERMILLION: “HERE. ONE FOR THE ROAD.”

---

A flick of Vermillion’s wrist sends a large bottle of something flying out the door at you, heavy enough to knock you off balance as you catch it. It’s full of swirling liquid, ribbons of blue and purple dotted with twinkling lights. The label on the bottle is written in a language totally foreign to you. Both he and Gudrun wave their farewell as the door slides back into place, and you wave back. It’s only after the door fully closes that the opulence of Gudrun’s limo becomes strikingly apparent, its windows tinted darker than black, its unmarked chassis practically free of seams. The roof of the vehicle is a lot lower than you thought it would be… You’re having trouble imagining how Vermillion managed to sit upright in there.

Before you can make a fool of yourself by trying to carry all this crap at once, Cottonhelm accepts your belongings from the nurse(?) and opens the door to the foyer for you. You nod your head in thanks. Both hands are required to carry Vermillion’s hefty last-minute gift.

---

JULIE: “The heck is this?”

COTTONHELM: “Third Century Blackberry Himmelsdraaft. A luxurious liqueur brewed from fermented fruit, whole cream, and the distilled essence of a moribund star.”
COTTONHELM: “Goes down smoother than you’d think. Be sure to enjoy responsibly!”

JULIE: “Gosh, and here I thought the idea was to avoid killing me...”
JULIE: “...”
JULIE: “Hey, Cottonhelm?”

COTTONHELM: “Yes?”

JULIE: “About this whole ‘Marauder Monthly’ business… I’m not going to have to go around killing people, am I?”
JULIE: “Like, I’m all for self-preservation, and straight-up pacifism never worked for me in the past... You’d be surprised how many kids think it’s okay to pick on you just ‘cause you’re on TV.”
JULIE: “But I shot my neighbor in the head the first time he attacked me, and for a second I thought I’d killed him and it just felt so… wrong. Yeah, sure, he was trying to kill me, shooting him is totally justified, but… ”
JULIE: “I felt bad about it. I still feel bad about it. Even after my friends got involved and I had to ram him with the counterbalance… I should feel happy that it worked, that I could save them. Instead I just feel sick...”

COTTONHELM: “That’s a good sign.”

JULIE: “How is that a good sign!? What does it say about me that I can’t help but play devil’s advocate for dudes who wanna cut my head off?”

COTTONHELM: “You possess a righteous heart, my dear. Willingness to forgive the transgressions of your enemy is quite an admirable trait indeed!”

JULIE: “Please. I’m not ‘forgiving’ anyone and I’m far from ‘righteous’. I just don’t wanna be the gal that puts someone’s dad six feet under.”

COTTONHELM: “Heavens, leave some altruism for the rest of us!”

JULIE: “Fuggin’...”

COTTONHELM: “Besides, Marauder Monthly articles are dedicated to the exploits of adventurers, militant or otherwise. July’s covergirl was selected for her recent contributions to the field of dungeonology, and her predecessor is known for pragmatically diverting several Mars-bound meteors into the astral plane.”
COTTONHELM: “I fully expect you to come up with non-fatal solutions to difficult problems. Vermillion runs a mercenary guild. Soldiers of sentiment can earmark morally repugnant targets or try to scoop up all the escort jobs, but eventually, someone is going to have to either kill, fake it, or go unpaid. We at the School are under no such obligation. We are free to experiment, and that makes us versatile. Indeed, conflict has become a necessary evil in these troubled times... but put the work in, and nobody has to die.”

JULIE: “Cool...”
JULIE: “Can you teach me how to do a full nelson?”

COTTONHELM: “Darling, by the end of the year I expect to see you perform a ‘Full-Point-Five Nelson’.”
COTTONHELM: “Ah, this must be your apartment. Let me get that for you…”

---

Cottonhelm stacks your belongings into the crook of his arm and uses his free hand to grab the doorknob. Before you can tell him where your keys are, his image abruptly distorts, then snaps back to normal, and the unlocked door swings open. Strangely, the little hovering disc thing that follows him around remains perfectly solid. You think you know what’s going on here…

---

JULIE: “A hologram.”

COTTONHELM: “Pardon?”

JULIE: “You’re a hologram. The little floaty disc is your projector.”

COTTONHELM: “Exemplary observation, Miss Mitchells! ‘Hard Light’, they call it. Makes travelling abroad a relative breeze!”
COTTONHELM: “But in all seriousness, I would’ve loved to come down to meet you in person had I the capacity, but past events have left me physically unable to leave the School. My precious holodisks are the only method of travel I have access to these days.”

JULIE: “Oh… I’m sorry to hear that.”
JULIE: “Living with a disability is the worst… The ‘mass’ used to affect my motor functions, so I know where you’re coming from.”

COTTONHELM: “Hmm… I suppose you could describe it that way. Though, if I had to give it a name I’d sooner call it a curse.”

---
It’s nice to be back home… for however long that’s gonna last. Everything’s just like how you left it. The bread, for example, is still just as left open as it was when you made those sandwiches, and now it’s growing a little green crew cut. That’s a perfectly good loaf down the toilet.

After standing the Himmelsdraaft up on the counter to marvel at the swirls inside, you turn around to find Cottonhelm rifling through your bookcase. He’s only examining the covers and occasionally uttering a fascinated “Hm!”, but he’s also getting his grubby little holographic fingers all over everything. At least he’s putting them back in order…

Your belongings have been deposited on your bed.
---
JULIE: “Look, you opened my door without keys, fine, I can deal. Touching my stuff, though?”

COTTONHELM: “Oh! Goodness me, I only meant to swap these two XDrive comics! Got carried away, sorry!”

JULIE: “Hey! I’d finally sorted the core series by chronology, put those back!”

COTTONHELM: “Actually, your issue five is a misprint.”

JULIE: “Huh?”

COTTONHELM: “The Mundane branch of Whole Horse comics purposefully misprinted issue six as issue five. The original issue five was printed with subliminal codes that hinted towards DaiRuby’s eventual betrayal of the EcoSpace Rangers in issue ten, but those codes were written with illusion runes.”

JULIE: “I… EcoSpace Ranger XDrive is a Flipside thing?”

COTTONHELM: “The fear was that Mundane readers would see the runes and cross over prematurely, so that issue was delayed and replaced with the then-current Flipside issue six while issue five had to be reprinted en mass for Mundane audiences.”
COTTONHELM: “If you’ve read issue ten already, the core series will make much more sense sans runes if you give it a second read in this order. Follows its real-life inspiration much closer, too, though some would call that a ‘missed opportunity’.”

JULIE: “I thought the romance between DaiAqua and DaiSpinel felt rushed…”
JULIE: “Wait, the EcoSpace Rangers are REAL!?”

COTTONHELM: “Butter my biscuit! I’ve gone and made myself terribly late for a very important interview! Oh, I hope they’re still waiting for me…”
COTTONHELM: “I’m afraid we must part ways for now, Miss Mitchells. Don’t worry about your apartment, my people have spoken to your landlord and he will have your damage deposit mailed to you tomorrow.”

JULIE: “H-Hold on a sec…”

COTTONHELM: “Make sure to pack up everything you would like to take to School with you, Luca will be by shortly to relocate you somewhere less obvious.”

JULIE: “But I…!”

COTTONHELM: “Toodle-pip!”

---
With that, Cottonhelm disappears into his holodisk and takes off, escaping through the crack under your door. You are left alone in the silence of your apartment, and for a moment it feels like the last few days never happened. Then you hear the rustling of your scrubs and see the huge bottle of space juice sitting on the counter, and everything feels new again.

God damn it. You really wanted to ask him a few more questions... Whatever. You guess you’ll do some packing up? Or maybe you’ll take a look at that gigantic application form? You can even lay back and bask in existential uncertainty for a while, because this week’s been a shit show.

What do you do?

---

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RE: Four Painful Years
>Before you do anything else, you should probably make sure your apartment's front door is closed, locked, bolted if possible, maybe blocked by something if it opens inward.
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RE: Four Painful Years
>Call Luca using the cellphone, they're all good and all but god if this isn't the second weirdest thing that happened.
>the first thing is luca eating a pot of mayo.
Duck, duck, duck, duck, GHOOST.
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RE: Four Painful Years
>Take pictures and selfies. At least make some external memories for future reference.
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RE: Four Painful Years
The little guy never said it had to be done anytime soon. Sure, you want to begin your new life doing dope fantasy shit, but a small breather is in order. Who knows when you'll get another chance like this?
Make something to eat, build some model robots, and take some time to decompress.
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RE: Four Painful Years
That's a relief to hear... Hey who knows, maybe you could learn "magic" for non-lethal takedowns like stunning people or putting them to sleep?

Well that's enough about that for now, that was a lot of info to take in! Maybe you should contact Luca and let your friends/coworkers know you're preparing to leave.
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RE: Four Painful Years
Quote:> Contact Luca.

Might as well.

First, you lock the door and bolt it shut. Then you throw a blanket up over the curtain rod, just to eliminate the threat of snipers… you think. Look, you saw it in a movie once and you’re short on ideas.

Finally, you change out of your scrubs and back into your clothes. They’re cleaner than they were when you first put them on, and they smell like butterscotch. You’re gonna have to remember to ask that nurse what detergent he uses.

Okay, now you can call Luca. You plug your busted up phone into the wall and turn it on. Queued up are a text from Raj Parmar, your landlord, and a bunch of social media notifications, most of which are probably concerned relatives who caught the news this morning. You send each of them a quick private message to debunk your untimely demise before moving on to address Raj. How the hell are you going to explain any of this to him without coming across as a total loon?

---

LANDY MAN
12:14 PM
[ So how about that floating island?

LOL i bet the look on ur face was priceless just now. Nyway i got the news, don’t worry about your last month’s rent ur going to need it. Just leave my macross artbook in one of the cupboards before u go, i don’t want to go all the way to neo asgard just to get it back haha.
Good luck w everything. If u ever run into a yakshi named kajal, tell her that big brother says hi. She has leg mods w waves painted on, u can’t miss her.
-Raj

Ps. WATCH THE XDRIVE ANIME ALREADY ]

---

Jeez, is everyone you know a Flipsider!? Talk about feeling like a stranger in your own neighborhood!

You dial Luca. As the phone rings you attempt to guess what sort of mythological creature she’s supposed to be.

---

LUCA: “Hey.”

JULIE: “Harpy.”

LUCA: “... Oh, so it’s like that now?”

JULIE: “Guh! What? No! No, sorry, I-I was thinking, and… I was just thinking out loud and, and I… um...”
JULIE: “... Hi.”

LUCA: “What is it, Mitchells.”

JULIE: “I figured I’d let you in on what’s happening, since you’re like, the one in charge of keeping me safe and stuff.”
JULIE: “I’m attending MSTTE in September!”

LUCA: “Huh. I guess the rumors are true.”
LUCA: “Cottonhelm really will admit anything with a pulse.”

JULIE: “You’re not funny.”

LUCA: “Not tryna be. Whitey’s criteria for accepting new students is so inconsistent it’s basically random, like he picks names out a hat or something. So we end up with fresh Mundanes running around Neo Asgard not knowin’ their charms from their chainswords, n’ shit like that.”
LUCA: “Whatever. Prolly made an exception since you’re so damn priority. They drop you back at your place?”

JULIE: “Yeah.”

LUCA: “Kay. We’re on our way.”

JULIE: “We?”

LUCA: “The Grosvenor assholes wouldn’t stop pestering me 'til I said I’d drive ‘em to see you.”

JULIE: “W-Wait! Don’t come over yet, I haven’t even had the chance to clean up!”

LUCA: “So? You’re moving out tonight, literally no one cares.”
LUCA: “We’ll be there in fifteen. Bye.”

JULIE: “Oh! Luca! I just remembered something important I had to tell you!”

LUCA: “What?”

JULIE: “... Happy National Sandwich Day.”

LUCA: “...”

---

She hangs up. Flawless victory.

You fix yourself a helping of eggs and bacon. It just occurred to you how little you’ve eaten over the past few days. Here come the hunger pains.

---

SpoilerShow
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RE: Four Painful Years
>You've only got fifteen minutes, so you better ignore those hunger pains and get straight to packing!
Happymelon Hello, Eagle Time!
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RE: Four Painful Years
Prepare yourself and your living space for company.
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RE: Four Painful Years
(10-07-2018, 02:12 PM)The Purple Meanie Wrote: »>You've only got fifteen minutes, so you better ignore those hunger pains and get straight to packing!
(10-08-2018, 10:55 PM)KingMomo Wrote: »Prepare yourself and your living space for company.

You use what little time you have to scarf down your belated breakfast and do a modicum of tidying up. You cram your model kits into their designated boxes and in turn cram the boxes into the closet. The modelling mat can stay. Ain’t no one got time for that.

You also change out of your three-day-old clothes into something more comfortable. Clean as they are, re-wearing a pair of torn leggings that once had someone else’s blood on them strikes you as more than a little messed up. In fact, into the trash they go.

There’s a knock on the door. You finish sweeping crumbs under the stove and unlock the latch and deadbolt, making sure to look through the peephole first. Having a bounty on your head is such a pain in the ass!

---

JULIE: “My dudes!”

MAXWELL: “See? Tough as hell, I told you she’d be fine!”

TRENT: “Grats on the good health, boss!”

MUSTAFA: “I’m sorry we had to lie about you to the news, Julie… Your family must be inconsolable...”

JULIE: “N-no, thank you, seriously. I’d rather the world think I’m dead if it means everyone stops trying to kill me for a few days... Uh, come on in, find somewhere to sit, if you can.”
JULIE: “Hey Luca, we’re not leaving right away, are we? I haven’t really had the chance to pack anything...”

LUCA: “Take your time. We’ll leave when you’re ready.”
LUCA: “The boys’ve been drafted into helpin’ you lift the heavy stuff, if there is any.”

JULIE: “Oh yeah? How’d you manage that?”

LUCA: “They’re your friends, stupid. Friends have each other’s back in times like this. I didn’t even ask, they just volunteered.”
LUCA: “This helped.”

---

Luca picks a bag of something up off the floor. Sounds like a couple six-packs jangling around in there. Nice.

You’re finding it difficult to look any of your guests in the eye. You thought you knew them, understood who they were. Now that they’ve been revealed to be anything but normal, anything but “Mundane”, you’re having second thoughts. These people lived different lives around you. Fake lives. Probably with carefully fabricated backstories. Can you even trust them anymore?

Well… They haven’t attacked you yet or anything, and Luca’s around to stop them if they do… Maybe the differences are only superficial? Or are they just waiting to get you alone? What if Luca switched sides!?

Oh, look at that. Another headache.

Maxwell, Trent, Mustafa and Luca are relaxing in your apartment. What do you do?

---

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RE: Four Painful Years
>Before you go distrusting your long-time friends, you should probably keep in mind that if they're flipside magic people then they likely knew about the head thing the whole time they were befriending you and never tried to attack you, and they also sort of defended you. And if Luca had "switched sides" at this point she probably would've already snapped your neck or whatever, she doesn't really seem like the subtle type when it comes to deciding to kill people. Anyway, the way "masquerade" stuff usually works is that magic people around non-magic people are as much themselves as they can be, minus revealing the magic.
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RE: Four Painful Years
>Ask what happened with your neighbour after you hit him with four-and-a-half-tons of thirty-mile-an-hour iron justice.
>Trust your friends, they're still the same people.
Duck, duck, duck, duck, GHOOST.
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