1.7 The Initiative
Luna regularly stalks her siblings on Simstagram, since they rarely call or text, and she's developed the uncanny ability to predict what each sibling will post. Solaris posts pictures of his wife and kids, Zenith of his guitars and (drum) kits. Nova posts pictures of herself performing daring feats of acrobatics, and Elysia almost exclusively posts pictures of food from exotic locations. Luna’s book (soon to be plural “books”) doesn’t translate well to social media so her feed is filled with snapshots of generic sunsets. #nofilter #blessed
She feels a pang of jealousy when she sees Elysia’s newest upload: a picture of herself perfectly framed in front of a beautiful Egyptian oasis, no doubt the result of her newest travel writing gig.
“Do you think I’m boring?” Luna turns off her phone and tosses onto a nearby shelf, out of reach so she won’t be tempted to check Simstagram again.
“If you’re hanging out with the likes of me, chances are that you’re not very exciting,” Crimson’s reply is dry. He doesn’t look up from the computer screen. Luna’s newest book, The Initiative, is in dire need of proofreading, and he’s here to help with that. He’s been to her house several times now, after a few cautious weeks during which they only met at cafes and parks.
Soon Crimson becomes an awkward fixture in the household. Quentin works from the late afternoons (pre-performance practice) to the late evenings (post-practice performance), and Crimson occasionally joins the couple for a quick bite to eat. At first, Luna had to beg Quentin to stick around whenever Crimson came over. He wanted nothing to do with “the creepy stalker,” as he called him. However, it turns out the two share a lot in common: First, a love of pizza. Second, a love of a couple of obscure ska bands.
Okay, so they shared two things in common, but that was enough for them to bond. Quentin is, after all, a friendly person. Furthermore, he can tell his girlfriend needs some sort of stable source of social interaction. He has his band members—all of whom he’s close to—but other than him, Luna has no one in Aurora Skies. And as much as she denies it, she obviously misses her strange family, and strange Crimson seems to remind her of them.
Thus, the two men discuss their favorite bands over pizza every Tuesday after Quentin gets off of work, a concerted effort by both parties to come to some sort of common ground. And their common ground culminated in a heated discussion about a particular band.
“Yes, Hoboken Days was definitely a formative album for Lamppost Propaganda—but Elsewhere in the Midst is a much better representation of the artist’s struggles with existential crises,” Crimson made his point with a mouthful of pizza.
“That’s not the point I’m making, bro. Hoboken Days is raw in a way that LP’s later albums never are, and that’s what being an artist is about: raw emotion,” Quentin was adamant.
The only ska band Luna knows is Yes Trust, so she felt very left out of this conversation. She made an ugly face while she tries to think of some way to contribute.
“You know, I like Lynn from Yes Trust—“
“Oh, boo!” Quentin jeered, “We’re not talking about that pop-punk bullshit. This is about real music.”
“Boo! Hiss!” Crimson actually said “hiss” instead of hissing, so it doesn’t have its full effect.
And so Luna occasionally feels like a third wheel to her boyfriend and her best friend.
Tonight is a Monday, though, so it’s just Crimson and Luna since Quentin has a standing friend-date to go out with the band after their performance. The two sit in silence. Some nights are full of exuberant conversation and others are just like this: quiet, Crimson reading Luna’s work and Luna’s mind running amok.
“Done,” he says when he reaches the last word of The Initiative, “and I fixed every typo I saw. I think we need to talk again about the wisdom of using the oxford comma.”
“What did you think?”
“It’s good,” Crimson says thoughtfully, “Different from your last book, but I think that’ll deter you from a sophomore slump.” He stands up and stretches, but says nothing else. Luna is disappointed--she’d like to either be showered with praise or given constructive criticism--but she also understands the drained feeling that accompanies an intense proofreading session.
As Crimson stretches he studies the drawings pinned up on the wall. There’s a couple of sci-fi themed drawings, and one that looks like a chaotic array of lines. He stares at it for a moment, until Quentin’s face comes into focus.
"It’s a good drawing," Crimson says, “he’s very handsome.”
"I know got a bromance brewing, but I don't think you’re his type."
Crimson ignores her comment. "You don't ever get jealous of other women?"
Luna is taken aback: not only is it a pointed question, but it’s surprisingly astute. She sees how strangers look at her and Quentin. He's cute for sure. And then there's her: unsettling, awkward. Ugly. Even if Quentin finds her attractive, it’s not because she’s conventional looking.
“How about I make us some coffee?” she offers, clumsily changing the subject, “Oh, do you mind staying a little late tonight? I don’t want to be alone and Quentin isn’t going to get home for a couple more hours.”
“Sure,” Crimson should probably be annoyed at how often Luna asks him to stay late while she waits up for her boyfriend. He’s happy to do it, though. Anything to spend more time with her. Truthfully, his feelings for her have subsided and exist mostly as a low-level crush: it’s nice to fantasize about, but he understands nothing will ever come of it. He’s content with friendship status.
While Luna busies herself making--in Crimson’s opinion--coffee that is far too strong, he sits on the couch and looks out the window. The house looks so different from the inside. His mind wanders back to that night, standing out in the cold, looking in through the ice-covered window. He’s tried to force that memory out of his mind, but it resurfaces constantly, and it’s always accompanied by excitement, shame, and regret.
Whenever Crimson falls deep into thought like this, his eyes glaze over and he becomes very still. It’s unnerving to some, but Luna has quickly gotten used to it.
“So,” Luna breaks the silence. She knows that he can brood for hours if no one interrupts him. “You said it was ‘good but different.’ What do you mean? It’s a sequel, so it’s not the different.”
Crimson’s eyes refocus and he looks at her, “I didn’t expect the fantasy elements. Werewolves, vampires, fairies, telepaths--it came out of nowhere, especially considering how scientifically accurate your previous novel was, despite the sci-fi setting.”
Luna’s a little insulted. “Those aren’t fantasy elements. All those things exist.”
“Sure,” Crimson--the alien born on a different planet and raised with a completely different set of cultural norms--snorts.
“My sister is a telepath.”
“I’m sure you believe she’s a telepath, but I have never seen compelling evidence that definitely proves telepathy is possible.”
“Have you seen any evidence at all?”
“Yes,” Crimson says, “my father deeply believed in the possibility of telepathy in some Alcyonians. He had agents researching it, and their results were inconclusive. Ergo, no telepaths.”
“Oh,” Luna says, “well, maybe they were crappy researchers because my sister is a telepath, and so is my stepmom. So there.”
Crimson gives her a skeptical look. His father used to rant at him and his sister about his top secret, cognition-centered projects. He even had them undergo testing and training, but it amounted to nothing. What a waste of time.
“Don’t look at me like that. Why can’t you just take my word for it?!”
“Let’s make a deal: invite your sister to Aurora Skies sometime, and if she can read my mind I owe you one.”
“Owe me one what?”
“I don’t know. Whatever you want.”
Luna considers his offer for a moment. “Well it doesn’t matter. She’s in Egypt right now, and I bet she’s going to China next, and then France, and then the moon probably.”
“Until you prove it I will continue to mock your superstition.”
Crimson’s playful teasing is interrupted by the doorbell.
Luna rises from the couch and walks softly to the door, trying to be quiet in case it’s a stranger and she has to pretend she’s not home. After all, only a murderer would ring her doorbell this late at night. Her jaw drops when she peeks through the peephole. She throws open the door.
“Surprise, sister!” It’s Elysia, in the flesh and very much not in Egypt. If this wasn’t Luna’s real life, she would think it was some cheap narrative trick to bring characters together purely for strife and discord.
“Elsyia, I thought you were in Egypt.”
“Um, not exactly…”
“No, I’ve been to some of them. I just stopped going anywhere in, like, the past six months or so.”
“But you wrote a book just a month ago about backpacking across France!”
“Yeah, I wrote the book. It doesn’t mean I actually backpacked across France,” Elysia laughs, as if that’s an obvious conclusion to make.
Crimson feels incredibly awkward sitting here listening to this trainwreck of a story. He wonders if he should excuse himself, or if he should just leave without saying anything.
“I thought you were getting paid to do that? Why didn’t you go?” Luna would love to be paid to go on vacation.
“I was sponsored by Simnited Airlines to go and I signed a deal with my employer to write the book, but I just didn’t feel like it,” she shrugs, “it’s weird. I guess I was a little burned out or something.”
“What did you do instead of traveling? Sunset Valley is so small you couldn’t have stayed home. People would have noticed.”
“Well, at first I would use the money I got from sponsors to go to Isla Paradiso since it’s close by and I could relax there. Then I got lazy and I would stay home and live off delivery food, because I figured people are so stupid they wouldn’t notice,” Elysia sighs, “but I was wrong.”
“Were you fired?” Luna can’t believe her sister. Elysia has always been arrogant, but she’s never been this criminal about it.
“Well, yeah. Of course I was fired. And now Simnited Airlines is threatening criminal charges against me for fraud and, ugh. I’m so stressed right now.”
Sounds like you could use a vacation, Crimson thinks, smirking. Elysia shoots him a dirty look. For a moment, his heart skips a beat. Could Luna be telling the truth? There’s only one way to find out, so Crimson conjures the most obscene image he can think of and waits for Elysia’s reaction, but it doesn’t come.
“So what are you going to do?”
“Well, darling sister,” Elysia smiles sweetly, “you told me how beautiful Aurora Skies is, and I’ve missed you so much so I thought I would come and visit for awhile until I get back on my feet.”
Luna smiles, delighted to hear that her sister thinks so fondly of her.
“I suppose it helps that Aurora Skies is so remote and so bureaucratic that extraditions for petty crimes are rarely approved,” Crimson finally speaks.
Luna frowns, disappointed to realize that her sister has an ulterior motive.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Elysia sneers as she sits on the couch next to him.
“Crimson,” he pauses, wondering if he should add more, “I’m Luna’s friend.”
She glares at him as she concentrates as hard as she can. It doesn’t take her much effort to verbally eviscerate someone--usually, it only requires a quick dip into her opponent’s mind so she can find some embarrassing secret or a fear. Trying to get deep into Crimson’s mind, though, felt like swim in tar pits. She can tell his mind is a mess, but it’s a mess that’s on lockdown.
“What do you know?” she snaps, “asshole.”
“Elly, stop--” Luna tries to intervene.
“I know what you did is probably a felony,” Crimson sneers back at her. His infatuation with Luna is now balanced out by his contempt for her sister.
“Hey, that’s not cool--” Luna is interrupted again.
“Wrong, dumbass, it’s just a misdemeanor. I hope you can get a refund for your law degree.”
“I don’t have a law degree.”
“Nah, really? I wouldn’t have guessed it.”
The two are so busy staring each other down, they don’t notice Quentin enter the door behind them.
“Hey bro, I met your sister today--oh, hey Elysia. What are you doing here? I thought you were in Egypt.”
Quentin likes Elysia okay, but he always feels awkward around her. How often does she read his mind? Is it constant, or does she have to actually concentrate on reading his mind? Has she ever read his mind while he’s thinking about other women? He can’t help it—he’s a red-blooded man. He’s bound to think about someone like Kim Kardashiasim. He’s only human. That doesn’t mean he isn’t completely devoted to Luna. I am completely devoted to Luna, he thinks loudly.
“I’ve come to visit, but this jackoff is making me reconsider.”
“I think it’s time for me to go,” Crimson says as he stands up.
“Oh, no,” Elysia jeers mockingly, “you’ve been so much fun!” She follows him to the door as she taunts him.
“I’m sure. I look forward to your visit. Just what Aurora Skies needs--another cold front,” Crimson cringes at his weak insult, and for a moment Elysia can make her way into his mind. A familiar sense of self-loathing crashes over her. It was weird to feel it coming from—and directed at—someone else.
“Okay. Drive safe, buddy,” Quentin is disappointed that Crimson is leaving so soon.Backup would be nice, but he respects Crimson’s decision to retreat.
“Honey, could you make up the couch for Elsyia? I’m going to go to bed,” Luna’s voice is tired. She wonders if there are any hotels in Aurora Skies.
And so Luna and Quentin have a new houseguest.
***Author’s note: For those who need a reminder/didn’t read my last legacy: Elysia is a telepath, as is Lily Aquila, Luna’s stepmom. Crux discovered from Quentin’s dad, Lawrence (who was an evil businessman), that Alcyonian-Human offspring have the potential to be telepathic. I honestly don’t remember why I wrote telepathy into my previous legacy, but it’s there so I’m going to use it for storytelling purposes (ooooohhhh, that was probably why I wrote it in).
In game notes: Quentin is level 6 of his career, and Luna has actually published six books. They both have to have hobbies as per their rolls, so Quentin gardens and Luna paints and sketches. She collects gemstones for her “My Precious” goal and they are on display by the front door (you can see them in some of the pictures). You may have also noticed that there is some fire damage in the kitchen--Luna set the kitchen on fire again.