Friday, December 9, 2016

Pieces of Truth (another super thing)

[So it's not uncommon in fan writing to pair heroes up with villains and if either is on a team, and not the team leader, it's often the case that the team leader gets the role of the bad guy trying to break up the one true pair.]
[I figured I'd give that a shot.]

"Labdiela," Caster said, "we found this when we raided the Colony server farm." Caster handed her a number of loose pages.  "You should read it."

* * *

At first she thought that it had to be a lie.  Caster had never approved, Caster would never approve, so it had to be . . . but in the end there was just too much.

The entire plan was laid out with the cold impersonal efficiency and clinical detail to be expected in any Colony mission proposal.  Somehow that made it all the more personal, all the more painful.

Every aspect planned out, an explanation for every decision.

Why target her?  Because she was the most controversial.  Quote from an op-ed:

A handful of demons have become champions of Justice, and they all share a common trait: they were born demons.  Born in darkness, and creatures of darkness, their striving toward the light is made all the more noble.  To compare them to Labdiela, a fallen angel, is to insult them.  A fallen angel must consciously turn away from the light.

References to over thirty other articles making more or less the same argument, also interviews in which other heroes had expressed doubts about her.

Why trick her into a fake romance instead of going the easier route of establishing a compromising friendship?  Again her species, again quotations from popular articles:

. . . furthermore her decision to dress provocatively brings to mind the lesson of Genesis 6; she is an abomination that could bring ruin upon the whole world.

She still remembered the pain of reading that the first time.

Analysis about how the public would likely react, more popular media about her.

In a recent poll, Labdiela was found to be the least trusted . . .

We will be repugnant in the eyes of God if we continue to harbor the traitor, Labdiela.

She swore in a language no human had ever been allowed to learn and smashed her bed against the ceiling with a flick of her wrist.

Once the why finished and the proposal moved into the land of "how" things got worse.  Their early meetings were described in the future tense.  Their first date planned out move for move and word for word.

When her rage ended, the only unscathed things left in her room were those protected by magical means.

She found herself in the corner sitting on the ground, back against the wall, knees pulled into her chest by shaking arms, sobbing.

* * *

The planning room was in some ways indistinguishable from Router's own space as the one organically flowed into the other with wires, cables and conduits connecting the spaces like the vessels of a living thing or the web of a spider.  Screens at angles that seemed odd to the others would illustrate points to be made or information to be communicated based on voice recognition, heuristic linguistic processing, and a bit of clunky but necessary code of Router's own design.

Router could move through the two story room in twisting ways some of the others claimed were inhuman, even though he could prove his DNA was nothing but ordinary, mundane, human and not in the least bit snake.

At the moment he was curled around a cable midway up the room, listening to an increasingly stupid idea from their leader, who always stayed on the ground floor and seldom paid attention to the array of monitors.

When he had finally reached the breaking point, Router said, "Uh, Tuesday is a horrible day.  This mission would be nearly impossible under optimal conditions, doing it without 'Diela is so unwise as to cause textbooks to be rewritten just so it can be the canonical textbook example of 'Stupid.'"

"Why would we be going without Lab?" Caster asked.  Over smug.  Under informed.

Router sighed.  There was a reason that even in their home they used code names.  Caster was an asshole.  There were some secondary reasons too, but it was mostly that Caster was an asshole.  A point made more salient by the fact that he'd just called Labdiela "Lab" when the only shortening of her name she didn't dislike was "'Diela".  Sure, she used "Delia" when pretending to be an ordinary civilian, but absent subterfuge the only name a non-asshole would call her other than "Labdiela" was "'Diela".

Router sighed then explained in tones reserved for tutorials made for those who couldn't understand the painfully obvious without a PowerPoint presentation.  "'Diela is not going to be here on Tuesday because she is taking a civilian day on Tuesday.  You could have found this out if you had bothered to look at the schedule any time in the past two weeks.

"I know you don't approve of the choices she's made in her personal life, but that doesn't mean that you can ignore when she is and is not available for a mission.  Given that 'Delia' and 'Anne' will be--"

"We don't have to worry about that," Caster said in that smug, superior, Caster-type way.

Router had a sinking feeling.  Well, Router felt like almost his entire body went in one direction and his stomach when in the opposite.  Whether it was sinking or rising depended on one's frame of reference.

"What did you do?"

* * *

Labdiela heard a knock.

She ignored it.  She was busy sobbing.

There was more knocking.

She ignored it.

There was pounding.


"If you don't open up, I'm coming in."

She heard the words, but didn't really process them.

Router was in front of her --kneeling to meet her eye level.

"Caster didn't give you all the information," he said.

There was silence for a long time.

Router didn't move.

Labdeila said, "I know enough."

"You're smarter than that," Router said.  "You've just been manipulated into not seeing it."

"What's to see?" Labdeila asked.  "It was all a lie."

"Back when I was still at The Parts Store, Eprom once told me that when someone gave you one part of the truth while holding back other parts it meant that they were trying to lie without lying," Router said.  "Someone can present carefully chosen bits of the truth in such a way that it make you believe a lie they never actually said."

"Do you have a point?"

"When a Colony mission reaches completion, the final report is a short five part summary.  Part one is a high level overview of why it succeeded or failed, none of the details.  Parts two through four are the objectives, operation, and outcome.  Part five is recommendations for future actions related to the mission."

"I cannot begin to describe how little I care about Colony record keeping right now," Labdiela said.  Besides, what did it matter?  She'd read the proposal, the mission hadn't reached its terminus yet.

"You should care.  The final report is the first thing someone sees when accessing mission records, so that a reader can use it to decide if they need the details," Router said.  "This is the first thing Caster saw," Router held out a paper.  It smelled of fresh toner.

"If he wanted you to know the truth, this is what he would have shown you."

Labdiela looked at the document she was being offered.

"I think I've had enough reading material for one . . ." she'd intended to say, "day" but it didn't feel right so she eventually settled on, "lifetime."

"Please," Router said, "you have to read this."

"What would I/O think of a Parts Store alumnus begging someone to read a piece of paper?" Labdiela asked, finishing with a small, sad, smile.

"Ok, N things," Router said.  "First, it's 'I/O Port'; Input/Output would be way too abstract for a Parts Store name.  It's not like the names 'Baud' and 'Parse' were our fault, after all.  Second, I don't think your computer will be up for displaying anything right now."  Labdiela looked at her computer, and was somewhat surprised that the main body had held up so well.  It was dented, dinged, and singed, but it was in one piece.  The monitor was definitely kaput though.

"Third, ditto for your Kindle."

Labdiela didn't even bother following the accompanying gestures with her eyes.

"N minus three, reading it will change your life," Router said.

"You can't say it that way," Labdiela said, her voice still depressed, but perhaps a little bit better.  "Not if you want to keep your tech cred."

"Fine," Router said.  "Thing N minus three: five things your boss does not want you to know, number three will change your life."


"N minus two," Router said, "I've never given you a reason not to trust me so when I tell you that you need to read this --by the way, you need to read this-- you should listen.  N minus one, I seriously will beg if that's what it takes, and no one wants to see that."

There was a silence.

"And thing N?" Labdiela asked.


"You're not going to leave my room unless I read it."

"Well," Router said, "I was more thinking that I wouldn't leave until you give me your word you'll read it."

"And if I do, you will?"

Router nodded.

"You have it." She took the document. "Get out of my room."

Router left.

* * *

It took a bit.  She had to set up her desk.  She had to partially reassemble her chair.  She had to repeatedly dry the tears from her eyes.  But she always kept her word, and so she read it.

She just took it in in one go, she'd process it later.

After some boilerplate, the actual description began.

- - -
General notes

The failure of this operation was not unforeseen.  It was known to be a high risk / high reward endeavor and several objections were logged (see Appendix C) because the risk was seen as too great.  Nonetheless, the potential gains of the plan were eventually deemed to be worth the risk (see Appendix A).

Complications and warning signs that would normally have resulted in the mission being cancelled were overshadowed by mounting evidence that, if successful, the results would be far beyond the original intended scope.  With the possibility of national, or even global, gains, the increasing risk of the mission was considered acceptable.  This decision was not that of the lead agent alone, but also supported by her entire team (Appendix D, Section 7) once the full scale of the operation's potential effects was understood.

- - -
Mission Description

Agent 3-121-01, Antic, was to seduce CA2-24, Labdiela, with the intent of creating a lasting romantic relationship.  Once sufficiently established, news of this relationship would be leaked to the public in a way that did not implicate 3-121-01 in the leaking.

While the intent of the operation was originally to use existing faults within the local opposition team, 3-121-O-∅, and the negative media environment surrounding CA2-24 to fracture the local opposition team, it soon became clear that the exploitable weaknesses spread far beyond the local opposition team as a result of the particularly controversial nature of CA2-24 and, in particular, certain religious interpretations of the relationship between her species, sexuality, and natural disaster.

The original intended outcome was to render team 3-121-O-∅ ineffective or defunct, with a best case outcome resulting in 3-121-O-∅ splitting into two hostile factions and CA2-24 herself defecting to the Colony.

As new information became available the best case outcome expanded to creating cracks, rifts, and other exploitable weaknesses in the opposition in general.

- - -
Mission Operation

The initial stages of the operation went as planned.  Agent 3-121-01 was able to establish off the record ties with CA2-24 and utilize them to create the intended relationship.

While not, strictly speaking, undercover, 3-121-01 was subject to many of the same pressures as an undercover agent.  In particular it is not uncommon for undercover operatives to come to sympathize with their purported cause and comrades.  Given sufficient time undercover operatives may begin to internalize aspects of their cover's personality.

Though falling in love with one's mark is a great deal more rare than simple sympathy, this was an extraordinary situation, and 3-121-01 should not be faulted for her emotions.

It is impossible to tell precisely when the romantic relationship with CA2-24 became "real" for 3-121-01 as the possibility of self-deception was present for as long as the actual relationship and the mission were not at odds.

When 3-121-01 was no longer able to deny that her feelings for CA2-24 were preventing her from carrying out the mission and impeding her ability to be an effective Colony agent, she immediately stepped down as leader of team 3-121 and resigned as a Colony agent.

- - -

The possibility that establishing a relationship between 3-121-01 and CA2-24 would influence 3-121-01 more than CA2-24 was considered before the mission began.  While it represented a failure it was not the worst case scenario as 3-121-01 has merely become a neutral party and not turned against the Colony.

CA2-24 is a unique case, and the role of her lover is already filled, so the design of this mission cannot be salvaged for reuse under more favorable conditions.

- - -

3-121-01 has proven that, while no longer an ally, she is not our enemy.  She could have done significant damage to Colony operations by remaining leader of team 3-121 after being compromised.  Instead she chose to step down and isolate the team and the Colony from any adverse effects of her shifted priorities.

This agent, 3-121-02, strongly recommends that she be left to her own devices and suffer no reprisal for her abrupt resignation.

In addition to the fact that turning 3-121-01 into an enemy --as any action against her is likely to do-- would be extremely ill advised, it must be noted that the relationship between her and CA2-24 is both real and quite strong.  Attacking CA2-24's partner would be inviting wrath like unto that of God's own.

It would be best to focus future efforts against 3-121-O-∅ on team members other than CA2-24 as any action targeting CA2-24 might be interpreted by 3-121-01 as a personal attack and thus push her toward being our enemy.

In other words: let Antic retire in peace --she has more than earned it-- and don't mess with her girlfriend.  Any other course of action will be opposed by the members of team 3-121 on both personal and professional grounds.

All that followed was boilerplate.

* * *

At first the words were little more than squiggles on paper and echoes in her mind, but as Labdiela allowed the meaning to sink in certain things stood out.
The failure of this operation . . .
While it represented a failure . . .
If the Colony considered the mission a failure then her relationship with Antic couldn't be what the papers Caster had given her implied it was.  This was further supported by things such as:
. . . falling in love with one's mark . . .
. . . the romantic relationship with CA2-24 became "real" for 3-121-01 . . .
. . .the relationship between her and CA2-24 is both real and quite strong.
and the use of the word "girlfriend" in the less formal note at the end.

Was it possible . ? .

* Three Hours Later *

Labdiela burst out of her room, nearly crashed into Router in the hall, said the words, "Thank you; right about life changing; bye," in a single breath, gave him the final operation report, now covered with the ink of underlines, marginalia, circles and arrows, inline glossing of terms, and some notes in a script no human had ever recorded, continued down the hall at a running pace, and jumped through the open window at the end.

Router walked to the window, noted Labdiela flying above the lower buildings on cyan wings, and said, "I guess she read it," to himself.

* * *

Antic was sitting on a park bench contemplating various things that would result in her death without seriously considering any of them.  She wasn't suicidal and she never would be, but at times like this she thought a lot about death.

She'd given up everything and it had seemed completely worth it, but now . . .

She opened her phone, looked at the text she'd received from Caster again, decided she didn't really care how he got her number, and was about to consider how hard it would really be to swim straight out into the ocean until she lacked the energy to keep her head above water, when a voice she didn't expect to hear in a tone she definitely didn't expect said, "He always was an asshole."

Antic looked up and back to see Labdiela reading the text over her shoulder.

"Is the seat next to you taken?"

Antic couldn't find any words, and finally just patted the bench to her right.

"So," Labdiela said as she sat next to Antic, "why me, why you, and why the hell does three dash one twenty one get used in three different contexts?"

"Uhh . . ." Antic said.  "First, you're the most powerful person on your team, and really beautiful, and the media narratives were against you, and . . . stuff.

"Second, because if someone on my team was going to get to kiss you I wanted it to be me.

"Third, the first number is general location: null for roaming, 1 for global, 2 for Europe, 3 for North America.  Second number is the number of the Colony team.  We were the one hundred and twenty first North American Colony Team.  If it stops there then it's the team.  If it's followed by a number then it indicates a team member, numbers assigned in order of joining or, for members who joined at the same time, highest ranking first.

"If it's followed by a letter then it indicates a thing within that team's territory.  I'm guessing you saw 'O'." Labdiela nodded.  "That means opposition.  If there's only one opposition team then it's followed by a null, if there is more than one then they're numbered."

"So why wasn't I 3-121-O-∅-[two digit number]?" Labdiela asked.

"Alphabet codes supersede team member codes," Antic said.

"Do I want to know what it stands for?"

"Maybe.  Does the fact you're not trying to kill me mean we still have a future?"

"I think so, but there's something I really need to know," Labdiela said.  "No lies."


"Were you really going to use me like you said in your mission proposal?"

"I . . . I told myself I was," Antic said.  "Maybe I believed it, I'm not even sure.  I think I just wanted an excuse to be with you.  The mission practically wrote itself, then I could try to get you to date me without feeling like I was betraying the Colony."

"You're fucked up," Labdiela said.  "You know that?"

"Of course I know that," Antic said.

"My girlfriend needs therapy," Labdiela said.

"So-- so I am still your girlfriend?" Antic asked.  The mixture of fear and hope was almost heartbreaking.  Almost.

"Yeah," Labdiela said.  "You and I both have Router to thank for that."


* * *

Router was hanging by his knees from a conduit near the ceiling when an anonymous email arrived with a massive amount of baggage.  He ordered the email moved to an isolated disk, and only opened it once he'd cut that disk off from the rest of his network.

The text read:
Heard you're the reason I'm not suddenly single.  Thanks.  Thought you could use these.
-- A
Router looked at the attached files.  Each began with the words, "Competition Technology" and what followed were the strings of digits and dashes one expected from Colony record keeping.

He opened the first file and hoped it wasn't a trick.  True, the most a virus could do would be to wreak havoc on the isolated drive, but it could still make a mess with the tricks some people had discovered.

Instead his screens were flooded with diagrams and technical specifications.

Hours later the scope of what he'd been given was still sinking in.  It was everything the Colony knew about the technology employed by every criminal organization other than the Colony itself.



Random notes:

"Labdiela" is a very basic bashing together of word parts to create something that might, possibly, translate to "not God's servant" + "a" because focus groups said that superheroes with names ending in vowels . . .

Ok, I wanted something that made sense for a fallen angel.  A self-chosen name that expressed how big of a deal it is to say, "Fuck off," to God and then go down to earth and try to do a better job of creating a better world.

"The Parts Store" was basically my idea of a place from which piles of tech people with really boring, downright stupid, names could come from.  "Why would you name yourself Transistor?" "I'm a former member of The Parts Store.  I studied under Capacitor."

Caster gets his name because his powers are light based.  He casts rays.  Unlike Router, he has no excuse for his name.

The Colony is an organization that takes super-villainy seriously.  Reports must be filled out correctly.

CA2-24 = Celestial, Angelic, State 2 (fallen) - 24.  The Colony has had cause to give identification codes to 23 fallen angels before Labdiela.

Antic isn't redeemed to the side of good by love.  She's a neutral party who still considers members of her old team somewhere between friend and family.  The info dump she sent to Router was entirely about other groups' technology.

Router moves around his technology in three ways: like a xenomorph from Aliens moves around the hive, like a child moves around a playground, some combination of the previous two.

There might have been other notes I meant to write at some point.


  1. pair heroes up with villains ...thinks of DEBS...

    heuristic linguistic processing mmmm, sexy

    not in the least bit snake Definitely not a wolf pretending to be a graphic designer who enjoys hot bean juice.

    Labdiela Does this name mean something? And how many syllables ought one include?

    five things your boss does not want you to know, number three will change your life." Yes good

    1. Woo, comment!

      In general thanks for commenting, in particular:

      And how many syllables ought one include?


      It would be better if I could get a source telling me for sure how to correctly divide up "Abdiel" as that, unlike Labdiela, is a real name.

      Anyway, "Labdiela" is "La Abdiel" with the "a"s in "La Ab" merged to give a single first syllable and an "a" added to the end to indicate "not the same as the male name".

    2. And of course I messed that up. Let's try that again:


      I've always had trouble dividing syllables correctly, for whatever reason.

      Anyway, it's el·a not e·la because the "a" was an addition to the "el" so "el" retains syllable status. Plus "el" is kind of important in this context seeing as how it means "god" and the name is built on the idea of breaking free of servitude to God.

      Or something like that. I really should learn ancient Hebrew.

  2. Okay, thank you, I needed something like this.

    Heroes/villains shipping is very much My Thing. That's not really why I'm thanking you, though that too. I'm just currently frustrated and angry and had been crying for two hours and probably maybe falling ill, and this story makes me feel somewhat better emotionally. I need more canon same-sex relationships in my life *right now*. I don't even need them to necessarily be healthy and unproblematic - I just need them *to be*. So your story helped a bit.


  3. Seed of Bismuth from Fred Clark's Left Behind decon
    this was awesome keep up the good work

  4. Over smug. Under informed.

    This is the best description ever. So perfectly evocative.

  5. I like this story a lot.

    I was a little confused, though - did Labdiela already know Antic was a Colony agent, and just didn't know about the mission and thought they'd fallen in love naturally, or had she thought Antic was a civilian or something else? How much of this was new information, I guess is what I'm asking.

    Also, Antic seems pretty great, and the Colony an interesting place (or group?). For some reason I find the idea of supervillains who insist on perfect record-keeping funny and awesome.

    Also also, I find problems that could be solved if people would just talk to each other, and stories where those problems continue because they don't, frustrating, so I appreciate that they solved the problem in a few hours because Router is a good person and just tells her the truth. Though this incident might easily end up fracturing the team with the others against Caster, because he's awful.

    Um, anyway. I liked the story.


    1. What you said about the superb recordkeeping and hating problems that aren't solved by talking for no reason. The team should split, or boot Castor, or something...

    2. Ok, so, first: I thought I replied to this days ago. Second: my reply, which had been sitting there fine for days, was eaten today just now.

      How much of this was new information, I guess is what I'm asking.

      So, one of the problems of writing in fragments is that they lack context. Thus, context:

      Labdiela knew who Antic was from the start, and had suspicions that something was up when Antic showed an interest in hanging out with her, but by the time the two started dating those suspicions had been cast aside and it never really occurred to her that their romantic relationship might be part of some plot.

      Well, sort of cast aside. She still wouldn't have been surprised if them starting to meet had been an aspect of some plot or other, but becoming actual friends, and then falling in love, seemed natural and real. (Mostly because it was.)

      And there's also sort of a situation where there's a Catch-22-esque thing going on.

      She would have been able to see that all of the things that had been planned out ahead of time in the mission report had felt off when they happened in real life, while the rest of their relationship didn't -- specifically they felt awkward, stilted, and unnatural while the rest of the relationship felt much more flowing and natural-- if not for the extreme emotion involved.

      However, if not for the extreme emotion involved it wouldn't matter much anyway.