Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 48 - Shadow

One cold winter night, the traveler found what it was looking for.
Epsilon: "Hey, kitty!  It's a pretty cold night to be out exploring, especially all the way up here in the graveyard."
The cat purred, looking up at the girl.
Epsilon: "You're all covered up in snow!  The heat transfer has to be...hmm..."
She bent down and rubbed under the cat's neck, feeling for tags or a collar but finding none.
Epsilon: "You don't have anywhere to go, do you?   Want to come back home with me?"
It purred again, rubbing against her hand and legs, so she picked it up, standing.  She thought that James wouldn't even notice if she brought home a stray, and there was just something about this cat.  She felt almost as if she'd known it her whole life, but that was silly, because she'd only met it just now.
Epsilon set up some basic supplies for it on the side porch, tucked away behind the chimney.
Epsilon: "Here you go, little guy.  I guess you need a name if you're going to stay here, huh?"
She sat back on her heels, regarding the small feline thoughtfully.
Epsilon: "Well, you're black, but not quite.  Just slightly off, especially those markings around your face.  It makes you hard to see, as you just blend into the shadows.  Hmm, Shadow, I like that name.  What do you think?"
The cat butted its head up against her hand, only relenting when she gave it a gentle scratch behind the ears.
Epsilon: "Alright, Shadow it is then.  Come on inside, let's get some sleep."
Epsilon was sleeping in Alpha's old bed now, as there wasn't much point to climbing on top of the bunk if there were only two of them in the room.  Shadow followed her into the bedroom and confidently hopped up onto the bedside table, curling into a ball to sleep.  It was as if they'd performed this routine a hundred times before.

Soon it was time for Omicron to start high school.  James, as usual, was being petulant.
James: "I don't see why you need to go out and get a cake and all that.  It's a bit much."
Epsilon: "Oh my god.  Look, if you're not going to eat cake, then go do the laundry or something."
James: "Fine, I will!"
His two children just ignored him.  Who knew what he was yelling about this time?  It was probably something entirely ridiculous.
James: "I am never doing laundry again, do you hear me?  Never!"
Back in the kitchen, Epsilon cheered Omicron as he blew out the candles - all in one go!
Omicron: "You know, I think it's probably bad luck that you found a black cat in the graveyard."
Epsilon: "Don't be silly, there's no such thing as bad luck.  That's just superstition."
Omicron: "Whatever.  I've got to go, I need to sign up for my after-school activities."
Epsilon: "What are you taking?"
Omicron: "I was thinking art and drama."
Epsilon: "That sounds fun.  See you later."
James: "Stupid gnomes.  Probably trying to take over the world.  Well, I've got my eye on you."
James was growing older as well.  Determined to drag the center of attention back into himself, he threw his own birthday party.  He sent out invitations to all of his old friends and bought a cake, but only one person ended up coming; he was pretty sure he hadn't even invited her, actually.
Woman: "Oh my god, it's cake!  I love cake!  Can I eat the cake?  Can I please?"
James: "Get.  Out.  Of.  My.  House."
Woman: "But...cake?"

On Snowflake Day, Epsilon and Omicron woke up early to get the most out of the festivities.
While Epsilon enjoyed some pancakes, Omicron had cake for breakfast.  It wasn't as if anyone was going to tell him not to.
When the festival opened, the siblings were waiting, ready to try some new activities.  Epsilon strapped on some ice skates and headed for the frozen pond.
It was tough going at first, but she soon found her balance.  It was all a matter of physics, in the end, and taking it slow and steady at first was the best way to learn.
Omicron was more ambitious in his choice of winter sports.  Despite his sister's cautions that he couldn't even walk ten feet without tripping over nothing, he found himself drawn to the snowboarding half-pipe.
This didn't look so hard.  He was even strapped to the board!  How could he mess it up?
He soon found out.  Painfully.  Luckily nothing was broken, just a few bruises, but Omicron was done with sports for the day.  He decided to make a snow man, instead.  Feeling a bit of a rebellious streak today, he dressed it up like the grim reaper.  That would shock everyone!
After he finished, he looked around the festival.  His gaze fell upon a group of children on the other side of the park, and he swore under his breath.  He wasn't being a rebel at all!  What did you have to do to be edgy in this town?
Noticing everybody else having so much fun with their snow men, Epsilon decided to make one of her own.
Grinning, she surveyed the army of grim reaper snow men, turning to look at her brother as he came over.
Epsilon: "It's like an army of grim reapers are taking over the park!"
Omicron: "You're so weird, do you know that?"
Epsilon: "Of course I do.  We should be getting back home, prom's tonight."
Omicron: "I'm still not sure if I want to go."
Epsilon: "Of course you do.  Alpha said she always regretted not being able to go.  You'll have a good time."
Omicron hoped she was right.  He'd had a hard time of it in elementary school, never really making any friends.  Prom was supposed to be a night you'd remember for the rest of your life, and he didn't want that memory to be a bad one.
Epsilon knew she was right.  The kids didn't tease her as much as they had in elementary school, and she was sure it would be the same way for Omicron.  It had taken her a few years, but she'd found her niche in the school's culture.  A solitary, nerdy niche, yes, but a niche all the same.  Omicron would too, he just had to be patient.  Prom might be just the event to help him out.

That same night, the night of the old solstice, an envoy sought an audience with an ancient king.
There was much to discuss.

~ * ~

And so the "panther" is be a housecat.  Sorry for the lack of scale context in the picture I ended the last chapter with, I didn't even think of that when I posted it.

James is an elder now.  He's certainly having a bit of a rough time of it, but it's kind of his own fault due to that attitude.

I don't know why everybody is making grim reaper snowmen.  It was totally creepy.  And please ignore the outfit stupidity - Omicron and Epsilon kept trying to change into their everyday outfits when at the festival.

I just noticed when writing this that there were a few pictures where I forgot to put the walls up.  Ajsgjerwh >_<

Friday, May 17, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 47 - A Life of Her Own

Dearest Epsilon,
I know you prefer traditional, handwritten letters, so I've taken time out of my busy schedule to write you one.  I know it's been a few weeks already, and I'm sorry about the delay.  It's been hard adjusting to life here, especially the roommate situation.  I'm staying in Malan Hall.
While the housing is included in the price of tuition, it means that I have to share the building with seven other people.  I wasn't even lucky enough to have my room to myself.  Luckily the girl I'm sharing with is hardly ever there, so I can get a few precious moments to myself.
When I feel the need to get out of the dormitory, to be properly alone, there's plenty of spots to hide away around the campus.  Nobody ever comes poking around the roofs.
As a technology major, I'm required to maintain and experiment with some equipment that was leased to me by the school.  It's been quite a challenge, but rewarding when I finally get it right.
Classes are interesting, you would like them.  Sometimes things can be frustratingly ridiculous, though, like when the stupid mascot shows up.  All of the other students laugh like it's hilarious, but it's really just disruptive.
When the lectures are serious, though, I do learn a lot.  Definitely more than I learned back at the high school in Sunset Valley.
Anyway, write back soon!  I want to know how things are going back home.  Is Omicron still having trouble with the kids at school?  How's work been?

Dear Epsilon,
I know, I know, I kept trying to visit but I was so busy over term break!  I tried to stop by, but Dad was there, and I didn't want to deal with him again, so I just went back to Valerie's.  Thanks so much for spotting me the extra cash to rent my own place, this time.  It couldn't have been avoided last term, as all underclassmen have to stay in dormitories, but I'm definitely enjoying the peace of having my own place.
Of course, as an upperclassman, I have a lot more work to do, especially since I signed up for the maximum amount of credits.  I had to give a presentation about database organization yesterday.  I was pretty nervous, having to get up in front of my entire class, but I think it turned out well.
There's lots of social groups on campus.  Even though I don't really hang out with them too much, the science nerds let me try out the contraption they've been building on campus.
I have no idea what it actually does, but it spins around when you turn it on, and the air inside it starts changing color.  It's almost like the spinning is causing some sort of a field that changes the physical properties of the air.  You'd understand it better than I would, Epsi.
It's going to be a challenge to get a 4.0 GPA again, but I know I can do it.  I just have to keep working hard.

Soon enough, it was time for Alpha to graduate.  She'd managed to achieve a 4.0 GPA for her second term, sealing her position on the Dean's List.  As she left the ceremony, she watched all of the other students mingling with their loved ones and regretted that there was nobody here for her.  With a sigh, she set off towards her rented home to get some sleep before she had to move back to Sunset Valley tomorrow.
Epsilon: "Hey!  Al!"
Alpha turned at the sound of her sister's voice.
Alpha: "Epsi!  What are you doing here?"
Epsilon: "I caught the bus up.  I didn't want you to graduate all by yourself, after all."
Alpha: "You didn't have to do that."
Epsilon: "Of course I did, don't be stupid.  So, what's next?"
Alpha: "For me?  Well, I have a job offer from the military.  They'd be starting me as a Squad Leader."
Epsilon wrinkled her nose a bit at that.
Epsilon: "The military?  I don't know, Al."
Alpha: "They pay well, and as a Squad Leader I wouldn't be under contract.  I could leave if I didn't like it.  It's apparently a much more technical position than what you'd get just enlisting at the military base back home, and it's not uncommon for technology graduates to work there."
Epsilon: "I guess it wouldn't be so bad.  It's not like we're at war, and it doesn't look like anything's heating up in the world.
Alpha: "Exactly.  I promise I'll write home when I can, and visit when I get leave."
The sisters said their goodbyes at Alpha's ceremony, but Omicron had to wait until Alpha had returned to Sunset Valley.  Alpha made sure that her brother knew that she was only an e-mail away, before packing her things yet again to catch her military transport.
As it had been on the night Alpha left for university, it was snowing as she made her way to the waiting taxi.  On the other side of town, another traveler was also making its own way through the deepening snow.  It had traveled a long way, and its journey was almost over.

~ * ~

Correspondence redux!  Epsilon does like her old-fashioned letters, she gets that from her mother.

This is it for Alpha, as far as her being a playable legacy spare is concerned.  What happens to her from here on out is largely to be determined by story progression.  The Magician hasn't forgotten about her, but he's patient in a way that only a vampire of over a thousand years can be.  I'm still waiting myself to see if anything comes of his run-in with Alpha, or if he gets distracted by more pressing matters.  Time will tell.

Please ignore the fact that it's winter in the legacy hood and summer/fall in the university hood.  I don't know how to fix this, and it really irritates me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 46 - Graduation

After Omicron's first day of school, his sister was waiting for him in the playground next to the schoolhouse.Epsilon: "That bad, huh?"
Omicron: "It was awful!  I thought I'd have so many friends, but they all just laughed at me."
Epsilon frowned sympathetically.  It sounded just like her first day, except it probably hit Omicron even harder because Epsilon hadn't expected to have any friends.  She never could have anticipated how cruel the other children would be, though.
Epsilon: "They teased you about your mom?"
Omicron: "Yeah.  They kept saying that I didn't look anything like her, and that she wasn't around because she was ashamed of me.  She's not, right?"
He looked up at his older sister, tears starting to form in his eyes.
Epsilon: "Of course she's not!  Why would she be?  I was too young to remember, but Al told me - your mom left because Dad threatened her.  He won't let her come around you, that's all, it's nothing to do with you."
Omicron folded his arms tightly and frowned, blinking the tears away.
Omicron: "Why did he have to do that?  I hate him."
Epsilon: "I don't know, Omi.  It doesn't make any sense."
He sighed and unfolded his arms, looking around the playground.
Omicron: "How'd you do it?"
Epsilon: "Huh?  Do what?"
Omicron: "Your hair.  Big Sis said that they teased you about it, and I remember how it was before.  It was all...funny."
Epsilon's voice was bitter as she replied.
Epsilon: "And now it's not?"
Omicron: "No!  Well, I guess, but it's less funny.  I like it."
Epsilon: "Well, thanks, I guess.  Nobody else does, they still tease me for it as much as before.  I guess I've just gotten better at ignoring it."
Omicron: "Well, I still like it.  It looks like that stuff I learned about in class today, um...the white stuff that comes during winter?"
Epsilon smiled a little.
Epsilon: "Snow?"
Omicron: "Yeah, that's it!  It's like that, I think it makes you special."
Epsilon: "Thanks.  I'm getting used to it, I guess."
Their conversation fell silent as the two siblings looked around the empty playground.
Omicron: "We should go.  We're gonna miss the bus."
Epsilon: "Already did, I saw it go while we were talking.  Don't worry, I have some money for a ticket on the regular bus.  Al was right, odd jobs around the school pay really well."
Omicron: "Maybe they'll let me do some when I'm bigger like you."
Epsilon: "I'm sure they will."

Soon it was time for graduations.  Both Alpha and Epsilon were graduating their respective schools this time around, though only the older sister had a school-organized ceremony to attend.  So as not to let her younger sister feel left out, Alpha splurged on a cake that the younger Woods children could enjoy while she was at the school.
She had to be careful with her limited funds, but elementary school graduation only came once in a child's life.  If there was ever a time when it was okay to drop $30 on a cake, that was it.  She graduated with highest honors, though her classmates were stumped as to what to caption her yearbook photo with.  They finally decided on "most likely to never leave the house," which Alpha had to admit was somewhat descriptive of her high school career.  The house was empty when she arrived home - Saturdays tended to be like that - and as she unpacked her bag the university admissions kit she'd been given at graduation caught her eye.  University was expensive, so there was no way she'd ever be able to afford to go.  But surely it wouldn't hurt to take the test, just to see whether she'd make it in or not.  Hypothetically speaking.
After all, merely taking the test didn't mean she'd have to go anywhere.  It was just an idle amusement for a quiet afternoon, that was all.

The results of the test surprised her.  She hadn't thought that she had many skills that a university would appreciate, but she tested high enough to receive awards in both the technology and physical education subjects.  More importantly, as a result of her well-rounded skills, the university was offering her a $1000 partial scholarship.  She crunched the numbers, double- and triple-checking every operation, but she could still hardly believe her results.  If she took a 12-credit load, even the partial scholarship would be enough to cover her tuition and housing.  She could go to university!  As soon as Epsilon walked in the door, Alpha ambushed her with the news.
Alpha: "You'll never believe what I just figured out."
Epsilon blinked in confusion, looking distracted.
Epsilon: "Huh?  What?"
Alpha: "Earth to Epsi!  Get out of your own head for a minute so I can talk to you, and then you can go back to whatever it is you were thinking about, okay?"
Epsilon: "Yeah, I'm sorry.  What did you figure out, Al?"
Alpha: "I took the SAT, and I can hardly believe it, but I qualify for a partial scholarship that will cover all of my expenses if I don't take a full load."
Epsilon: "That's great!  I know you wanted to go if you could, but there wasn't a whole lot of money."
Alpha: "Oh no, there's plenty of money.  We're just not allowed to touch it."
Her dry reply was tinged with disgust, though she kept her expression neutral.
Epsilon: "Omi will be, I think, when he's older.  Dad likes him.  Well, kind of.  At least more than he's ever liked either of us.  Anyway, don't get frustrated thinking about that.  You're going to university, that's a good thing.  You should focus on that."
Alpha: "You're right.  I'm happy that I can go, but I'm not sure if I should or not."
Epsilon: "What do you mean?  Of course you should go!"
Alpha: "I don't want to leave you two alone here.  You're still both young, and-"
Epsilon interrupted her.
Epsilon: "Don't worry, we'll be fine.  We're not that little anymore.  Omi's old enough to be in school, and I went out today and got a part-time job.  We'll have plenty of money once I get my first paycheck."
Alpha: "Oh, really?  I could never do that because I had to take care of the two of you, but I guess you don't have to worry about that.  Where'd you find work?"
Epsilon: "At the graveyard.  I'm going to be a Burial Specialist, whatever that means.  It's probably a glorified go-fer, but I don't mind.  They're paying me a lot, because apparently working there creeps most people out."
Alpha: "I thought cemeteries creeped you out, too."
Epsilon: "No!  I don't know how many times I have to tell you, Al.  They're not creepy, only the one we have is creepy."
Alpha: "Are you sure you weren't just feeling sick that day, or something?"
Epsilon: "Definitely not.  I went back a few days later to make sure I hadn't been imagining things, and I felt the exact same way once I got inside."
Alpha: "That doesn't make any sense."
Epsilon: "I know.  There's no explanation for it, and it really bothers me.  But anyway, I don't feel that way when I go to the one up the hill.  So that's where I'll be working."
Alpha: "At night?"
Epsilon made a face.
Epsilon: "Yeah, I know, vampires.  I'll be very careful, I promise.  I know you met one once, but don't you think that one might have just gotten way too into Spooky Day?  I checked all the town records, and nobody's gone missing or any strange happenings like that.  He was probably just traveling, or something."
Alpha: "You're probably right.  Still, you're my little sister, and it's my job to make sure you're careful."
Epsilon: "Oh, I definitely will be."
They hugged, Alpha burying her face into her sister's soft, white hair.
Alpha: "I'll miss you guys so much!"
Epsilon: "I'll miss you, too.  Don't forget to write, okay?  Proper letters."
Alpha: "I won't.  I'll give you my phone extension once I know it, so you can call and yell at me if I do forget."
Epsilon: "Count on it."

There was only one more thing left to do before Alpha could leave for university.
James: "Um, excuse me, I'm trying to walk here."
Alpha: "This.  This is what I'm talking about."
James: "Right now, I'm not at all sure what you're going on about.  Just move, I'm hungry."
Alpha: "No!  I'm tired of moving.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm going to be out of your hair.  Forever."
James: "That's great.  I'm still not sure why we're having this conversation."
Alpha: "Before I go, there's something I have to tell you.  Just one thing."
James: "Then hurry up and say it, already!"
Alpha: "You are a terrible father.  You only do the bare minimum required to get by.  Less than that, even.  You spent your time entertaining a string of lovers, half of which you shamelessly knocked up, rather than take care of your own children.  It's disgusting, and frankly I'm ashamed to be related to you."
James: "That's not-"
Alpha interrupted.
Alpha: "Stop.  I'm not finished.  You hardly did anything to help raise me, and by the time Epsilon and Omicron came along you were even worse.  Since I was here, and since I was the only one who cared, even a tiny bit, I raised them.  I did the best job I could do, and I'll have you know that it was a damn good one.  But it was because of me.  Not you.  I sacrificed so much of my time and my life these past years for those children, because I love them.  I'm okay with that, and if I was sent back in time I would do it all over again, a hundred times over, because they deserved better than you.  I just thought you should know that."
The room fell silent, except for the chatter of the weatherman on the TV - snow tonight, continuing through the small hours of the morning tomorrow, with four to six inches expected!
Alpha: "Don't have anything to say for yourself?  I thought you wouldn't.  I'll get out of your way now."
She'd stashed her suitcase behind one of the armchairs, so she could make a quick and dramatic exit.  Still riding on the adrenaline rush from her confrontation, she stepped quickly out of the door and down the steps.  The taxi wasn't here yet, but she'd just go around the corner to wait.  She couldn't give that man the satisfaction of seeing her waiting in the snow.

~ * ~

That's two chapters in a row that Alpha's had to put on her angry face!  Hopefully now that she's out on her own she won't have to use it quite so much.  She grew into such a pretty YA, I swear she didn't look that good when I aged her up in CAS to peek ahead.  Maybe it's just the haircut that flatters her.

This chapter was pretty much a giant mess of dialogue.  So many conversations that needed to be had.  If I was better at pacing, I would have avoided it all falling in one chapter.  Oh well.

Did James deserve that?  Probably.  Alpha needed to get it off her chest, at any rate.  There's only so much that meditation alone can fix.