"How You Combine Them"
Gray healed amazingly fast,
and he wasn't sure how much of it
was due to his new superpower
just because soups often healed well,
and how much of it was because of
the lacy black casts encasing his forearms.
He could move around without wincing,
and his arms no longer ached
when he used his hands.
"I love these casts," he told Thriver.
"Yeah, World Worker did a great job with
the design and programming," Thriver agreed.
It took Gray a couple of weeks to learn
enough control not to zap people
by accident unless they actually
made skin contact with him.
He figured out that, yes, his ability
worked primarily based on gaze
and the intensity dropped if he
couldn't see his target; but like
many superpowers, it was
enhanced by touch and could
still go off half-cocked that way.
"You're making good progress,"
Ricasso assured him after practice.
"I have a good teacher," Gray said.
He finally began to believe that
he could get a handle on his
erratic superpower and that it
wouldn't wreck the terrific setup
that he had going here.
It wasn't just knowing the right people
that was important in getting ahead,
but how you combined them.
After Thriver quit feeding him painkillers, though,
Gray had howling nightmares that not only
woke him up but also woke up Thriver
who'd been bunking in the next room
to keep an eye on him while he healed.
The first time it happened, Thriver
grated clinical-grade chocolate
to make hot cocoa, which was divine.
The second time it happened,
Thriver printed off a whole stack
of Emotional First Aid workbooks
on traumatic stress, anxiety,
and sleep disturbances.
"Just use whichever pages
seem helpful," Thriver advised.
"Most people feel shaken after
a beating as bad as you took, but
they don't all suffer exactly
the same aftershocks."
Gray leafed through the summaries
and the worksheets. Some of them
sounded similar to the materials
that he'd studied in the context
of kinky bedroom games,
particularly on aftercare.
He filled out a few of the ones
that looked most useful for sorting out
the jumble of thoughts and feelings
about what had happened to him.
That helped a little.
Gray was also going completely stir-crazy.
Thriver wouldn't let him back in the gym
until his arms were fully healed, and
the little gizmotronic screens on
his casts hadn't cleared him yet.
Ricasso wouldn't let him go back to work
until he was fully healed and gained
full control of his superpower.
Gray needed something to do, and
he needed positive things to think about.
So he looked up the community center
to see what kind of classes they offered.
To his delight, they had an intermediate
cooking class that featured French pastries.
He signed himself up for the class,
making sure to warn people not
to bump into him for safety reasons.
It was scheduled to last for a month,
meeting three times a week, with
the first and last sessions all talk
and the other ten each featuring
a different type of fancy pastry.
Everyone was cheerful and welcoming
and careful not to crash into him --
probably because of his casts, but
Gray would take what he could get.
The introductory meeting was fascinating.
He learned about the history of French cuisine
and different categories of their sweets.
The first recipe they actually got to make
was for Chocolate Choux Buns.
First he made the batter,
piped it onto a baking sheet,
and put it into the oven.
When the small blobs of dough
had baked to a perfect golden brown,
he took them out and made the filling.
Gray had just finished
squeezing the whipped cream
into the puffy little pastries
when Ricasso and Thriver
came into the kitchen.
"What smells so amazing?"
Thriver asked, sniffing the air.
"My homework," Gray said absently,
and maneuvered around them as he
made the first batch of frosting with
white chocolate. "I love this class.
It starts with a lecture, then we all make
the new recipe together, and finally we
go home to make it by ourselves."
Then he started on the second batch
using dark chocolate instead.
"Did you seriously steal my
clinical-grade chocolate to make
frosting?" Thriver exclaimed,
pointing at the wrappers.
"The box wasn't locked,"
Gray said mildly, "so technically,
it doesn't count as theft."
"Well, I'm stealing it back,"
Thriver declared, reaching past
him to swipe a finger over
the nearest of the buns.
"Quit that," Gray said,
batting his hand away.
"Yipe!" Thriver said as he
jumped away. "Damn it, Gray,
your power really bit me that time."
He rubbed at his sore hand.
"That time you actually annoyed him,"
Ricasso pointed out. "Wait until
he finishes the pastries, then
ask nicely if you want some."
He paused, then added, "And Gray,
check with Thriver next time you
want some of his supplies."
"Sorry I got grabby," Thriver said,
ducking his head. "That was rude.
I guess what you did wasn't any worse
than getting smacked with a spoon,
and I sure deserved that much."
Gray smoothed the frosting
with fussy strokes. "It's okay,
I can fix it," he said. "I'm sorry for
taking your chocolate without asking
first. Actually I just meant to take
one piece to cut the cravings like you
said to do, and then I thought how
amazing it would taste on pastries ..."
"I will forgive you if you let me be
your guinea pig for kitchen experiments,"
Thriver said, eyeing the laden tray.
"Sure," said Gray. He shifted
one each of white and dark
frosted pastries onto a plate
for Thriver, then repeated
the process for Ricasso.
As Gray turned back to finish
frosting the rest of the batch,
Thriver said, "Oh my god,
these are spectacular."
"You've quite outdone yourself,"
said Ricasso. "I've been admiring
your coffee cakes, but this is
a whole new league of delicious."
"Thank you," Gray said with a smile.
"Yeah, you could probably go pro
with this," said Thriver.
Gray wrinkled his nose. "I like
to hurt people, and I enjoy the job
I have now," he said. "I like to cook
as a hobby, because I find it relaxing.
I don't want to get a dayjob baking,
because I don't want it to turn into work."
"There are other options,"
said Thriver. "Remember how
you were wondering what to do
for World Worker in thanks for
the gizmotronic casts?"
Gray nodded. "Yeah."
"You should bake something for him,"
Thriver said. "Guy's got a sweet tooth,
but he hardly ever eats anything
that doesn't come out of a wrapper.
You have some common interests."
"Okay, I can see the similarity,"
Gray said. "Gizmology and baking
both blend science and art. You use
a certain set of materials, and the magic
really lies in how you combine them."
"And occasionally in snitching a friend's
clinical-grade goodies," Thriver teased.
"Well naturally," said Gray as
his hand darted out with the spoon
to dab dark chocolate frosting on
Thriver's nose, making his eyes cross.
"We are supervillains, after all."
* * *
Pain's Gray (Gray Agamau) -- He has fair skin, gray eyes, and ash-blond hair swept up toward the crown of his head. He's on the slim side for a fighter, but still has nicely defined muscles; they're just not overbuilt. He is heterosexual, but omnisensual, and often mistaken for homosexual. He tends to take out his temper on the homophobes when they pester him. Gray is popular among supervillains for combat support and running errands. He works for Ricasso, who sometimes loans out his services. He's prone to low blood sugar after stress or exertion, and needs to be careful to eat often enough. He is discovering a knack for making fancy pastries.
Uniform: Charcoal dexflan suit piped in reflective silver, with a cape of Payne's grey capery. His utility belt contains a well-stocked first aid kit; he's known for treating both sides in a fight, and for having the best bleeding-edge equipment from friends in zetetics.
Origin: Torture. He was an ordinary mook until someone decided to get information out of him the hard way. That really did not end well for them. Gray escaped, returned to his boss, explained his new talent, and got a raise.
Qualities: Good (+2) BDSM Switch, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Pastry Cook, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Low Blood Sugar
Powers: Good (+2) Pain Ray
Limitation: This is a gaze attack that requires eye contact for maximum effect. Without that, it's only Poor (-2). It becomes combat-ineffective, merely uncomfortable, if the target is nearby but he can't see them.
Motivation: "You're not as tough as you think you are."
Thriver (Alec McKinney) -- He has fair skin with freckles, green eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is slender and graceful. He can go for a long time without resting, if necessary, because of how his body stores energy.
After his superpower developed, Thriver lived on the streets for a while. He earned money by selling himself, not for sex, but for the thrill of playing with superpowers. Some supervillains in particular liked the fact that he could juice them up. Ricasso met him in passing, gave him money and food more than once, and tried to convince him to go to a shelter. Thriver always refused. Then one night, Thriver gave away too much of his energy. Ricasso found him passed out on the pavement and took him home. After some coaxing the next day, Thriver agreed to stay with him, and eventually joined the gang. His job is basically taking care of the other gang members, things like food and medical care and a sympathetic ear when they're upset.
Origin: His superpower manifested while he was in paramedic training, probably stimulated by the intense study. They kicked him out.
Uniform: Street clothes. He often wears a black leather jacket.
Qualities: Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Soup Friends, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Hates to See His Friends Hurt
Powers: Good (+2) Energy Transference
Motivation: Keep everyone running.
Ricasso (Antonin Torriani) -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and short wavy black hair with a mustache joining a complex beard. His eyes are the shade of hazel that blends amber and green toward the outside with darker brown near the pupils. His name refers to the unsharpened part of a sword blade that allows greater precision by placing a finger over it. His father's family comes from Duno, Province Varese, Lombardia, Italy. His other heritage includes French, British, and Spanish. Antonin is first-generation American.
Ricasso runs a supervillain gang, providing muscle and showmanship and other services. His preferred weapons include knives and swords, which he learned to use before gaining superpowers. As a hobby he enjoys kink and other forms of power exchange; he's a talented gentleman dom. He also likes dancing and other fashionable entertainments.
Origin: He inherited a sword pendant which granted him superpowers. It was made during the French Revolution.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Crime Boss, Expert (+4) Power Exchange, Good (+2) Ballroom Dancing, Good (+2) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Lockpicking, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Suave
Poor (-2) Coping with Crudity
Powers: Good (+2) Cutting, Good (+2) Precision, Average (0) Minions
The Spadonari include both superpowered and ordinary gang members. Their name means "sword dancers." While they aren't as numerous as some other gangs, their quality is beginning to attract attention.
* * *
"Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart."
-- Wolfgang Puck
Emotional trauma can lead to traumatic stress, either short-term or long-term. Basic emotional first aid or professional psychological first aid are among the ways to prevent PTSD. Terramagne has lower rates of serious mental issues because they treat things before it gets that bad. Understand how to help someone with traumatic stress.
EFA workbooks can help process disturbing events. This one is for PTSD. Here are some on imagery. There are anxiety guides for teens and adults.
Nightmares are a common result of post-traumatic stress. The can be part of the brain's attempt to process disturbing memories, or an effect of biochemical imbalance. Sometimes it helps to use a sleep workbook or nightmare worksheets. Different people find it helpful to lock away the nightmares or change them to positive imagery.
Coping strategies help people deal with challenges. Under high stress, someone may need to develop new ones. Gray copes with stress and boredom by taking up a new hobby. Browse lists of hobbies and other coping skills for ideas.
Mise en place is a French culinary technique of preparing things in advance, which literally means "put in place." It also improves organization in other life areas outside the kitchen, making it an ideal technique to practice during times of chaos. It can help you calculate preparation time, too. If you were wondering why Gray had all the chocolate unwrapped before he started making the icing, that's why. Understand the techniques and steps. Here is a worksheet and key about it.
The benefits of chocolate include physical, mental, and emotional ones. The chemistry of chocolate varies across different flavors and preparation methods.
Clinical-grade chocolate in Terramagne has higher quality and thus higher impact, but it is more expensive. Different types of cacao plant produce different flavors. Clinical-grade chocolate is organic, to avoid contamination from agrochemicals and ensure good soil quality. Here is some organic chocolate. Often it is also single-origin chocolate, which comes from a specific place with known terroir. Here are some single-origin chocolates. The percentage of cocoa in chocolate is what distinguishes dark from milk chocolate; most clinical-grade chocolate is dark, because it has more active components, but it occasionally comes in milk too. This comes from cacao beans or cacao nibs. Raw chocolate preserves more of its antioxidants and other features. Here are some raw and regional bars. This is a top-notch milk chocolate. You can also get raw organic cacao powder. Here are some tips on selecting high-quality chocolate and especially fine dark chocolate.
Making pastries can be fun. Gray's class features French pastries like these. Chocolate choux buns are tiny works of art. Edible, delicious art.</user></user></user></user></user>