Warning: This poem contains intense material. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features sudden and (necessarily) fairly rough waking of Ansel by Turq, the first time Turq comes upstairs without direct encouragement, Turq's considerable stress over being indoors at all, reporting a major incident with Mr. Dipper and some kids who probably don't want to be with him, faginy, asking for help and getting it, but still being panicky, references to Turq backsliding after meeting his family, Turq's stumbling path back to everyday society, volunteering for hazardous activities, preliminary plans for a police raid on Mr. Dipper's place, Turq's car issues, betrayal, ethical dilemmas, feeling broken, trust issues, and other difficulties. On the whole, though, interactions between Turq and Ansel are positive. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward. This is a major plot point, so skipping it would leave a huge gap.
"Your Heart and Your Trust"
Ansel woke with someone shaking him,
rather hard, which was necessary.
"Wake up wake up please wake up,"
Turq chanted in a tone that suggested
he had been saying it for a while.
Ansel's brain lit up with the bright, particular fizz
of his emergency jumpstart flooding his body
with adrenaline and a sense of urgency.
"All right, Turq, I'm awake," he said.
"You can tell me what's wrong now."
Something had to be: this was
the first time Turq had come into
Ansel's bedroom, and he had only
made it upstairs a few times before --
and never without a direct invitation.
"I need your help," Turq said. He let go
of Ansel and clasped his hands so tightly
that the knuckles blanched. "There, there's
some new kids over at Mr. Dipper's and
I don't think they want to be there."
His voice scaled up in stress until
it squeaked and he gasped for breath,
starting to panic in earnest now.
"Okay, that's a good start," Ansel said
as he sat up enough to catch Turq by
the shoulders. Turq was shaking, but it
wasn't that cold in the room. "Let's get you
calmed down a little so that we can talk this
through. You're heading for a panic attack,
and that is not going to help anyone.
Feel my hands. Breathe with me."
He huffed softly, letting his breath
spill over Turq. The rhythm and
the scent of it helped Turq relax,
at least enough to stop trembling.
"Sorry," Turq said. "It's just, I'm not
good at this, I don't know what to do."
"That's fine," Ansel assured him.
"It takes practice to handle a crisis
calmly. I know what to do, and I'll
walk you through it, okay? Now start
at the beginning and tell me what's
going on at Mr. Dipper's place."
"There's some new kids, I think they
came in on a bus or something," Turq said.
"Crackleball brought them in last night."
Ansel glanced at the windows,
where the broad panes of sky were
bleaching toward dawn but not there yet.
"What makes you think that the new kids
don't want to be there?" he asked.
Nobody belonged with Mr. Dipper,
who was the sorriest case of fagin that
Ansel ever had seen, but they hadn't quite
managed to pin him yet -- and right now
Ansel needed to know just how bad
this current mess was likely to get.
"They're crying," Turq said. "I was
crashed on the lounge there, the one on
the porch, and the sound woke me up."
That meant it had probably been loud enough
to hear through the wall, or at least through
the sliding glass doors of the back porch.
That was not a good sign at all.
Neither was Turq being over at
Mr. Dipper's in the first place, but he'd
been backsliding in ways that drove Ansel
up a wall, although Dao and Mingxia swore
this stuff was normal, even encouraging,
for a kid with his background.
"Do you have any idea how many
of them are new?" Ansel asked.
"No, I don't know, three or four
maybe?" Turq said. "A couple of
girls and at least one boy. But there's
already like a dozen of us. Me and
Crackleball are the only soups right now."
"Thank you for telling me," Ansel said.
"I know you're scared, but it was very brave
of you to come here with this. Now I need you
to make an important decision -- are you done
helping me, or are you willing to do more?"
"Like what?" Turq said, his eyes huge
and shining in the dim room.
"Anything you can tell us about the house,
the people there, what they're likely to do --
all of that would help us get the children out
safely," said Ansel. "Better yet would be
if you feel up to accompanying us. We'll
have to raid the place, and that's risky, but
it's easier if we have good information."
"You mean like ... scout it out for you?"
Turq said, cocking his head.
"If you feel comfortable with that,"
Ansel said. "You are absolutely not
obligated to do more than you have."
"It's my fault for being in a gang anyway,"
Turq said. He slumped on the edge of
the bed. "I should make up for that."
"You're only responsible for yourself, Turq,
and not for Mr. Dipper's malfeasance or
other kids getting into trouble," said Ansel.
"We'll worry about your part of this later."
Turq jittered hard enough to shake
the mattress. "I don't know," he said.
"I don't know how to decide."
"Are you ready to leave the gang?
What about the streets?" Ansel said.
"If you're seen helping the police,
that could burn a lot of bridges."
"I'm through with Mr. Dipper,"
Turq said vehemently. "The streets ...
I don't know if I'm ready for that yet."
"Mr. Dipper never really had ahold of
your heart and your trust, did he?"
Ansel guessed. "But the streets
still feel like a refuge to you."
"Yeah," Turq said. "He was just
a place to stay and connections and
such, didn't even feed us very well.
I do okay on the streets, but I need
to sleep sometimes, and I don't want
to drift too far from the human stuff."
"Okay," said Ansel. "That means we
need to be discreet and try not to let
too many people see you helping, if
you choose to do that. There are
some serious perks for people who
help the police, but we do not want
to put you into any avoidable risk."
"Perks?" Turq echoed, licking his lips.
"It's a good way to start repairing
your relationship with society, after
some of the mischief you've gotten into,"
Ansel said. "Sometimes there's money
in it, too -- that depends a lot on how bad
the crooks are and how much the department
wants them off the street. We've been after
Mr. Dipper a while now, so I'd bet there is
some kind of reward for tips leading to arrest."
Turq shrugged. "I don't care much about
money, once I've got enough to eat," he said.
"Feeling less guilty, or less afraid of getting
arrested, though ... that would help a lot."
"Understood," Ansel said. "Final answer,
now, are you in or out on the raid?"
"I'm in," Turq said, lifting his chin.
"Well done," Ansel said, patting him on
the shoulders. "Now I need to make a call
to start things rolling, and get myself ready to go."
"I'll get out of your way," Turq said as he
scrambled off the bed and headed for the door.
"Make yourself at home," Ansel said.
He retrieved his cellphone and headed
for the bathroom. "Why don't you go into
the kitchen and fix yourself some breakfast?"
"Yeah, thanks," Turq said, and scurried out.
Ansel made a quick call to Chief De Soto,
explaining the situation. He was thrilled by
the prospect of finally bagging Mr. Dipper,
and he promised to mobilize the rest of
the BASH team while Ansel got ready.
Ansel raced through his morning routine
as fast as possible, skipping everything that
wasn't absolutely essential. He came out of
the bathroom damp and still a bit disheveled,
hastily tugging his uniform into place.
Turq had made breakfast for both of them.
Ansel frowned at the stuff on the counter,
trying to sort out the unfamiliar arrangement.
"That was very thoughtful of you, um ..."
"I put the scrambled eggs in baggies, so
we can squeeze them like a pastry cone,
instead of needing forks to eat them. It's
an old traveler's trick," Turq explained.
"The wooden skewers have ribbons of
Canadian bacon threaded onto them.
I found the bananas in the fruit bowl and
the bottled orange juice in the fridge."
"You are a genius," Ansel said as he
grabbed a much better breakfast than
he had expected. "Let's move."
They got all the way out to the car
before Ansel remembered that
it might pose an obstacle.
Turq just opened the door and got in.
"Will you be all right in here?" Ansel said
as he climbed into the driver's seat.
"I think I can manage," Turq said,
but his hand shook as he reached
for the latch of the seatbelt.
"Leave it off, you can work up
to that another time," Ansel said.
"Don't wear yourself out right at
the beginning of the race. The car
has airbags and it's so early, there's
almost nobody else on the roads."
He backed the car out slowly, and
pulled onto the curving road beyond.
"Okay," Turq said, licking his lips. "Okay."
He was doing that a lot, and he seemed
restless, which was no surprise. "You can
roll down the window a crack, if you need
some air," Ansel told him, and Turq did.
"Thanks," the boy said. He leaned his face
against the glass, his turquoise hair fluttering
in the frosty breeze. "It helps clear my mind."
"Good," said Ansel. "You look like you've
got a lot of thoughts spinning around inside
your head. That's not great in a crisis.
Want to try clearing some out?"
He ate as they drove, careful to keep
one hand on the wheel, and Turq
devoured his own breakfast too.
"I just keep thinking about ... betrayal,"
Turq said. "All kinds of it, all around me."
"Yowch," Ansel said. "That's not a fun one."
"Every time I do something wrong, I feel
like I'm letting you down, but I can't stop yet,"
Turq said. "I don't have that much strength."
"You can't fix everything at once, and you'll
exhaust yourself trying," Ansel said firmly.
"Stop worrying about me, and just focus on
taking the next step. Today's a big jump
forward. Let that be enough for now."
"I'm trying, I really am," Turq said.
"But then I remember all the people
who were supposed to take care of me
and didn't, or jerked me around -- not
my parents, because they're the best --
but a lot of the others. I get so tired,
and it's hard to keep going after all that."
"Of course it's hard," Ansel said. "You
were so little when your life took a nosedive,
and then many of the people who should've
helped you just made it worse instead. They
broke your heart and your trust. It's only natural
to feel betrayed and lost after that. It doesn't
mean you're irreparably broken, though."
"I feel broken," Turq said. He crumpled
his empty juice bottle, plastic crinkling as
he stuffed it into the garbage bag.
"You're hurt, yes, but if you were really
all that broken, then you wouldn't have had
the courage to come to me for help today,"
Ansel said. "So don't lose sight of that."
Turq pressed his cheek to the glass
again. "I'm trying not to," he said.
"You'll get there," Ansel assured him.
"Give yourself time. What else is eating you?"
"When I think about Mr. Dipper, it feels like
going down too fast in an elevator," Turq said.
"I don't know what to do about any of this."
"I'll help you figure it out," Ansel said.
"Tell me why you get that sinking sensation."
"He took me in when I didn't have anything,"
Turq whispered. "Mr. Dipper is awful but he
helped keep me alive and not too feral. But
at least I chose to be there. When he brought
in these new kids all crying, it felt like he was
turning on me, that he'd try to keep me even if
I didn't want to be kept. If I turn on him, though,
that makes me just like him, and I don't want to be."
The first rays of the sun broke over the horizon,
piercing and golden. The day looked a bit brighter.
"You are nothing like Mr. Dipper," Ansel declared
as he turned the car onto Concord Boulevard.
It was almost deserted, the only other cars
belonging to people he recognized from work.
"Why do you say that?" Turq asked.
"He made a lot of false promises and
took advantage of you -- but you've held up
your end of a rather shabby deal, until he did
something you couldn't stomach anymore,"
Ansel said. "That's not betrayal, Turq, it's
integrity. I know, that probably doesn't
make you feel any better about it."
"Maybe a little," Turq said. He turned
one palm up, and pinched a sliver
of air between his fingertips.
The road swept by in silence for
a few minutes, and then the station
came into view. Its parking lot was
already full of vehicles and activity.
"Here we are," Ansel said, pulling in.
"Yeah," Turq said, but he made
no move to get out of the car.
Ansel went around, opened the door,
and said, "I know you feel tired and sad and
scared. It's okay. You don't have to do this,
remember, you could just go home."
"I need to do this," Turq said, shaking his head.
"All right, then," Ansel said. "I can't actually
promise that nothing bad will happen today, but
if it does, I will be right there with you. We might
disagree sometimes, because of my profession
and your practices, but we can work through that."
"Really?" Turq said. He dawdled, putting away
the last of the garbage instead of getting out.
"You have my word: if you give me
your heart and your trust, then I will
never betray you," Ansel said.
He held out his hand.
Turq's cool, damp fingers
folded around his own.
"Okay," Turq said, and got out.
"Let's go do this thing."
* * *
Turq (Drustan Moreau) -- He has pale skin and hazel eyes with hints of blue, green, and gray. His hair was originally brown, but is turning turquoise from the top down. His eyebrows, beard, and mustache are still brown. His ears are pierced. He is slim and muscular with a heart-shaped face. He is left-handed. Drustan is Scorpio with Pisces as a moon sign. His heritage includes Welsh, French, and German. Following incidents of child abuse and neglect, he grew up in the foster care system, so he had no real family support for years. The results of that have not been very good.
When Drustan reached the Liáng family, he finally found a comfortable home. This lasted until Mingxia's baby was born with severe medical problems, and Family Services dispersed the foster children to other locations. Drustan suffered through several bad placements, sometimes running away from them. Then his last foster parents sold him while pretending that he had run away again.
As a result, Drustan fell prey to a mad scientist whose disturbing experiments gave him superpowers. The body horror from his ordeal has left him full of dread and melancholy, making it difficult for him to connect with people. He also gets anxious about being tied up, locked in, or confined in any other way. That has given him a nasty set of striationary marks, more than once.
Turq has worked as a supervillain; he is a capable thief and a useful distraction, but iffy in a real fight. Most often he uses the shapeshifting, although his neural blast allows him to disorient people or shock them unconscious depending how much force he puts into it. He does his best to conceal the drawbacks of his superpowers, because he doesn't want anyone to take advantage of him. He is fatalistic about injuries and sometimes resistant to help. His cape name is a double tap. It's short for turquoise, in reference to his hair. It also touches on the Turk chess machine, which in Terramagne was not a hoax but an early gizmo.
Currently Turq lives in Bluehill, Missouri where he often interacts with Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson). It has taken a lot of work, but Turq is starting to move back toward everyday society. He has also reconnected with the Liáng family, although that's an emotional roller-coaster of its own. His new support networking is helping him overcome the trauma he has survived.
Origin: Mad science torture. The supervillain Carl Bernhardt locked Drustan in a strange metal chamber and bombarded him with mysterious energies that caused his body to warp. He escaped when he finally manifested teleportation. Turq has since worked as a henchman for hire.
Uniform: Street clothes. He prefers clothes with stripes, spots, or other patterns because they hide bloodstains better. Usually he wears dark or neutral colors, but he also likes the blue-to-green range.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Chess Player, Good (+2) Comforting When Fuzzy, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Finding and Fixing Things, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Body Horror
Powers: Average (0) Teleporting, Average (0) Neural Blast, Average (0) Regeneration, Average (0) Shapeshifting
His alternate forms include caney, deer, and ferret. In caney form he has a violet gland with a pronounced floral scent, which is less intense but still present in his other shapes.
Vulnerability: Turq has difficulty controlling his superpowers. Shapeshifting screws up his body in ways that leave him coughing and vomiting blood afterwards. However, he can heal the damage -- anything that doesn't kill him instantly probably can't kill him at all. Teleporting can leave him disoriented and twitching from misconnected nerves, or scrambled inside, or all of the above. He actually travels by disintegrating and then reintegrating somewhere else, rather than by blinking from one place to another the way most teleporters do.
Motivation: Get through the day without screaming too much.
Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) -- He has ruddy skin and hazel eyes. His hair starts out light brown but he has it changed to pink by Paintrix, after which it also tends to stand straight up. He discovers that the pink color just feels right for him, and decides to keep it. Ansel is tall and athletic, with a rectangular face, wide shoulders, and trim hips. He is heterosexual and has a girlfriend. He sleeps so deeply that he's easy to sneak up on after he's asleep.
Ansel works on the Bluehill police force. He often volunteers for youth outreach and other public speaking. His pink hair helps other soups identify him, breaks the ice at presentations, and encourages people to ask him for help. On the downside, it also makes forks and other bigots hate him.
Origin: Upset by the increase in bullying, Ansel starts doing presentations at schools in Bluehill. The kids give him the idea of coloring his hair pink so he can see firsthand how people treat someone who is visibly different.
Uniform: On duty, Ansel wears the Bluehill police uniform. Off duty, he likes casual, sporty clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Citizen, Expert (+4) Cop, Expert (+4) People Skills, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Catcher in the Rye, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Jigsaw Puzzles, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Problem-Solving Skills
Poor (-2) Deep Sleeper
Powers: Average (0) Moral Compass, Average (0) Wild Pink Hair
Motivation: To make the world a kinder place.
Mr. Dipper (Earle Barcroft) -- He has fair skin and gray eyes. His short dark hair is rapidly going gray from the chin back; his beard is almost white, the crown of his head gray, and the nape still dark. Also his hairline is receding, so he is almost half bald on top. He is a small man, and not very strong on a physical level. Mr. Dipper lives in a small house in Bluehill. The landscaping looks like it's meant to support wildlife, but it's more designed for visual cover.
Mr. Dipper excels at spotting and exploiting vulnerable people. He runs a gang of disaffected youth, sending them out to steal things for him, but he does not take good care of them in return. He is a lousy provider and an abusive bastard. Always punctual himself, Mr. Dipper does not tolerate lateness from others. This is the gang Turq belongs to, hence why he's leaning more toward Officer Pink now that he has better options.
Origin: His superpower grew in slowly as he spent years learning how to make people do what he wanted.
Uniform: Men's street clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Exploiting Vulnerabilities, Good (+2) Punctual, Good (+2) Strategic Thinking, Good (+2) Thief, Good (+2) Tougher Than He Looks,
Poor (-2) Fagin
Powers: Average (0) Persuasion
Motivation: Self-aggrandizement. He is greedy, selfish, and demanding of respect that he does not really deserve.
Crackleball (Grady Detwiler) -- He has currant skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is slim with wiry muscles. He is fifteen years old. Grady had been in "temporary" foster care for several years, due to questionable reasons, when his superpowers manifested. His foster parents kicked him out of the house, but lied that he had run away. Currently Crackleball lives in Bluehill, working with a loose-knit gang run by Mr. Dipper. Turq is another member of the gang.
Origin: While playing with a plasma ball he'd been told not to touch, Grady broke it, injuring his hands in the process. Not long after that, sparks began trickling from his fingertips, and later from his eyes.
Uniform: Street clothes, considerably nicer than he could afford on his own. He likes to steal current fashions from students at the good schools.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alert, Good (+2) Knife Fighter, Good (+2) Opportunistic, Good (+2) Street Smart, Good (+2) Thief
Poor (-2) No Family Ties
Powers: Expert (+4) Plasma Bolt (Signature Stunt: EMP Field)
Crackleball can fire plasma bolts from his hands, eyes, or forehead. He can channel all his energy into one burst or launch up to five bolts simultaneously. That makes him far more versatile than most bolt shooters who can only do one or two bolts, usually from only their hands or eyes. He's even pretty good at hitting different targets simultaneously. He can also discharge the energy as an electromagnetic pulse which shorts out all electronic equipment in the area. Because it is a superpower, it has a chance of affecting super-gizmos, which ordinary EMP can't.
Motivation: Scrabbling up the social pyramid. However, Grady harbors a secret desire to reunite with his birth family.
Edwin De Soto -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and brown hair sprinkled with silver. In middle age he has crow's feet and smile lines on his face. His body is sturdy and a little padded around the edges. Edwin lives in Bluehill, where he serves as chief of police. He runs the kind of police department where an annoying person may come back from vacation to find their cubicle filled with gumballs, but their coworkers will still pitch in to help them empty it. He's a real people person, well liked both at work and in the community.
Qualities: Master (+6) Police Chief, Master (+6) Happy, Expert (+4) Coping Skills, Expert (+4) Public Relations, Expert (+4) Resilience, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Fixing Things, Good (+2) Party Games, Good (+2) Practical Jokes
Poor (-2) Dealing with Negative People
* * *
"Betrayal is a cousin of lie. It both breaks your heart and your trust."
This is the home of Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) which used to be part of a resort alongside a lake. When the resort closed, the rental cabins were parceled into individual lots and sold, while some of the resort's main facilities -- such as the lodge and the main boating dock -- were set aside as neighborhood resources. See the exterior and the living floor plan. Check out Ansel's bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.
Heavy Sleeper is an entertainment trope that also appears in everyday life. Consequently, Ansel is Not a Morning Person. Similar methods as those used to rouse someone from a fugue state tend to work for waking heavy sleepers.
Sleep inertia refers to the feeling of grogginess that persists after waking. The average seems to be around half an hour. For Ansel it is normally a full hour. However, he has also has Instant Waking Skills in case of emergency. This has a cost, appearing later in this thread of poems.
Basic preparedness helps in handling emergencies. Know how to stay calm in a crisis and respond to other people's psychological needs. As a police officer, Ansel has more advanced training for keeping his cool and helping other people cope with emergencies. Terramagne-America provides its officers with far more education on emergency management and psychological care than local-America does. They actually base the proportions of training on the statistical rates of trouble encountered; that varies somewhat by locale, but on the whole they provide more for the psych stuff because it plays into a majority of their activities.
A fagin is an adult who preys upon children by involving them in crime. The term comes from a character in Oliver Twist. Faginy is a serious problem within the wider range of child abuse. This is especially true because children are often blamed for these crimes and held accountable beyond their actual level of freedom or responsibility. One important difference in T-American law is that legal minors cannot commit prostitution where it is illegal; this is always documented as child sexual abuse, and there are considerations for older prostitutes who were brought in as minors. In other areas such as theft -- which is Mr. Dipper's primary racket -- the distinctions are less clear. Watch for the signs of child trafficking and abuse, and know how to help children caught up in that.
Self-blame often leads to self-bullying and other psychological problems. People often blame themselves for things which are not their fault, and this can take the form of characterological or behavioral blame. Survivors of abuse or neglect are especially prone to this due to toxic bonding. Turq has serious problems with this because of his traumatic experiences, even though most of what he feels bad about isn't his fault, or at least not entirely so. Follow the steps to stop blaming yourself.
Betrayal is a violation of expectations or agreements. It tends to have serious, long-term effects. Turq is really struggling to distinguish where his loyalties feel like they are vs. where he thinks they should be. He's actually a decent young man, but his life is a mess, and that makes it hard for him to sort out things like this. Understand how to deal with betrayal.
Trust has multiple aspects and stages. Healthy touch helps it grow. Turq has a lot of trust issues from past trauma, but he is slowly learning to trust again. Learn how to recognize a trustworthy person, become trustworthy yourself, and build trust with other people.