"Far More Essential Than Our Other Senses"
Vagary cared about Calliope,
but she was exhausting.
He was tired of being lonely,
tired of feeling like a burden, and
tired of never being good enough.
He was especially tired of
not being a high priority,
always coming after
He was exhausted
and he was homesick,
so when Mr. Gallagar
suggested that he get
his needs met elsewhere,
Vagary found himself agreeing.
Just breathing the pure, canned air
of the secure base helped him
begin to relax at last.
"Hey, Vagary, you don't
look so good," said Hernan,
who worked in the infirmary.
"I don't feel so good,"
"What do you need?"
Hernan asked him.
"How can we help?"
"I need ... " Vagary's voice
trailed away, lost in a sea of
unmet needs. He rummaged
through them, trying to find
the most vital. "Contact comfort.
I need touch the most, I think."
"All right, let's head to the movie room
and I'll round up some warm bodies,"
Hernan said, draping an arm around him.
Vagary sighed in relief and leaned into
the touch. "Thanks, buddy, I need it."
Hernan deposited Vagary on
the leather couch, where he
sprawled out, too tired to move.
Vagary just lay in his friend's lap
while Hernan sent urgent messages
to some of their other friends.
Inode arrived first with
a carton in each hand,
one of chamomile ale
and the other of SeaPop.
He picked up Vagary's feet
and placed them in his lap.
Vagary revived enough
to take a bottle of SeaPop,
relishing its bright ginger taste.
5chan came in on a cloud of
warm, spicy fragrance. "I brought
cinnamon roll popcorn," she said,
handing Vagary the bucket.
"What are we watching?"
"The Princess Bride?"
Vagary said hopefully.
"On it," said 5chan.
"What even happened?"
asked Inode. "Hernan
just said you needed us."
Vagary sighed. "Calliope
doesn't like to touch, she just
puts up with me because of
the bond. It's my fault."
"That cockup of an introduction
was your fault," Inode said.
"After that, you've worked
your ass off, and for what?"
"I just want her to find me ...
bearable, at least," Vagary said.
"But she still doesn't like touching me."
"And you need that," Hernan said. "Touch
is far more essential than our other senses.
It's ten times stronger than verbal or
emotional contact. We get it."
"At least somebody does,"
Vagary said, snuggling deeper.
"That girl, she's no good for
you, mi amigo," said Hernan.
"I know, I know," Vagary said,
then spread his hands helplessly.
"But Hernan, she's ... she's ..."
"She's your bondmate,
and you care about her,"
said Hernan. "So, we will
make the best we can of it."
"It's getting better in some ways,
worse in others," Vagary confessed.
"We're not arguing as much, but
after she almost died on me,
she's gone skittish again,
and well ... it hurts."
"Two steps forward,
one step back, huh?"
said Inode. "That sucks."
"It's not a failure, it's a cha-cha!"
5chan crowed, burrowing into
the pile of people and coming up
somewhere under Vagary's middle.
Lilting music poured from the speakers
as The Princess Bride began.
The movie never failed
to make him smile.
"Let go, mi amigo,
we've got you now,"
Slowly, Vagary eased open
the cramped telepathy that
he kept shut down most
of the time nowadays.
It had more of a hint
of empathy than it used to,
bringing tinges of concern
and affection along with
Hernan's mental chatter in
Spanish and 5chan's earworm
of a J-pop song he didn't know.
With his friends wrapped
around him, the bond was
no more than a distant twinge.
Vagary dug into the popcorn,
cinnamon and white chocolate
melting sweetly on his tongue.
As he reached for more,
5chan's hand brushed
against his own.
More hands stroked
over his hungry skin,
ruffling his shirt, and
through his hair.
Vagary sighed in
pleasure, melting into
the multiple embrace.
As he watched
the opening scene,
he let himself believe that
everything would be all right.
* * *
Hernan Vela -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short hair of dark brown. He works for Kraken as a nurse. He is friends with Vagary. Hernan makes a loyal and protective friend. However, unresolved issues with his abusive family can make it difficult for him to handle relationship challenges.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Nurse, Good (+2) Protective
Poor (-2) Abuse Survivor
Inode (Zeck Sedgewick) -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and short messy brown hair. He works for Kraken and is a friend of Vagary. Inode works in computers, creating programs and showing people how to use the available systems. He works fast and does a good job. However, he's not graceful when it comes to dating girls.
Origin: He was born with his powers.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery. The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. Off-duty, he wears business casual or geeky men's clothes. His favorite color is blue.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Computer Programmer, Expert (+2) Focus, Good (+2) Collector of Action Figures, Good (+2) Explaining Things to People, Good (+2) Fast
Poor (-2) Not Good with Girls
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect
Motivation: To write impressive code.
An Inode (short for Index Node or Identification Node) is a Unix file system index entry that stores the description for a file (unique number, file name, date, size, read/write permissions, and pointer to the file’s location).
5chan (Sumiye Himura) -- She has amber skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight auburn hair usually worn in a messy bun. She wears glasses. Her heritage is Japanese and American; she was born in Japan. She speaks English, Esperanto, and Japanese. 5chan works for Kraken as a hacker. She is friends with Vagary. She loves J-pop but knows little about American culture.
Origin: Her mother worked as a cleaning lady at a technical facility, and believes that exposure to things there caused her daughter to manifest superpowers at puberty.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery. The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. Off-duty, she wears casual women's clothes. She likes soft tones in the blue to green range.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Hacker, Good (+2) Cuddling, Good (+2) J-pop Fan, Good (+2) Forgery
Poor (-2) American Culture
Powers: Average (0) Elemental Powers (Japanese), Average (0) Super-Intellect, Average (0) Technopath
Motivation: To make things work.
* * *
"Touch is far more essential than our other senses. … It's ten times stronger than verbal or emotional contact."
— Saul Schanberg in A Natural History of the Senses
See the movie room in the Kraken secure base.
Contact comfort is touch meant to soothe emotions and build connections. Some people need a lot more touch than others, but everyone needs some. Lack of touch can wreck mental health. In local-America, men often suffer from touch starvation. The situation is somewhat better in Terramagne, but it's still a concern. Vagary has a high need for touch and belonging, Calliope has a high need for space and independence, and that creates constant tension even when they're both trying to work around it.
The Princess Bride is a favorite comfort movie about True Love.
Chamomile Ale is one type of herbal beer. It has a relaxing effect.
SeaPop Soothing Soda is available here. Obviously this is a Kraken company in Terramagne. It uses ginger and other herbs to combat nausea and anxiety associated with seasickness.
Cinnamon Roll Popcorn is delicious geek food.
5chan quotes a popular premise that going back and forth isn't a failure, it's a cha-cha. This is a good perspective to take, because failure is a necessary part of progress. Here are some tips to deal with failure in positive ways.