Mmm, can’t say a lot (of course), but I guess one thing I can sorta talk about is this:
How the MC sees what he does might differ from both what he and the common people think.
Especially once/if the MC learns his reasoning behind doing what he does.
Just keep the chant in mind, my friend: Multiple Playthroughs.
Here’s a funny thing: I’ve never actually written anything for this in a perspective other than that of the Reporter MC.
So this was actually a good exercise for me in Lucy’s voice. (Though by consequence means that it won’t appear in-text, but, ah well, you get to enjoy it here!)
((Also a fun thing you don’t get to see often- some of the villains and heroes of Nickelport actually do interact with each other (well, villains and villains interact and heroes and heroes interact, you wouldn’t usually be seeing a hero and villain chatting in their free time) in the sorta “off-time”. Of course this varies but there are some more social individuals who will actually converse and maybe even consider each other “friends” in an odd way. Especially since resources are so limited, there’s almost a kind of society that’s developed underneath Nickelport’s exterior. This will be explored a bit more later on- especially in Lucy’s story- but just as a heads up so you’re not walking into this short blindfolded.))
Lucy's POV Experiment (and also the early introduction of a semi-important character)
It’s a goddamn stupid thought but at least it keeps me from tearing apart the alcohol soaked cloth that I press to my side. The armor was ridiculously difficult to get off… but that probably had something to do with the fact that my shoulder still looks a little too sideways for my liking. Probably dislocated. Damn.
Now the shirt underneath is plastered to my side and soaked a deep red. Doesn’t matter. I’ll be there soon enough and I can change once I return home. I struggle to keep from crushing the doorknob to the discreet black building, Mambo wouldn’t be happy if I did that again and I’m sure loyal customer service can only cover so many ‘destruction of public property’ additions to my tab. Still, I can’t keep it from getting dented in the process.
Lucky for me the waiting room is nearly empty, Tango shoots me a cheery glance from her place guarding the door, lifting the rifle strapped across her chest in a kind of half-greeting. She’s holding it tightly- I wonder if there was some trouble earlier today?
“Vicky!” One of the three others in the waiting room stands up on her chair, waving to me enthusiastically. Oppenheimer’s left arm dangles by her side, the red hoodie she wears soaked an even darker color. Even with only two others in the room she makes it a point to sit as far away as possible, with her back to the wall, suspiciously eyeing the others. One of whom I recognize- Bugbite, cradling his carapace armor with nasty looking cuts dotting the few parts of his skin that poke out from a shattered mask.
I nearly collapse into the chair next to her, it takes all my strength- even enhanced as it is- to keep myself upright as the final shreds of adrenaline fade. Still, I grin widely at Oppenheimer’s enthusiasm, “Hey Op,” I nod to her arm, “Rare to see you in this dump.”
I can hear Tango scoff even across the room.
“Yeah,” Oppenheimer shifts nervously around in her seat, gloved fingers in her working hand drum her leg before reaching up to pull the handkerchief even further up her nose- it almost covers the dark tinted goggles that hide her eyes. “I… guess we all have our off days, huh?” She laughs, a squeaking sound that dies down soon as the one guy I don’t recognize turns his head towards us. Oppenheimer immediately quiets, pressing just slightly closer towards me.
I fix him with a scowl in return, locking eyes- or as much as we can with both our eyes covered- in a daring challenge. Would-be silence is filled with the ticking sound of the battery-powered head-bobbing turkey that Mambo keeps next to the orchids on the desk. Eventually, he grumbles, turning his head away and looking back at the palms of his hand.
Even still, I don’t turn away, “Who’s he?” I nudge Oppenheimer with my shoulder.
She takes one quick glance at the man across the room, the visible shadow of her eyes seem to stick to him, glued in a kind of slight awe. “Y’know… Not quite sure. I think he’s new in town, sauntered and demanded to see Mambo right this minute. Didn’t matter that he was in the middle of a surgery. Tango couldn’t talk him down… Hell, she even brought Foxtrot out to deal with ‘im.” Well, that explains her nervous grip.
“Really?” I glance around, “They still here?”
“Foxtrot?” Oppenheimer repeats slowly, shaking her head, “Nah, don’t think so, they scurried off a while ago.”
Oppenheimer finally tears her eyes away from the new villain, even with the thick goggles that cover half her face I can tell she’s looking at me funny, “Something important? You could ask Tango if you really needed her to call ‘em…”
“No, no,” I wave my hand, wincing when the dislocated shoulder pops and cracks in protest, “It’s fine I’ll… catch up with them later.”
Oppenheimer shrugs, slumping back in her seat, “‘Kay, well, if it’s important I’m sure they’ll turn up sometime.”
Oppenheimer sounds hurt, and I guess I can sympathize. It’s always hard to keep friends when half of you are fighting for your life… against each other. Foxtrot is the rare exception to that rule, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve trusted them with too much but… it helps to have someone who knows how to keep a secret. It’s even better when they’re a friend of yours.
Besides, it’s like Oppenheimer says, it’s… important.
Especially considering what they helped me with last time. Even if I never asked ‘em to keep tabs on… them, Foxtrot did me a big favor by tipping me off that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to stake out Yolanda Waltz’s big event. I hate being indebted to them but…
I breathe in, a heavy, shuddering breath that makes Oppenheimer lay a hand on my back, a concerned “You okay?” Quietly rising up.
“Fine.” Snapping is a bit too much, and Oppenheimer winces, whipping her hand away and holding it to her chest as if it were injured as well. I mutter a quiet apology, digging my nails into my gloves in the kind of familiar frustration that makes my muscles feel tense and uneasy. I need to move. I need to get out of here. I stand up, Oppenheimer spares me little more than a glance.
“You can’t seriously be going for a walk now.” She shakes her head.
I brush past Tango, who quirks an eyebrow but is, like always, silent as I head towards the back door. The limp as my injured side drags across the ground only makes me want to sprint even more, as if I could run all these wounds off.
Wouldn’t that be the dream.
I tear the door open with a bit too much force, the top hinges go sideways as the nails clatter to the ground. Tango tilts her head and I sigh, letting the door hand crookedly when I look back at her, “I dented the door knob earlier, too.” Her eyebrows go up, “You really need to get an automatic.” She huffs, and I slip back into the nighttime alleyway. I don’t bother to close the door… not like that would work anymore, anyway.
My arm still pressed to the bleeding wound in my side I pace down the block and then back up, then down the side street and back up again. But it doesn’t help. No, my frustration only grows with each step that sends a searing, burning pain through my side. My legs start to wobble and my hand curls and uncurls from a fist against my side. But it’s good, at least, because the anger makes everything else a blur. It conceals any thoughts into under a haze. It keeps me from thinking about-
“Goddamnit!” I slam my hand against the boarded-up windows of the abandoned building next to Mambo’s practice, the fist goes through the wood and glass as if I were punching through water- but it still comes back with shards dug into my skin, painting the white glove red along with everything else. Fuck it, I’m already here, aren’t I?
“Getting stronger isn’t going to make it any easier to keep what’s left of our door on.” I snap around, instinctively raising my good arm defensively. But it lowers when I spot Foxtrot perched atop the dumpster filled with bloodied bandages and rusted suturing needles. They tilt their head in a funny, almost feline way, and like with every motion they make it seems to be followed by traces of red and rosy-peach mist the color of their hair and skin before fading away into oblivion. “Unless you plan on robbing another bank soon, I’d advise against it.”
“Foxtrot… Oppenheimer told me you had a busy day,” They shrug, sending another wave of mist fluttering into the air. They hop down from their perch, seeming to flicker in and out of existence for a moment when their feet touch the ground, no more than a blink of an eye and suddenly their hand rests comfortingly on my good shoulder.
“This is about earlier, isn’t it?” The touch is light and, like most things about Foxtrot, never really seems to be entirely ‘there’. Their consistently blurred face, as if they were trapped in an out-of-focus picture, twists into what I recognize as a frown. “You didn’t go, did you?”
I shake my head, “No… but you-”
“I did as you asked,” Foxtrot hums lightly, the hand doesn’t seem to fall away so much as it just… fades and ceases to be there, instead apparating at Foxtrot’s side. “Made sure they didn’t die as you asked,” They hum lightly, fading away and leaving their disembodied voice floating in the air before reappearing, back on the dumpster, sitting with their legs crossed.
“That’s…” I breathe in deeply, “Good.”
“Though they did try Waltz’s drinks,”
“Relax, nothing happened…” Foxtrot trails off, “Though… There was a moment when I thought I was gonna hafta haul your ex’s unconscious body outta there.” What little I can make out of a nose wrinkles, “Woulda been awkward.”
“You didn’t stop them?” I can feel my hand curling into a fist again, and before I know it I’ve stepped up to the dumpster. “Foxtrot I asked you to-”
“What was I supposed to do?” They run an incorporeal hand through misty auburn hair, “Appear at their side and say ‘Hiya! Nice to meet you! I’m Foxtrot, the friendly ghost who’s here to give you some advice- don’t do drugs, kiddo!’” They fix it with a wavering grin, a thumbs up across their chest, and a blurry-brown-eyed wink.
Immediately, the facade drops, and Foxtrot leans back on their hands, legs crossed as they shake their head, “Yeah, I… don’t think that would’ve worked.”
“I…” I sigh, kicking the dirt rumbling out something incomprehensible. Something rears it’s head in my mind, a brief flash of a memory. Little more than their face, twisted briefly into an expression of bright horror as they jumped back, nearly knocked me over. I can feel my heart squeeze at even the brief bitesized reverie but still…
I begin to laugh.
Foxtrot’s face contorts into about as much confusion and concern as their ethereal form will allow, “… Okay, now I’m worried. You alright, Val?”
“It’s just…” I turn my back to them briefly, lifting my mask just the slightest amount to wipe a tear that seems to have sprung up, unwanted to my eye, readjusting the piece, I look back at Foxtrot. “I remembered something. Something… stupid,” An inadvertent grin spreads across my face, “So stupid it was fun.”
Foxtrot glances back towards Mambo’s door, they shrug and kick their legs against the dumpster, making soft and oddly solid sounds from their otherwise immaterial legs. “We got time.”
“You want me to tell the story?”
Foxtrot scoots forward, patting the dumpster next to them as they cradle their head in their hands, a bright smile plastered across their face. “Might help more than punching a window.”
I eye the space next to them, biting my lip. The idea of talking about… them makes me heart ache even more than it did already, but… “Well, what the hell?” The stronger desire pulls me towards reminiscing- which is weird because I’ve never been one for taking strolls down memory lane but… I have always been one to go with the stronger side of me. So, I pull myself up next to them, “I… guess I could try this whole ‘talking about your past’ thing every once ‘n a while, right?”
Foxtrot claps their hands together, exclaiming excitedly, “Story time!” As they settle in.
It must have been sophmore year of college. I remember that because it was right when everybody who hadn’t declared a major yet was beginning to panic and scramble for any kind of semblance of a future job idea they could grasp. Stress was damn high and it drove us to do stupid things, drove us to believe in stupid things. For me, that was when I really got into boxing, and for my friend it was ghost stories. He would gather us all up and spew these tales about ghosts that appeared in the B-Hall parking lots at 1:15 in the morning, or houses down the street that a former headmaster had died in after one student threw a too-rowdy rave and how his ghost still haunted that place, punishing any kid who dared throw a party on the premises.
They were all a bunch of B.S. but most of them led to some pretty wild college parties. So we tended to go along, and those who didn’t were dragged in by those who did. There was one, though, that really got us curious. It was this never-finished construction project for some big mansion on a hill-style house. Supposedly, though, it was supposed to be a lair for a villain. Kinda the… mastermind’s getaway vacation house. Apparently this guy had a lot of henchmen as well, and none of them were quite happy with his reign. So the lot of them plan a revolt when he’s coming to visit and check in on the progress of the lair. He’d have none of his fancy defenses at the finished place so it was the perfect time.
Villain arrives, they revolt, yadda yadda- everyone in a 3-mile radius dies. Usual stuff. Now the place is haunted and abandoned- two factors which made it the perfect venue for one of my friend’s ghost parties.
Problem was getting everything set up, since it was pretty far away we had to arrive a solid two hours beforehand, I had volunteered to do some of the heavy lifting and…
“Your ex came along?” I don’t notice I’ve trailed off in the story until Foxtrot speaks up, supplying the detail that’s still stuck on my tongue.
I inhale deeply, “Yeah,” I nod, “Yeah that’s right, my… ex came along.” I smile, a bitterness tainting the gesture, “Always seemed like no matter what it was, they’d be there to help me. Even the small shit.”
I find myself running my good hand through my ponytail, tugging harshly at any knots still stuck from the battle, “It feels horrible now, stupidly, but if I’d known then about everything else I think that maybe I wouldn’t have been so… liberal when asking for their help, y’know?”
Foxtrot just shrugs, “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, as they say.”
“I hate being indebted…” The breath I’d taken in comes out as a whoosh, “But I can’t say I regret it.”
“Yeah.” I grin, quickly segueing back into the story.
‘Cause you see this place, even if it wasn’t haunted, was just about the freakiest pile of rubble I’d ever been in. The entire thing reeked of death, and I knew this even before I understood what that smell felt like. We’re talking the works- half finished rooms, padlocked doors, peeling paint, rotting food in abandoned worker lunchboxes- you name it, the house had it. Now this got the host all excited about the possibilities but it also meant we had to comb through the house and set things up in the creepiest possible places. I teamed up with them, of course, and we took the second floor which was… mostly complete, really.
But that only made it creepier.
There were these furnished rooms with unpainted walls, like someone had lived in there for a day before disappearing entirely. There were nails in the halls for family photos that had never been put up and bedposts with no mattresses… Hell, even I was feeling a bit unnerved by all this. I remember they were practically shaking and… this was before things got serious but they were basically clinging to me the entire time. It was… kinda nice, actually. So I didn’t mind.
What made me laugh, though, was when we were in one of those unfinished bedrooms, and, as if that wasn’t worse enough, it was a children’s bedroom-
“Oh god.” Foxtrot interjects briefly.
Yeah, really creepy. All these dolls were lined up on the wall, most of them just harmless animals but when you’re already waiting for Krueger to pop his head around the corner and wave at you with his knife-fingers it feels a helluva lot worse than it is. We were setting up a stereo and some skeleton-themed chips in that room when apparently the shelf we were putting the bowl up on decided that was a bit too much weight. They’d just stepped away when the entire thing came crashing down. I swear they moved faster than you do, knocked me over and by the time I’d gathered what was happening they’d dragged me all the way downstairs and out the door.
I start laughing again, a wild sound that bubbles in my chest, briefly lifting the heaviness that’d settled there before it breaks down into a groan of pain. Too much joy for too many injuries. I wince, and press my hand against my side once more, swallowing the building pain, “I… had to sit there in the woods and calm them down enough to convince ‘em that it wasn’t a ghost. We ended up going back to campus before the party had started that night.” A strained smile stretches on my lips, “I promised, then, that even if it was a ghost I’d fight it off. They laughed at me. But I swore they had nothing to be afraid of…” Another sigh finds it’s way through me, “As long as I was around.”
Foxtrot says nothing, and I don’t feel the need to fill the silence either. So we end up sitting there for… who knows how long. Long enough that I hear Mambo’s front door open and close, whatever poor sap was on his table beforehand limping away. Long enough that their footsteps fade into silence. Long enough that it lasts even after that. Foxtrot takes a deep breath, they lay a quiet hand on my shoulder, “You know, it might not hurt to talk to-”
“It would.” I snap, and like Oppenheimer feel some guilt well up in me with the harshness, but unlike Oppenheimer, Foxtrot doesn’t wince, doesn’t even blink. Instead I feel their fingers curl around my shoulder, a sternes settling into what little of their face I can make out.
“You don’t know that.”
“I do.” Not quite as harsh this time, but just as determined.
“No, Lucy, you don’t.” Now it’s my turn to jolt back, caught off-guard by Foxtrot using my real name. Instinctively I look behind them for any eavesdroppers- but I know Foxtrot wouldn’t risk something like that unless they were absolutely certain we’re alone. “You’ve assumed the worst for four years, now, and you’ve never even tried to contact them.” Foxtrot’s blurry eyes narrow, “Do you even want to see them again?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then go!” Foxtrot releases my shoulder, hands extending out beside them, “I never thought I’d say it but you, of all people, are overthinking it, Lucy! You! Overthinking something!” They shake their head, “What’s the worst that could possibly happen?”
“They could-” I cut myself off quickly.
I trust Foxtrot enough to share parts of my past. I trust Foxtrot enough to look after them when I can’t. I even trust Foxtrot with my real name… But I could never trust anyone with that. If I did, it would make these past four years for nothing.
That’s not a fight I’m willing to lose.
Foxtrot doesn’t press the issue, they don’t get the chance to when the door slams open once more. Both of our heads turning to the mouth of the alley as heavy footsteps stomp around the corner. The unknown man from inside stands bathed in weak streetlight. “Dammit, him again…?” Foxtrot wonders beside me.
“You!” He juts an accusing finger directly at me, “I knew I recognized you! You’re Valkyrie!”
Foxtrot leans my way, “Fan of yours?”
“You hack!” He continues to scream, “You don’t deserve your spot on Nickelport’s most wanted!”
“Apparently not.” I scoff.
“What have you ever done of consequence!” He continues to rave, “You fight for nothing! Nothing! Villains like you give the rest us a bad name! We’re not all mindless slaughter-machines.” He snarls.
Foxtrot sighs, fading into a clear mist before reappearing off of the dumpster. Muttering a quiet, “Here we go again.”
“Wait.” I land beside them, grabbing their shoulder and grinning widely, “Let me.”
Foxtrot’s eyes flicker down to my side, “You sure?”
“You worried about me, Foxy?”
“Worried about him.” They jut their head towards the still-ranting man, “Far as I see it… well, the glass had a better chance against you.”
I laugh, relishing in that familiar temporary lightness that comes with it, “I’ll pull my punches.”
Even through the mist, I can see Foxtrot’s disbelief. “You never pull your punches.”
“C’mon, please?” I pat their shoulder, “I’m in the mood for a fight.”
Finally, Foxtrot relents, “Fine. Just… try not to kill him, okay?”
My grin only grows wider, “I’ll do my best.”
“Good. ‘Cause I’ve got cleanup duty tonight.”
I feel like some of the MC’s cadence slipped in there instead of Lucy’s at times, whoops.