What "Might Have Been": Vignettes of the Sunstorm

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What "Might Have Been": Vignettes of the Sunstorm

Post by pathfinderq1 »

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

-John Greenleaf Whittier, "Maud Muller"

The thread is meant to contain various short fiction pieces set in Neopaladin's "Sunstorm" setting (used with permission)- the actual game is over in the Gaming Room forum. The stories posted here will have only the most tangential contact with the main game (and almost all of that will be in the first story of this bunch)- events that occur in game may be noticed or referenced here, but mostly as "things seen on the news or online".

When the game was pitched, I had a lot of character ideas- which is not unusual for me. But in this case, they did not just fade into the background when the game started, resting comfortably in my build notebook. They continued to unearth themselves and roam about, like the unquiet dead.

So here I will be telling some of the untold stories from the changed world of the setting- characters that the actual protagonists of the game will never meet, scenes that take place off stage or behind the scenes. Some of these are one-post vignettes, others are part of longer arcs. At least initially, the stories will fall into two groups: one in the early days following the Sunstorm Event, roughly in line with the main game; others in a "One Year Later" setting, as people begin to adapt to the new world.

At least initially, the stories start as the game did, in Chicago. Some of them may travel, perhaps great distances- to Boston, for example... The primary characters, powered or not, are drawn mostly from two not-quite family groups, united by a common thread. A Rogues Gallery post, of sorts, will be going up in the Character Sheets forum sometime soon-ish- for reference, powered characters in the initial time period are generally PL7/135 or PL 8/120; during the "One Year Later" stories, they will typically be PL 8 or 9, but roughly 150pp either way.
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"Might Have Been: Notes and cast list

Post by pathfinderq1 »

>An ever-evolving list of writer's notes:
1. Posting is likely to be a bit slow and irregular
2. Each post will have a header telling people when it is set (Early Days or One Year Later, for example), who the main characters are, and whether it is a 'one-off' vignette or part of a larger arc. Some of the vignettes do involve main or recurring characters, but are not part of a specific plot arc- like the first piece, below.
3. I would strongly prefer to keep this thread for the stories only, and to keep reader or editorial comments to a minimum. If you absolutely must say something, please use PMs.

4. The Framing Device, or authorial conceit, what have you, for these tales is the character of Jackrabbit, who no longer experiences or perceives time in a directly linear progression- even events where she was not present might just be "Seen"...

>Cast List (Powered): These people will get Rogues Gallery posts at some point
1. Grace
2. Flextime
3. Hope
4. Scamp

5. Homewrecker
6. Jackrabbit

>Unpowered but important (these people may get plain text entries, either individually or as part of their respective groups- some of them, while not actually empowered by the Sunstorm, have certain unusual abilities which in M&M terms are classed as Powers, albeit minor mundane ones):
A. The Albanian Brothers (Bob and Al; any mention of them should automatically be heard with a wacky sitcom laugh cue, though they are, in fact, very Not Funny guys)
B. Viktor Vorakos(aka Vic, or simply V)
C. Keyanna Ortiz

D. Fred and Ethel

>One off characters (probably won't get fully statted up, but will likely have a brief description of why they are notable):
1. "Swims with the fishes" (It is Chicago, what else are we gonna call her?)
2. Starlight
3. "The girl at the zoo"

(More to be added, as the stories unfold)
Last edited by pathfinderq1 on Tue Jun 21, 2022 12:05 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What "Might Have Been": Vignettes of the Sunstorm

Post by pathfinderq1 »

List of stories (Ever-updated)

1. Near Miss: Early Days, Grace (And associates); Vignette
(This takes place on the first day of the game thread, January 10th 2022, and is JUST BARELY off-stage from the main game plot. This is as close as any of these stories will come to the main characters, or the main plot)
2. Awakening: Early Days, Homewrecker and Jackrabbit; Vignette
(This actually takes place BEFORE the game thread, in the immediate aftermath of the Sunstorm Event itself, January 4th 2022)

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Re: What "Might Have Been": Vignettes of the Sunstorm

Post by pathfinderq1 »

Near Miss
(January 10th 2022; shortly after 10PM)
-Grace, Keyanna Ortiz; Game NPC Albert Jun (sort of- he is just lying around)
+Marki Henderson, Patrolman Jasper Harris, Bob the Albanian, Vic (Albeit very briefly)

It was just after 10 PM, barely three hours into their twelve hour shift- and this was already their second call. Abby Henderson, very much the 'junior partner' since she was still a probationary EMT, was behind the wheel. Keyanna Ortiz, a full paramedic (with two years experience here and four more in the military) got the easy spot, handling the radio- but when the show started she would be handling the "real work", so it all balanced out.

They had been sitting in a loading zone a few blocks from the comparatively bustling River North district, nursing some cold Starbucks coffee and not talking much. Abby had had a textbook open in her lap, propped up against the steering wheel, and Keyanna had one earbud in and her window open, despite the cold. When they were talking, it was small talk about sports or whatever was happening in their respective neighborhoods. They had been working together all of two days now, so they weren't really to the "sharing secrets" segment of their partnership- and the last two weeks or so had been pretty tough, both for each of them individually and for Emergency Services throughout the city of Chicago.

This whole Sunstorm thing- out on the street, it was all anybody wanted to talk about, it seemed. And the effects it had had, both on people and on the infrastructure, pretty much assured that it was going to be talked about, because it had screwed up SO MANY THINGS...

But not tonight. Not after what had happened on the plaza downtown this morning. The "Start of Shift" briefing had been, well, a mess. There was a short mention of what had happened, shorn of anything like emotion, and it had raised more questions than it answered- the police were taking charge, or maybe the Feds, but they were not giving a lot of details, even to other Emergency Services. What they HAD said, and the scuttlebutt from those coming off the day shift, had been brutal. And even with some of the stories about the so-called "Sunstormers", it was a little hard to believe, if you hadn't seen it. Someone creating flames out of thin air, people flying, some woman made of tar or something.

Abby was going to mine the internet when she got off shift in the morning. Keyanna was watching stuff on her phone, as long as the reception held up. But neither one of them was ready to talk about, not to someone they hardly knew, despite a basically comfortable partnership so far.

So when they did talk it was mostly sports, as safe a topic as anything. Abby, born and raised in Chicago, could barely care less about the sports scene, despite the Cubs hat she wore when she wasn't working- Keyanna, a relatively recent transplant from Boston, was fairly omnivorous in her sports fandom; she liked and followed nearly all the local teams (though she did have the good sense to prefer the Cubs over the White Sox).

>Abby already had the truck started and rolling before Keyanna was off the radio with dispatch- even in a fairly busy part of town there just wasn't as
much traffic as there would have been before the Sunstorm. Emergency lights and siren on, Abby headed for the scene, definitely not taking her time. Keyanna finished the radio call and started tying on the official laptop, beginning the paperwork that went with every call.

"GSW" was the magic word- there were a LOT of those in Chicago, but every one was deadly serious, especially one in this close to the Magnificent Mile. Mayor Lightfoot and Police Superintendant Brown had made that factor a priority, and EMS personnel, as employees of the city, were expected to toe the line.

Even if it hadn't been an official priority, though, they would have hurried anyway- Gunshots were no joke, and nobody went into an EMS job for fortune and glory; they wanted to help people.

Despite all of this, they were barely halfway there when a police cruiser swung in behind them, lights and siren blazing. Abby pushed a little harder on the gas and the ambulance sped up, abusing the nearly empty streets. They beat the cops to the scene by a whole two seconds- adding another one when Abby just drove the truck up onto the sidewalk, practically through the fence; the powerful headlights illuminated the darkened yard and would give them enough light to work. Keyanna was out and headed around to the back before the cops were out of their car- but the cops didn't need to unload a stretcher or response bags, so they made it into the yard first.

Both of the cops had their guns drawn- strictly speaking that was against policy, but in Chicago nobody really cared. They both swept the yard, flashlights and gun muzzles moving in well-practiced patterns- searching the darkened corners for a shooter or any other danger. Abby darted around to the back of the truck and caught the stretcher as Keyanna rolled it out. Even with the bags on top, it didn't seem nearly as heavy as it had in training- but that was probably just adrenaline...

Working together, they rolled the gear through the open gate and down the little walkway towards the door. The vic was lying in the little scrap of a backyard, flat on his back. As soon as they stepped through the gate, though, Abby felt something like alarm bells in her head. Something was VERY wrong here. She looked back at her partner, and saw a similar sudden frown of concern on Keyanna's face- but whatever it was, it didn't stop either one of them from moving. They set the stretcher on the walkway and each grabbed a bag, moving to bracket the poor dude on the ground- and that was the first thing that was wrong. He was lying flat on his back- not sprawled in sudden death, not curled around his wound in semi-conscious agony. And was that a scarf packed into the wound? Up close, the smell of fresh blood was almost overpowering, much worse than normal. But there were other smells here, stronger than she would expect, but nothing that she recognized...

"Somebody has been at this guy," Keyanna murmured- Abby heard her, but the police probably wouldn't. Abby nodded as she crouched down and they got to work. He was alive, but not by much- whoever the mystery helper was had done just enough... They settled into a swift routine, ignoring the police who were beginning to secure the scene around them...

Time passed, a few critical minutes, before they had the guy stable enough to transport and loaded onto the stretcher. Another pair of cops arrived, and one of them took some notes about the details that Abby and Keyanna managed to pull together- he slipped Abby a business card with his contact for follow-up later. Single GSW, in and out with the entry wound in the back, alive for now- they didn't mention the blood-drenched fabric, at least not now, though they did bag it with the rest of the victim's stuff, just in case...

Working together, they rolled the stretcher out through the gate, where one of the cops strung some crime scene tape as soon as they were through- then around to the back of the ambulance. They loaded him up, and Keyanna climbed into the back behind him so she could keep working while they headed for a hospital.

And all the while, throughout the whole process, Abby felt the faint tickle between her shoulderblades, as if someone were watching her work. Even so, no one else had come out of the house, or responded to the police banging on the door...

She backed the ambulance off the sidewalk, pausing for only a moment to maneuver around the police cars. There was a soft thump of impact, just as she was starting to pull away. She hadn't though she was THAT close to either of the cruisers, but whatever- not like the police and EMS were going to trade insurance cards. The engine growled as she rolled out- in the back she could hear Keyanna back on with dispatch, making sure the hospital knew everything that they did to be sure of a smooth hand-off. The victim was, after all, still in really bad shape.

In the space of a few minutes, the ambulance was pulling into the emergency bay of the hospital- Stroger ( https://cookcountyhealth.org/locations/ ... ok-county/ ) was the closest full-service emergency room, and as city EMTs they were not as tightly bound to one particular hospital system as some private ambulance companies were. Lights flashing, with light traffic in the streets, they were pulling in less than two minutes later. Elapsed time from scene departure to hand-off was less than five minutes- and the victim was still alive when the hospital personnel took over. Abby and Keyanna exchanged a triumphant fist-bump and walked back out to the truck- but not for long.

A few minutes later, with the ambulance parked more respectably, they trooped back into the hospital, checking in at the nurses' station to claim an unused waiting room. Then they settled down at a table, and started the hardest part of the job- the paperwork. Before the Sunstorm, it would have all been done on the city-supplied laptop assigned to their particular ambulance- but post-Event the city was covering their bases; one copy was on the laptop, and networked directly into the city recordkeeping hub, while an identical copy of each of the forms, an actual paper copy (to be filled out in black ink only- hand-engraved stone tablets were probably the next step) was completed by hand, just in case. As the senior team member, Keyanna got the laptop- Abby got to block print the matching information. They sat down across from one another, working mostly in silence, with one or the other repeating some details out loud so the information matched. Abby had the business card from one of the cops (a "Patrolman Jasper Harris"), as the official "Officer on Scene"- since this was a GSW, there would be a detective assigned to take over, but that was beyond their report threshold. After a brief debate, they did mention the scarf that had been pressed into the wound when they arrived, but made no judgement on how it had gotten there- the supervising detective could figure that out himself. If he needed it, it had been bagged separately and included with the victim's possessions.

A half-hour later, they made their way back out to the ambulance with a replacement stretcher and restocked response bags, stopping only briefly to check with the charge nurse- victim was still in surgery, and a detective was apparently assigned, waiting for a call when the victim woke up. As they climbed back into the truck, Abby sighed- her personal phone was still sitting on the center console, blinking with a "Message Waiting" alert.

Or rather, several messages- most of them from her little brother (and probably all about the same issue, whatever it was), one from Vic, one from Al (or maybe Bob- the Albanian brothers tended to treat the phones like communal property). Something was up, and probably nothing good, at nearly 11PM on a Monday night... Abby raised her phone and waggled it- Keyanna shook her head in a dramatic fashion, held up five fingers, and trudged back into the hospital to mooch some coffee from the nurses' station.

Abby, meanwhile, didn't even bother to listen to the messages- Vic and Al would both just be "Call your brother, okay". Settling into the driver's seat of the ambulance, she called her brother. "Hey Marki, what's up? Is it Mom?"
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