Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Psychflare: A Vurokian's Reflections

[see comments for notes. Previously in series: Void. Next in series: Ananke]

A Vurokian's Reflections

Identity is a tricky thing for me. I think it's tricky for everyone, but most people can just grab a few things, say “That's me”, and be done with it. Not the most accurate of answers, usually, but this is one of those questions that are more about how to stop worrying about it than about the right answer. My problem is, I spend a decent part of my life destroying the easy answers.
Name, for example. Sure, I was given one at birth. But, once you stop using a name, once nobody ever calls you by it for years, it stops being you and it's just a string of letters on official paperwork. I have another name, but it means nothing. Literally.
Personality. Heh. My personality I buried right after I figured out how. Makes you predictable, and that's the last thing you want to be in my line of business.
Line of business, of course. What you do is also an easy answer. Doesn't help much if it's “whatever works for me”, though. Staying alive, isn't that what we all do? Great, I'm not suicidal. That narrows it down.
Your relationships with other people. “I'm Bobby's mother, I'm Suzy's brother, I'm Mark's wife”. I always thought that was a twisted form of identity, depending on other people to tell you who you are. Me? I'm Ananke's boyfriend, that's the one thing that has stayed constant, God knows why. The rest, well, you learn to reconsider friends and foes pretty quick when you have to. Solomon was just the latest example of that.
Those that know me in some way know me as Void, or the stealth guy. “What you can do” is the big thing here for defining you, at least by other people. It works. And what I can do is not be noticed. As in, you can be standing right in front of me, broad daylight, and just not be aware of my presence. Well, it works different with different people. For some, I'm sort-of-blurry-sort-of-there. For others, it's almost impossible to see me.
I can do a few more things, of course. I can run faster than I should. I can punch harder than I should. I can make darkness solid with a thought. Cool stuff, but you don't hang around with my crowd if you don't have a fancy trick or two.
Why am I being so introspective all of a sudden? I think it's about what I did to Solomon and Joule, this whole right-wrong dilemma. Am I a good guy, or a bad guy? That's another form of identity, I suppose, though pretty much everybody assumes they are the good guys. I know I do, and yet I kill people. Many would say that makes me evil. Sometimes, I think they have a point. It's different, killing the nameless target, or the enemy in a fight, or the people you can properly demonise. When it's people you know, and used to care for, you feel different. Still, I know it was necessary.
I follow the Blood-Stained Path. I have since I had a choice in the matter. Back when nobody knew about paranormals and La Sangrienta had first shown up. La Sangrienta was, and maybe still is, the most successful serial killer of all time. Over 20 years ago, people started to turn up dead in Vurok City. Dead, often covered in blood, and with notes that detailed crimes they had allegedly committed. Usually they were accused of being rapists and murderers, occasionally corrupt politicians and corporate executives. In general, people the world would be better without.
Now here's the kicker. Virtually every time, these crimes were ones that nobody suspected but further investigation afterwards showed strong evidence they had taken place. Sometimes, crimes that the police had suspected but couldn't prove. While there are several people we still don't know for sure she got right, there are none that we can confirm she got wrong. Not one.
La Sangrienta continued to kill about once a week for two decades, and yet very, very little is known about her. We only suspect she was a woman because “La Sangrienta”, the name she used to sign her notes, is a female term in Spanish meaning “The Bloody One”. We don't even know if she was one or many people, though she always claimed to be working alone, and no evidence of another party was found. It baffled everybody that someone, or a group of someones, could so easily beat the police at their own game. First by finding those they couldn't, then by continuously eluding every single attempt to find her, despite leaving behind over a thousand crime scenes. It was completely surreal.
Claims that she had supernatural powers had started to surface early, but nobody paid much attention to them. It was just a distraction from the task of finding a very real and very human killer. Well, that is, until the investigation showed that there was an underground organization closely following the case, and that they apparently concerned themselves with finding people with supernatural powers. The Watchers, they called themselves.
Everyone thought it was a hoax, or a joke, or a group of nutjobs. But they were very well-organized and -funded nutjobs, apparently. And they had evidence. A man that could turn his sweat into powerful hallucinogens. A book that could manipulate the readers emotions so violently it had lead to insanity and suicides. A woman who could make herself look as whoever she wanted. More and more cases surfaced, and eventually the Vurok government was forced to admit that, indeed, paranormals lived amongst the people. It was chaotic. Many of us that had been hidden started coming out into the open, offering our services to whoever could pay them.
I found my powers around that time, back when about half believed and half remained sceptic. I think this is how a lot of the world outside the Vurok Islands still is. Because, for reasons nobody quite understands, paranormals are an exclusively Vurokian phenomenon. We don't show up anywhere else. Even more so, we are almost always born in families that have been in the archipelago for several generations.
Of course, Vurok has always been thought of as a weird place. We started out as just a small group of islands, colonised mostly just because they were there. Then, they found out that the soil was incredible fertile, for virtually every crop. Nobody has figured that out, either.
Almost all of the surface of the islands was taken over as farmland, except for a few beaches, minuscule towns, and the city. This continued for a few centuries, until the locals got tired and became independent. The story is longer and bloodier, but I've never cared much for it. In any case, there are very good reasons for our reputation. Birth defects and miscarriages are much more common here than anywhere else, but we still have the highest life expectancy in the world. We are constantly on the bleeding edge of technological development, we were even before paranormal super-inventors like Lightedge showed up. Indeed, we also have huge populations of “gifted” children, and two of the top universities in the world. All, in a tiny country with a few islands and a single city. Speaking of, Vurok City is one of the biggest megacities by population size, and a huge economic centre. Fortunes are made and lost routinely, often stolen. We have the highest crime rates of the developed world.
Of course, the crime problems were much worsened by paranormals. The turning point, I think, was when La Sangrienta admitted to being a paranormal, though she never revealed what exactly her powers were. While it wasn't exactly a surprise, it made the issue of supercriminals impossible to avoid.
The old crime problems were dwarfed by the possibilities of people who could walk through walls and blast buildings with a thought. The public needed a paradigm shift in law enforcement. It was around then that talk of a “Paranormal Investigation Service” started. When they actually implemented it, they had changed the name to Paranormal Research Center, but the nickname “pissers” had already been established. The pissers gave us a choice: you can work with us as official law enforcement, or rot in jail. Many chose to remain hidden, and not deal with either group. Some, people like Sidestep and Assembler, declared they would work to keep order in the city and joined the pissers. The rest, we decided to stay outside the law.
I admit it, most of the people in my side are crooks. Thugs. Scum of the lowest order that happen to have won the powers lottery. But some of us, we chose the ideology modelled on the first paranormal to say “Fuck you, world. I have my own justice, and it's better than yours.” The followers of La Sangrienta, the ones that walk the Blood-Stained Path. Our philosophy is simple. La Sangrienta showed us there's plenty of bastards amongst us. When you can kill them and steal from them, there's no need to bother the honest, innocent folk.
We like to think we're the reason she retired. Of course, someone turns up every now and then, blood and note and all, and we don't know if it's her or some of the many copycats. It can be comforting to think she saw we were doing good, and that she wasn't needed any more. That someone that lived like us can find peace. Is it so? I don't think so. She probably realised her greatest defence was the fact nobody knew about paranormals, and when things got too public she had to quit or risk be found. Or maybe she was found, and is dead. But, thinking she's still out there is a nice dream.
We've been accused of many things. Of being everything from thrill-seekers to sociopaths, from anarchists to fascists. Of being a dangerous cult of personality. Of being nothing but murderers who hide behind an alleged higher standard. Maybe some of it is true, for some us. I know my motivations are not entirely selfless.
I've often wondered if I wouldn't do more good working to establish a new order rather than just destroying the old one. Many of my fellows Pathers would consider me a heretic for saying so, but I don't think Sidestep and the like are bad guys. And as often as we've found ourselves trying to kill each other, I think the pissers truly work for what they think is the good of society, and sometimes they accomplish that. It's just that I can't play by those rules. The rules that say that I have to follow orders, and can't just go and kill someone without going through the proper procedures. That the pissers represent the only possible way. Both are good paths, but ultimately, I put my freedom above all else. Selfish? Yes. But I have the right to that freedom, and I'm not gonna wait for someone else to give it to me. I demand it. And I ignore the law in its name.
So, did I do the right thing? I don't know. But it was the best option available at the time. In the end, that's all you can hope to say. That you stuck to your principles, and gave it your best shot at doing the right thing. Even if they call it murder.

1 comment:

  1. You might have noticed Mindflares have been renamed as Psychflares. Well, you would if anybody actually read these. Reason is simple enough, "mindflare" had too many hits in google. Whereas Psychflares, single word, has virtually none that aren't this blog, or me linking to this blog. I did a bit of history rewriting so previous posts have the new name, but there are a few bits here and there that I was too lazy to fix.

    The actual story: This one is another in the Vurok City canon, marking the first Psychflare to be in the same continuity as another. Most of the "identity" thing at the beginning was originally the introduction in Void, written mostly while I was figuring out a way into the story. I ripped it out, elaborated on it, and ta-da! A decent amount of backstory for Vurok as a setting, some info on what happened after "Void", and the first introduction of La Sangrienta into her new home. There's more about her in a post back in March, look through the archives. I can't say how much of that version of the character will be remain due to her immigration to the Vurok Canon, but probably most of it.

    Next Wednesday, a little experiment in journal-type writing, with a story called Graduality.