6680/The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Continued Living and Became Mixed-Up Titans or Schoolteachers.

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The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Continued Living and Became Mixed-Up Titans or Schoolteachers.
Date of Scene: 24 June 2021
Location: Cafe Lalo
Synopsis: Kian, Colette and Terry discuss the advantages of regular trade routes, the impact of Catholicism on the teaching of philosophy, cultural stressors in hominid clan-groupings, and the problems of being a vegan who likes red meat and bacon.
Cast of Characters: Colette O'Connail, Terry O'Neil, Kian

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Cafe Lalo!  A scene of many a wild adventure, but mostly a place in New York that does really good pastries.  It is most definitely this latter reason why Colette suggested it when she sent Terry and Kian an invitation to come and meet her here.
    It has been a while.  Well, Terry and Colette have seen each other inside the Dreamworld a few times lately, and once at a hotel in Dublin for adjacent reasons, but she hasn't visited the tower lately, and the last couple of lesson updates Kian received from her had been emailed—as she had explained, the first time she was in Rome, the second in Valletta.  Indeed the last time Kian had seen Colette, it wasn't actually Colette.  At least not the regular Colette that comes from this version of reality.
    While Terry chaperones Kian through the labyrithine business of Manhattan, probably with the careful aid of Rabbit Holes, Colette arrives, as she is wont to do, about twenty minutes early.  She may have a good reason for this habit, but she's not admitting it.  She has already made her way through the best part of a cup of cappuccino and a plate of Umberto biscotti bears no more than a few faintly vanilla- and orange-scented crumbs by the time anyone else arrives.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry thinks it is best that Kian be exposed to as many things as possible, now that he has been among them for more than a year.  They get to Rabbit Hole… but end up four blocks away.  This is so that Kian can experience things from the ground-up instead of a Bird's Eye View.  The Great Apple had many facets, and exposure came at all levels… sometimes even from the dodgy guy in the trench coat by the corner.  But that's the price you paid for civilization, right?
    "It's all part of becoming familiar with the culture, Kian!  After all, you live here know.  And I grew up in this city—getting to know it more will help you understand me more!"
    Whether that is a good thing or not is up for grabs, still.
    They enter the cafe, Cheshire Cat form and bird man, and beeline for Colette.  "Sorry we're late!  We ran into someone who wanted to sell his trench coat to Kian and forgot to wear anything else."

Kian has posed:
    "I will not haf to sing here, will I?" is Kían's first question.  He still finds large numbers of people disconcerting, and he holds his wings close.  "When we haf this many in one place, it iss for a ritual, and all our min's slip into each other.  Even though I am use to it, it iss always a little… odd… comin' out of the min'-sharin'."
    He uncoils a little as they get inside and he spies Colette.  "Colette tavár'h!  I haf miss seein' you," he says with a huge smile.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    There are stares.  Cat-man and bird-man can't go many places without stares, but at least here they are subtle stares.  Lalo's is the kind of place where most of the clientele want people to think they're too cool to stare at celebrities.  On another occasion Colette might have berated Terry for turning up cognito, but with Kian along, there's really not much point.
    "Hey guys!" Colette calls to the pair as they enter, grinning a wide smile but not standing up to greet them, because Colette.  "Come on over.  Kian, you should take a look at the display on the way over."  She gestures towards the glass-fronted counters behind which a dazzling array of cakes, pastries and sweets sit there seductively, tempting the customers like baked harlots of flour, sugar and creme.  Some even have chocolate, the flirty little beasts.
    "I'm sure the man with the trench coat wasn't trying to sell it.  Don't listen to him Kian, Terry is just trying to confuse you.  Sorry I haven't been around lately, been kinda busy with school things.  How have you two been?  The world-saving business keeping you occupied?"

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Something of the sort.  I almost got sucked into a while hole again thanks to a Reed Richards experiment gone awry, but I fortunately managed to avoid getting marooned into another dimension, so props for me!" the cat says as he takes a chair.  To the chagrin of the Laloites, he does so by turning the chair around and resting his arms on the back, chin propped on them.  But, to be frank, Terry and his mother come to this place so often, a few eccentricities are bound to be forgiven now and then.
    "How is the docent life treating you?  You know, it occurs to me I've never actually visited the place."  A mischievous Cheshire grin appears on his face.  "Maybe I could stop by on career day and talk about becoming a Titan, what do you think?  We do seem to be constantly drawing in new members.  Why, the other day, we acquired a centaur!"

Kian has posed:
    "The school?  I woul' like to see it again.  I do not think I haf seen Morrigan q'miríth since I came to the Tower."  Kían reflects a moment, and then genuinely laughs.  "You coul' bring me with you, Terry—if I can be a Titan, jus' about anyone can.  I am proof you do not need to know what you are doin', you jus' need to be able to hang on an' not let go."
    He reaches over to rest his hand on Terry's shoulder.  "It iss like bein' in a power dive all the time, an' once in a while you get to level off an' catch your breath, an' then the dive starts all over again.  But it iss worth it."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "Things have opened up there Terry," Colette says with a faint smirk.  "The whole keeping everything secret thing has kind of been dumped in favor of just trying to keep things sane.  So yeah, I mean if you wanted to show up and give a talk about life as a Titan, I'm sure there would be a few kids who would be eager to listen.  Maybe don't try to recruit the whole school though.  A centaur?  You know this is exactly the kind of thing you'd make up to fuck with me, but the thing is?  Knowing how insane you Titans are, it's completely believable."
    "You absolutely should turn up too Kian," Colette says, turning to the bird.  "I mean, no need for you to hide your wings any more.  And no need to find an excuse.  You can visit the old alma mater any time, I know Doctor Morrigan would love to see you again.  Uh… 'alma mater' just means an educational establishment that you attended in the past."  She gives a dismissive wave of her hand.  "Please don't ask for an explanation of the phrase, the explanation would require a lot of explaining.  I've talked to Mo about it, and she's good with you attending a few classes if you like.  Just to do a bit of catch up on Earth things.  I thought attending a math class or two might be useful to you, might help you get the hang of how to do math in English."
    Colette reaches to her plate for a biscotti, finds they're all gone, and takes a sip of her coffee instead.  "Go ahead and order whatever you like," she says.  "My treat.  So uh… yeah.  You'd think with it being summer break the teaching life would be nice and quiet, but not so much.  I'm starting as a full-time teacher next year, no more TA.  Means I have to complete course accreditation during the summer.  It's pretty easy stuff, but time consuming.  Also we had a school trip to Rome.  That got a bit dramatic, but you may have heard about it.  Irie was there.  Irie's a brat, by the way.  My trip to Malta was also school related, but not uh… not officially."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "I did hear about it from Irie.  And I imagine that you're only calling her a brat because you haven't been able to instill the fear of god on her yet," Terry grins, perusing the menu.  Despite Colette's admonishment not to dwell into the meaning of a phrase, bookworm Terry adds, "Alma Mater means 'Nurturing Mother', a turn of phrase that paints a school as the intellectual mother of its students.  Humans like anthropomorphic personifications."  A wink, "I should know.  Some people consider me one…."
    His curiosity is piqued, though.  "Unofficial trip to Malta?  Did you get tangled with the knights templar or something?"

Kian has posed:
    "I probably shoul'," Kían agrees.  "I need to know the Earth terms for the thin's I already know, especially the science.  I can do basic arithmetic in your countin', but if I haf any serious calculation to do, it iss easier to do it in mine an' then convert the answer.  I haf been studyin' mainly vocabulary.  I need more words.  We can fix my pronouncin' later, but I haf to have more words.  You remember, when I was still at Happy Harbor, how hard it was.  Especially since you don't…."  He taps his temple.  "You know.  I am jus' happy it iss not so much of a struggle anymore, because Earth has to be my home now.  Even if an Akiár ship arrive tonight, I could not go home on it.  My powers and the stardrive interfered."
    He glances at Terry.  "This world is still weird, but it iss gettin' to be a comfortable kind of weird."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "Don't explain stupid phrases, Terry." Colett rolls her eyes.  "I said it would be too confusing, why don't you listen?  You never listen."  Colette looks over to Kian, something approaching an apologetic expression on her face.  "It's not even English.  Not only do we use phrases that don't mean what we intend them to mean, but we borrow from other languages to do so.  Just put this down as one more bit of Earth weirdness and don't let it worry you, okay?"
    "No, I haven't tried instilling the fear of god into her," Colette says.  "I'm calling Irie a brat because she took it into her head to try to be a superhero at an innappropriate moment and broke the law while endangering people's lives.  I was going to let her off but when I pointed out I'd really ought to tell her father about it, she dared me to.  Which was pretty dumb, but kids are dumb.  Apparently Wally's going to make her do some babysitting in the hope it'll teach her a bit about responsibility."
    Colette grins a little at Kian.  "Well I'm kind of glad to hear that.  I mean if you hopped on an Akiár ship again, I probably won't be hanging around close to whatever the next bit of sea you fall into."  It's not quite 'I wouldn't like it if you left' but in Colette-terms it's probably pretty close.  She shoves menus towards Terry and Kian.  "Better look for things that don't have the word 'eggs' anywhere, Kian.  Lots of things here do.  They do great salads if you want that."
    "No Knights Templar on Malta, Terry.  It was the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.  They ruled Malta for a few hundred years.  Basically the Templar's biggest rivals.  So you couldn't be more wrong."
    Colette sips her coffee, shifty-eyed.  "Okay.  I mean maybe there were some idiots who call themselves the Knights of the Order of St. Dumbass who claim to be the remnants of the Templars involved, but that's just coincidence.  They kidnapped one of the kids from school.  Mo arranged for a rescue mission.  A few people you probably know were there.  I wasn't.  I mean I wasn't part of the rescue mission, obviously.  I just kind of went along to watch and make sure they didn't mess it up."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Oh, I am very right, you just don't read the crazy internet for fun like I do!" Terry chuckles, resting his chin on the back of the chair.  "There's a whole bunch of loonies over there calling themselves the New Knights Templar.  They forge their own swords and everything and they're claiming Malta as their headquarters, they're a hoot."
    Hoot.  Cuckoo.  Vaguely bird-like, in any case.
    "I don't think they're the ones who tried to kidnap the kids, though.  These seem on the ridiculous but harmless scale.  What were these Dumbasses after?"
    He glances at Kian, and winks.  "We aim to please.  Comfortable weirdness is my trademark."

Kian has posed:
    "I haf learn to look for the 'vee-gan' sign," Kían says, glancing over the menu… nothing seems to have caught his attention yet.  "It iss safes' when I do not know who is preparin' the food.  Of course, I will eat red meat, an' fish, an', an'… nnh.  The thin meat strips—bacon!  We haf somethin' like it, but Earth's iss… like concentrate.  If that Akiár ship did show up tonight, I would send it back wit' chocolate an' bacon an' haf them ship gold back an' be very well set up."
    He grins at Terry.  "I think you do not know how not to be weird.  An' you haf been a great comfort."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "They were deranged lunatic cultists, Terry.  Who knows that deranged lunatic cultists are after?  Maybe only other deranged lunatic cultists."  Colette stares down into her cup and then gestures for another cappuccino.  "They wanted to kill the kid.  Been after him a while.  Couple of months back they sent a bunch of armed men into the school to look for him.  Teleported out when they ran away, so they have a sorcerer.  Some kind of ritual killing I guess."
    Colette gives a quick shrug.  "His guardians took him out of school after that.  Thought it was too dangerous for him there.  Inevitably they show up shortly afterwards dead, and he was gone.  Mo got the location of their base from some of those guards who never made it as far as getting teleported out, and arranged the raid on their base.  Got some SHIELD people involved.  Captain America was with them.  And the raven guy from our dreams.  Oh, and your Robin."  Colette smirks slightly.  "Maybe he's working as a mercenary on the side.  Aaaanyway, I don't think we're likely to be hearing from them again."
    Colette settles back in her seat, looking at Kian thoughtfully.  "You know, if a ship from your world did turn up, you could set up a trade route.  Handle operations here, export some of our stuff, import some of your stuff.  It could be pretty profitable.  Got a head for business, birdy buddy?  I could… and anyway, if there was regular trading, maybe someone can figure out how to shield your rhy'thar from the warp drives and you could make trips between here and there."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Imagine all of the influence you could peddle back home with chocolate alone!" Terry says.  He hasn't made a move to order, still paralyzed by the possibilities.  But something else seems to bother him, as he says, "You know… our centaur guy?  He was being chased by cultists, too.  Gar, Kian and I saved him from ritual sacrifice.  And there were ghosts involved."  He taps his chin and is silent for a few moments before saying, "…I wonder if they're the same cult?  Or if they're different cults, what are the odds of cult activity going up at the same time… and it not meaning something positively ominous?"

Kian has posed:
    Kían shrugs; feathers rustle.  "Well, it iss all jus' thinkin' out loud, anyway.  There iss no ship going to arrive tonight.  Even if my world iss nearby, they can not know I am here.  An' I know the neares' star iss four Eart' years away, an' I haf only been here a year an' a half.  Therefore…." he winds, up, and spreads his hands in a half-hearted 'tadah!' gesture.
    He regards Terry a moment.  "I do not know what was happenin' on Mal-ta, why would the two groups be related?  Or iss Mal-ta very close an' I am just not familiar with it?"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette stares at Terry for a while.  She is interrupted by a waitress turning up with her cappuccino, but then resumes staring at him over the foam.  Eventually she gives a heavy shrug, and sips her coffee at him.
    "I dunno.  Or care.  Deranged lunatic cultists are gonna derange lunatic cult.  So long as they don't mess with my students, I have no intention of stopping them.  I doubt your guys were the same as these guys, though.  It's about quarter the way around the world from here, Kian.  But that's not really relevant, 'cos we already know these guys have been visiting locally.  Like I said, I ran into some of them at the school already."
    Colette gives a small shake of her head.  "There's probably any number of deranged lunatic cults out there, seeing as half the world or more is deranged lunatics.  If they are your guys though, your centaur friend probably doesn't have to worry about them any more."
    She rolls her neck and sits back, coffee held between both hands.  "I mean… cults are about belonging to something outside the mainstream.  That's what attracts people to them.  So increasing cult activity means an increased desire for people to find some kind of meaning in their lives outside of the mainstream of society.  That would be a cultural stress thing.  Rapidly changing world; people increasingly distrustful of the status quo being the right answer.  Humans are apes, they still have a lot of ape programming.  They see the structure of the pack is changing.  The symbols they subconsciously recognize as being indicators of alpha status are no longer associated with the people leading society.  It undermines an ape's faith in that society and encourages them to form new status-bonds outside of the ones society offers them, in the belief that the heirarchy is about to change and they want to be ahead of the curve."
    "In short, it's your fault, Terry."  Collete sips her coffee and winks at Kian.  "You superheroes.  You're a vast psychological strain on society."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    The Cheshire Cat raises an eyebrow at Colette and taps a claw on the table, hmming.
    "Colette, have you been getting into the Schleiermacher lately?"
    "I mean, let's be honest, I rather think Brainiac and Warworld were a much greater stressor on the world than lil' ol' me.  And without people like lil' ol' me, we'd all be in… well.  You know.  A lot more stressed."

Kian has posed:
    Kían tries to suppress a snicker, with marginal results.  "Tenár'h," he says, "you are not exac'ly the mos' calming presence.  But that iss who you are, I do not think you can help that.  It iss part of the charm of you.  An' also the challenge of you."
    He settles on a salad—safest choice, really—and regards Colette curiously.  "Why Earth, though?  Why iss Earth always under some sort of attack or invasion or tryin' to mess itself up?  I mean, there haf been how many invasion attemp's since I came here?  I sometimes think if another invasion happen an' they put it to a vote, people woul' just say, "Yes, fine, jus' get it over with." An' then, what, robot spiders an' cults an' that gang that did not know how to count their own number… why Earth?"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "I've never read Shleiermacher," Colette objects.  "How the fuck have you?  You're not even twenty.  You need to get out more, Terry.  Next time, I'm taking you to a bar."
    "You eat fish, right Kian?  Try the salmon salad, it's good."
    Colette puts her coffee down, and leans forwards with her elbows on the table.
    "Nah, this stuff is pretty obvious.  You're wrong, though.  A threat from outside is a fundamentally different kind of stressor.  The invaders actions classifies them as being an 'other' threat.  A threat from outside.  That causes people to draw together, because it minimizes the impact of differences within the society by contrasting them with the differences to people without.  You guys are presenting as part of the existing society, something that doesn't threaten it from outside.  You have altered the balance of power very fundamentally, and undermined the pre-existing power structure fatally.  People sense this, even if they don't know it yet.  That's an internal stressor, and that's fundamentally different.  It drives people away from the center rather than towards the center."
    "Why Earth, Kian?  That's an interesting question.  Aliens seem to pay Earth a lot of attention for no particularly obvious reason, and it's been happening a lot longer than people think.  It's weird.  But the rest?  Trying to mess itself up, robots, cults, that's because human psychology is primitive.  A lot of the things that drive the species are inherited from the way societies developed in their ancestor species.  Instincts that are no longer suitable to the way that human beings live."
    Colette turns back to Vorpal, gesturing towards Kian with her coffee cup.  "See now Kian's people… they communicate mentally.  That makes things very different.  Society itself has a voice, you see.  Something arises from the connection of so many minds, a kind of implicate consciousness almost.  People don't have to interpret signals of change individually, so you don't get that kind of stressor.  Society swings one way or another, pushed by the tides of consensus, and nobody feels paranoid about being left out."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "We actually went through Schleiermacher in Catholic school.  We had a whole philosophy class.  Also had to deal with Schopenhauer and stuff—of course it was all looked at from a Catholic perspective, so you can imagine."  He pauses.  "But Schopenhauer is just as depressing no matter what angle you read him from.  I also was a gay kid going to a Catholic high school so I spent a lot of time not interacting with boys I had a crush on out of fear i'd get found out and read a lot instead, so."  He sticks his tongue out.  "Besides, all this talk about moving people away from the center… have you never played a game ever?  People gathering in the center is the perfect recipe for area of effect attacks to take out an entire team and then it's 'Oh Terry it's your fault for getting all of us killed so it's your turn to buy the pizza.'"
    Someone is a little sore from last night's game night at the tower, it seems.  "Why Earth?  The Alician prophets back in Wonderland would say that it's because Earth is where The Goddess came from.  But they're Unsane, so no-one listens to them.  But it does bear pointing out that places like Wonderland have portals that lead to Earth.  So does Faerie—and although I have yet to interview J'onn, I am pretty sure he will tell me there is no such thing as Martian Faeries."  He turns to glance at Kian.  "Are there fairies in your world's mythology?  Because I am beginning to think that maybe Earth is at the confluence of some sort of… crossroads.  A lot of magic and things of significance just seem to happen here or end up here, and I am thinking that it's something tied to something about Earth that has nothing to do with our civilizations, but more something to do with the planet itself."  He grabs his glass of water and smirks.  "But maybe that's a question for Amanda.  And as for The Voice of Society… you are talking to the cat who was an outcast from a sub-section of Society that liked to dictate what was proper and what was not based on the whims of some person in the sky who doesn't even talk back.  You might say that… I don't care about voices of society.  Or consensus.  After all…" he reaches out and teases Kian's hair, because he's a cat, "from what Kian tells me, consensus in his world about him if he goes back wouldn't exactly be a very happy thing."

Kian has posed:
    "It would be a happy thin' to let my frien's an' family know I am alife an' well," Kían says, "but then I would almost certain be made Rhyták t'Kiáre—avatar of my Lady Kiáre—an' my life would not be my own anymore.  Almos' all Akiár with a major rhy'thar haf been made rhyták."  He shakes his head once.  "I am no representatif of the Gods.  An' what time was not taken up by the priests woul' be taken by the researchers still tryin' to figure out what I haf an' why.  I would be treated very well, my home would be greatly expanded… an' I would haf no life of my own to enjoy it.  An' anyway, nothin' threatens my worl's like threatens Earth every other Tuesday.  I think I am need more here, than there."
    He cocks his head at Colette.  "You are right, of course.  Mos' of our interactions with each other, they are subconsciously negotiate before a word has been said or sent.  An' so we haf a very peaceful an' quiet society where very little changes, an' when it does, it changes very slowly."
    He looks a little uncomfortable as he admits, "An' I am start to wonder if that iss really healthy."