In HFO Post 37, Dr R. Deep asks to speak with Benjamin Mahir, The Company Kid, alone for a moment, at the mention of the Ordimarian Devil, in HFO Post 36. He leaves Judge in charge, but she quickly yanks Deep aside to protest. He explains that she's the best suited to dealing with their new 'team member', High Imp, but she believes that he's trying to put her into a position of responsibility that would lead her to taking the place of The Patriot. She think Seraphim would be better suited to that and that she's British, while the team is traditionally seen as American. He states there's no choice and he leaves to talk to Benjamin, while Qhobeg is trying to remember where he knows High Imp from, but the demon just ignores him. On Tatooine, the many deities are still arguing. The Three Fates wants to know who's responsible for allowing the Writers, Britt the Writer and Al Ciao the Writer, to run amok. Eternius is quick to blame the PublisherGod, while the PublisherGod manages to put the blame on the EditorGod. The EditorGod comes up with the idea to use his influence over Gebohq the Writer to stop the other Writers, but Arkng Thand warns against pushing Gebohq the Writer too much, as he has shown little interest in the Hero Force One (Story) thread but could become a terrible force if ever he did. Jim Seven thinks it's time for a break, and everyone agrees, but Thand wonders if he would have to confront Gebohq the Writer. Back on Orbital One, Deep talks to Benjamin Mahir about his time with the NeS Heroes, though Ben insists his time with them was unremarkable. Deep talks of his disdain for other heroic groups, especially the for-profit Adventurers & Champions Conglomerate. But the NeS Heroes usually go unnoticed by the media and when they are noticed, they usually give heroes a bad name. He compares them to cockroaches - able to survive anything. However, he is concerned about their cult-like devotion to the concept of Narrative Theory and believes that, in Ben, he has a kindred spirit, someone who does not believe in such superstitions. He admits that some of them, such as Qhobeg, have managed to tap into something, but he does not think it is this Story written by illusory Writers. He is concerned that the team is falling into this cult as they rely on Qhobeg and such things as the Deus Ex Machine. He hopes that Benjamin will help to keep the group grounded. Benjamin states that he doesn't really want to do this job, and feels he's only good for serving drinks to people. Deep says this reminds him of a talk he once had with his own master, Arkng Thand. And then ignores Benjamin's protestations and thanks him for agreeing before walking out.
Benjamin Majir: "Me?"
The doctor starts walking into a side-room with Benjamin Majir when Judge stops him and pulls him aside. Benjamin looks around rather confused and helpless. The other HFO members, for now at least, are distracted by High Imp listing off his litany of "credentials" -- mostly thinly-veiled threats than anything else. Judge and Deep hold their own conversation in whispered tones that, thanks to Qhobeg's unconscious storywielding powers, allows it to remain unheard by anyone else.
Judge: "What's the meaning of this, Deep."
She was not asking, but demanding.
Deep: "I just need a few minutes to talk with Ben, and you're most qualified to keep our new ally in check in my absence."
Judge: "Don't play this game with me, Doc. I know what you mean when you talk of "managing" the team. You want me to take the Patriot's place, don't you? Well it's not happening. I'm just the muscle. Sera's more qualified to uphold our image without him or Citizen Rex, and you know the U.S. has issue with a non-American leading this group--"
Deep: "This isn't the time to debate this. This team needs strength right now. We're not dealing with a normal crisis here... You know I'm right. I'll help you with the finer points later."
Though still clearly displeased, Judge lets go of Deep, allowing him to take Benjamin Majir into a side room. Meanwhile, Qhobeg continues to squint at High Imp.
High Imp ignores him.
Qhobeg: "How cold."
Eternius clears his throat nervously.
Eternius: "Yes. Well, Writers are really not worth my attention. And as you all know, delegation is... key to maintaining... PublisherGod! It is PublisherGod's duty to dictate what material a Writer's work can be issued for all to see."
PublisherGod sits frozen, a bead of sweat running down his divine temple.
PublisherGod: "Of course. Many thanks to my superior for his wisdom and charity. I, obviously, don't deserve such recognition--"
Eternius: "Nonsense! Now tell the nice ladies how you'll take care of these troublesome Writers."
PublisherGod: "Take care of them, yes. Take care of them I would do, and will take care of them! Yes, take care of them while maintaining the highest of contracts made long ago with the God-Monarchs upon which our very existence owe thanks too--"
Three Fates: "Get on with it!"
PublisherGod: "--and the Writers would be best taken care of by the EditorGod!"
EditorGod: "Why you little--"
Three Fates: "Why haven't you dealt with these Writers already?"
Fladnag the White: "Perhaps this was really an internal affair gone wrong. It may just be best for us to temporarily pool our power together to smite these Writers and those that have failed to keep them in check."
EditorGod: "There's no need for such drastic actions! I assure you, I have it under control... I hold control over Gebohq the Writer, after all. I'll have him stop whatever plot Britt and Al are posting forth."
HorseGod: "Yes, I know of that Writer's influence, and he'll certainly do the job. A grand solution, EditorGod. Well done!"
The EditorGod sighs in relief as the cabal murmurs in agreement.
Master Thand: "A word of caution. Do not invoke that Writer's will lightly. He seems to have taken little interest in this divergent thread of the narrative fabric, and that may be for the best. I would recommend this group continue to discuss further alternatives, if for no other reason than that we all know the nature of Writers."
Jim Seven: "So who's up for a lunch break?"
Enthusiastic chatter raises at the suggestion. Master Thand puffs his smoking pipe in thought, musing to himself.
Master Thand: "If that writer becomes involved, I'll need to step in to keep him distracted..."
Meanwhile (HFO count: hero force one! Wait, two? The count is already done for!), Doctor R. Deep offers Benjamin Majir a seat in their side room, while Deep takes his own seat at the other side of a desk. The two sit for a moment in silence, with the doctor clearly thinking of all that he wants to say. Ben shifts in his seat nervously while the silence drags on before finally finding the courage to speak up.
Ben: "Am I... in trouble, sir?"
Deep: "What? No. Not at all!"
Ben: "Am I being sent on a suicide mission?"
Deep: "No! I mean, not on your own. That is... I just wanted to have a talk with you."
Ben: "Uh... ok. What about?"
The doctor collects himself.
Deep: "Before your assignment as the Company Kid for Hero Force One, you had a... colorful history."
Ben: "I assure you, sir, my life as a thief is behind me!"
Deep: "You're not on trial here, Kid. And I was talking about your time with a group that called themselves NeS Heroes."
Ben: "Oh. Yes, I did... briefly."
Deep: "Can you tell me about your time with them?"
At the mention of the request, Benjamin Majir grows significantly uncomfortable, which is saying a lot, given his previous discomfort and nervousness. He takes his cowboy hat off and looks at the inside of it, which held another handmade hat. He holds the hat to his chest before looking back up at Doctor R. Deep.
Ben: "If it's all the same, I'd rather not. It was really rather unremarkable, honestly."
Deep: "I suspect that's not the case, at least to you, and I'll accept it all the same. Compared to the Hero Forces, those in the Hero Union... hell, even to most of the self-serving snakes in the ACC, the NeS Heroes hardly make news and more often than not give us heroes a bad name--"
Deep: "Adventurers & Champions Conglomerate. They're a rather shady parent group acting more through their subsidiary hero groups, sharing only the common goal of profit. My point, Ben, is that those NeS Heroes are often way out of their league, and frankly, deal with the Narrative Theory as fact, with cultish obsession for that "NeS" of theirs."
Ben: "But isn't Qhobeg...?--"
Deep: "Useful. Sometimes. You and I both know he's a few screws loose. Look, I'm familiar with Narrative Theory, and I know you've experienced its odder symptoms. I don't doubt that people like Qhobeg have tapped into something significant... and that's the heart of what I wanted to talk to you about. I know you've had experience with this, and unlike the others -- especially Qhobeg -- I know you've got a good head on you. So I know when I tell you that, in all honesty, Hero Force One is now way in over its head, resorting to options like a "Deus Ex Machine" as a reliable solution, I can count on you to stand by my side and talk straight. You've been with that group of NeS Heroes, who manage like cockroaches to survive against odds they have no right of surviving. You've seen that group dabble in those questionable methods. I have no intention of leading Hero Force One down that path of throwing our fates to the wind. I want us to stay grounded, and you're the only one on this team that can do that. Do you understand, Ben?"
Benjamin Majir takes the time to control his breathing, using his time to think of how to answer the doctor.
Ben: "Permission to speak, sir."
Deep: "Yes, that's why you're here--! ...Yes, Ben. Please speak your mind."
Ben: "I never really wanted to be on this team. I'm a half-step away from dying at every turn I take with people on this team. I'm only here due to circumstance, and because my life up that point, unfortunately, was even worse. I have to control my every word just so I'm not screaming my head off at the insanity of all this. Quite honestly, the only use I can be on this team at this point is to fetch drinks and inevitably give my life to save someone more important. I want to help, I really do. I just can't help you the way you want me to. I just can't. I must respectfully decline, sir."
Silence fills the room once more.The doctor drums his fingers together, giving what Ben has said fair thought. He stands up and starts walking towards Ben.
Deep: "I'm glad we've had this talk, Ben. It reminds me of a talk I had many years ago with my old Master Thand."
Deep slaps his hand on Ben's shoulder.
Deep: "Good to have you by my side -- you'll keep us in check for sure."
Deep: "Come now, Company Kid! We have a universe to set right, and everyone's depending on Hero Force One!"
The doctor walks out of the side room and back to the other team members. Benjamin Majir sighs and puts his hat back on as he makes his way to follow back out.
Ben: "Bloody hell. You should have stayed in the sewers, Ben. At least the **** there was tolerable..."