SFP

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  • Miri Waites

    Is it wrong that part of me thinks the saddest thing about this might be that he views his body starting to shut down because of a lack of human contact as a problem to be solved by throwing koney at it, rather than as a sign that he’d been discarding things he needed..? Poor scared, sad, unloved little boy, throwing his humanity away to survive 🙁

    • Hey, that’s not a SOLUTION to the problem, but it is a coping mechanism. And when all your good options are stripped away, you go with the bad-but-survivable ones.

      • Todd

        Huh. Life lessons from class society . . . .

      • Elaine Lee

        True. I advised a friend whose wife had left him (in the the worst way possible) to start getting a weekly massage. Lack of physical contact can kill you. Taking care of that, even by throwing money at it, allows the mind to heal.

      • Tylikcat

        So much what Ian is saying here. And I admire how this story is being told in that it makes it clear that these were awful choices, but also choices made by someone without good options on the table. At least, not realistic good options on the table. (Put himself in a loving foster home? Ahaha… no.)

        You make the best choices you can, and you survive. And then you get to figure out how to make different choices, and rebuild yourself when you get into a better situation, which is often a whole lot more complicated.

        (Years ago, thinking about my own process, I wrote this: https://tylik.livejournal.com/233012.html – though, whoa, so carefully stated, and anger was the least of it. For that matter, not only was this just a few months before I went into research, it was, oh, a year and a bit before I joined a Chan order, sort of by accident…)

        • Sometimes the best way to win, or the only way to win, is just to keep on breathing. (Which coincidentally happens, paraphrased, to be the last line of the story I’ve been working on)

          Side note that I really like the story you buried in that LJ post.

          • Tylikcat

            You’ve mentioned the story (elsewhere) and I look forward to reading it.

            It’s not the best piece of writing, but it’s kind of stuck with me, as my own little parable of the shoes. I don’t identify as broken, I am irritated by the social tropes that would pin such a label on me. (I hope my sister, for one instance, doesn’t identify as broken – she has a much more difficult path to adulthood in many ways, and is still pretty raw from it.) But both the rebuilding of yourself, and then not scorning and hating what you did to survive is involved. And… well, hey. When I was twenty, I met the man I would later marry, and you know how that turned out 😛 (I mean, there was a love triangle, heartbreak, and a bunch of stalking before it got to the marrying part, all of which made him look much more promising than he might have otherwise…)

          • Thanks. Broken is about the last label I would pin on you. Amazingly unbroken fits far better.

          • Tylikcat

            Well, I did mean emotionally. Physically… I suppose is metaphorically similar, perhaps, with the titanium bits, and the, um, inspirationally hacked metabolism? (Heh, put that way, I really do sound like a comic book character. But you, at least, know the backstory.) I am just juggling plates. Do I get to say like everyone else? I think so.

            (There is an axiom, proposed by a former roommate and dear friend – who is also a member of the larger EEP cohort, so she should know better – that nothing from my life should be used as evidence about anything anywhere else. But I have never accepted it.)

          • A few dings in the exterior paintwork, a replacement part or two, but clearly still functional 😉

            I think you’re quite good evidence for truth being stranger than fiction, but then so are an awful lot of things.

          • StClair

            Relevant metaphor, IMO: I know someone who runs a forum for people with issues and histories called “Kintsugi”, after the art of taking a ceramic pot, vase, etc that’s been deliberately smashed and gluing it back together with metal-infused glue – creating, in the process, something uniquely beautiful.

        • Zorae42

          I think the problem is that the coping method he chose is one that specifically doesn’t allow him to rebuild himself once in a better situation. He’s blocking out all that stuff and I don’t think he can consciously choose to access it again in order to rebuild. Not that I’m judging him for doing what he had to do – it’s just sad that there’s not really a good way back from what he did.

          I mean, maybe Alison mucking about in there will let him do it, but we’ll have to see.

          • Tylikcat

            I don’t know if Alison’s role is nearly so cut and dry. Really, I hope not. If we are to take Patrick at his word – always the question, but in this case, I think that’s more interesting than most unreliable narrator scenarios in the offing – he was already re-positioning himself vis a vis the world in a pretty major way before the story opened, and he seemed to feel some real tenderness towards Alison. What’s gone on between then since then… is just a lot more complicated, the way life is.

            But, two reactions, if somewhat at odds with each other:

            1) On the one hand, I realize my comment above is a pretty optimistic view on things, in that it doesn’t stop to look at all the ways people can get stuck, lost and dead along the way. And there are so many ways. Death and loss are kind of my baseline, which leaves me kind of bowled over with gratitude when the universe fails to live up to my expectations (not whining, historical artifacts). I’m really amazed by how many from my various groups, especially the frequently messed up, traumatized and overly bright teenagers who were one of my first cohesive families, did make it. Heck, last I heard, our class sociopath had decided that not having empathy was messing up his life, and so he had decided to teach himself empathy – haven’t heard an update in years, but I’m cheering for him. (I’ve always been cautiously fond of him.)

            None of this means I am not aware of how many people don’t make it. (Though there are some unflattering things around the degrees of that awareness, which is deeply uneven.) Nor is my ethical hygiene on the subject tops, probably.

            2) Yes, we’re in a comic book, etc. etc. It’s a revisionist comic book, and I’m going to hold with the idea that superpowers are almost always a way to explore ethics and humanity (well, writ large). Therefore, while Patrick psychologically unusual, making him entirely foreign seems unlikely… and most of what we’ve seen so far has known psychological cognates. (The ones here I have some degree of direct experience with.) For the time being, I am going to work on the theory that yeah, Patrick did all kinds of crap to himself, but nothing he did was undoable, or even put himself in a place from which he wouldn’t or couldn’t undo it. Because that’s not how we’re made, and I’m using “we”, again, quite broadly.

            …also, I think it is the glipses of Patrick’s humanity (and fuckwittedness, but in an evolving, striving sort of way) that have made him such a favorite to so many readers.

          • Zorae42

            I’m more just sad that he needed/chose such an extreme coping mechanism that is so hard to recover from. And sad that despite being away from his toxic mother and gathering a whole bunch of devoted followers precisely because his powers let him understand them, he still hasn’t started to heal. I managed to start healing pretty soon after I left my toxic environment, so the years that he’s spent outside of his without even starting makes his coping mechanism seem much more permanent.

            But you’re right, mental barriers aren’t actually permanent. Even without telekinetic powers that let you directly talk to the constructor’s subconscious.

            As for Alison, I just meant that maybe she could convince some/all of the personas to start taking down the barriers/not expelling all the component (preferably slowly). As a person he trusts (and apparently sees as protective and safe) maybe he’d listen to her – as a friend. But I’m still not sure if she’s going to take it upon herself try to help him or stick to her needs and just get the conspiracy info he has.

          • Tylikcat

            I guess I read it differently. He stepped away from being Menace. He initiated contact with Alison. (Again, this is all taking him at his word, but I’m going with that.) He sought out her company, being perfectly aware that she was falling in love with him. His very best memory is of laughing at the cartoons, and in his version, it’s something they’re sharing. (And the Record Keeper is all for this!) His Sentinel takes the shape of Alison because he associates her with being safe, warm and secure. ChildPatrick regrets having pushed her and her love away.

            I think a lot of changes were already happening for him, and had been happening for a while. (Focusing everything on Alison is probably not the best move here, guy.) Healing isn’t binary. (Well, and healing isn’t always straightforward. I don’t know about you, but when I was making a concerted effort to deal with my familial crap, there were a lot of times when… I felt like I was trying to really clean a messy room with overstuffed closets, and I was at the point where I’d pulled everything out, and there was stuff everywhere, and it looked like a tornado had struck and what the hell had I gotten myself into?) Shit happens.

            Again, assuming a straightforward reading, and aside from the massive “WTF Gurwara?!!!!”, not to mention “er, weren’t you looking for files about the conspiracy?” that’s hanging over everything, the current situation is pretty fascinating for reasons other than resolving Patrick’s internal issues and whatever led to his breakdown, which may or may not be the same thing. (Keep in mind, being able to invite Alison into his mind is new in terms of what we had been told about his powers.)

            And now I shall indulge in pure speculation. Patrick lashing out at Alison before she threw the cup at him could be read at him pushing her away – or it could be read as him throwing all his insecurities in her face. (I mean, it was a pretty sucky interaction on both their sides, any way you look at it.) But one of their problems was their fundamental communication asymmetry – Alison could never know Patrick the way Patrick knew Alison. And at some level, this was (maybe) killing Patrick, because there was always that possibility that if she really knew him, she’d see what a shit he really was. So, now she’s tromping around in his mind, getting to see what made him, and what he’s made of. Honestly, that’s almost my strongest argument that this is, kind of, a set up. Not in the deeply cunning sense, but in coalitionPatrick having been destabilized (maybe because Patrick powered up, which was a mixed blessing?) and the pro-Alison faction having taken advantage of the opportunity to push him towards Alison’s doorstep. (Though, maybe that’s just where he runs when he’s scared and overwhelmed.)

          • Now that’s an interesting thought. ‘I hate you (fix me)’ is a pretty believable scenario.

          • Tylikcat

            It’s been my favorite pet theory for a while – probably about as long as fuckwit has been my favorite (but loving) epithet for Patrick. How many relationships have foundered on self-loathing, after all? And asymmetrical communication, if not exactly on this scale, is a conundrum I’ve run across, and it’s a super sucky place to be.

          • And that communications asymmetry is something Patrick can’t escape. It will follow him into any relationship. And even if Alison gets a look into his darkest places, as she’s doing right this moment, it will reassert itself as soon as she’s out of his mind, which will just build back into the same self-loathing and ultimately self-destructive lashing-out.

            That’s a nasty place to be, and potentially dangerous for everyone else.

          • Tylikcat

            I’m not sure about that. I think this trip is potentially pretty transformative. And I want to know why she’s able to be in Patrick’s mind. Was he always projective as well as receptive? Is this new? Whazzit?

          • Is she in Patrick’s mind, or is Patrick in her mind, telling her she’s in his mind….

        • tygertyger

          Dang, Tylikcat, that is some heavy stuff. I agree with you completely on martial arts and nonviolence, though. IME martial artists are some of the least violent people around. I suppose that’s only logical when courts tend to treat you as if you were armed even in a conflict that you didn’t start.

          • Tylikcat

            There are certainly plenty of asshole martial artists around. And martial artists who think that brawling in bars in their off hours is great (<= younger days of a former marine training partner of mine in my wushu days, fr'instance). And while I'm personally pretty unlikely to start a physical fight – words, words are always my favorite – I have a comfort with violence that is unusual for anyone that socialized as female. Heck, for most people from my socio-economic background, really.

  • Gotham

    “At the end of the day, the only part of me I could not bring myself to seal off and part with was my unquenchable teenage craving for a thread of white hair.”

  • SubspaceDreamer

    Poor Patrick 🙁

  • AdamBombTV

    He’s channeling his inner Gordon Gekko whilst at Wall Street

  • rpenner

    Jesus is crediting with saying “if your right eye offends you, pluck it out” and as a ten-year-old I decided that humans, myself include, are just FILLED with offensive things.

  • Olivier Faure

    … I mean, he could have joined the CIA? Wouldn’t have been very heroic, but the government would have been all for it! (although he’d probably have to implant a tracking device and have all his meetings with his superiors through video calls)

    Also, I like that when Patrick realizes he needs human contact, the first place his mind goes is “Hire sex workers” rather than “Go to a massage salon”. Guess some things are harder when you don’t want to leave a paper trail.

    • Mechwarrior

      A massage salon would likely have denied him service and tried to report him to authorities. Sex workers would not.

      • allneonlike

        Swers would be more aware of how bad the foster system can be and would generally be less likely to engage with law enforcement, but I can’t imagine many of them would find it normal and OK to take an outcall and having it be some clearly traumatized 12 year old child in a hotel room. There’s a very specific kind of shitty rich teen/preteen that tries to hire strippers or sex workers, and Patrick asking for a back rub or a hug to combat touch starvation does not fit that profile. For all his talk about being able to manipulate people based on reading their thoughts, I haven’t seen him show much ability to assume personas, definitely not in a way that he would need to to make this seem like as much of a normal situation as “you arrive at an incall and your client has not gone through puberty” can possibly be. I wonder how many of these people came to the conclusion that Patrick was being trafficked, or seriously abused in some other way? Ugh, this is going to be haunting me and unless there’s some bonus page where Patrick runs into a swer on the subway and has some positive OMG YOU’RE ALIVE WE TRIED TO FIND YOU interaction I am just going to keep being haunted. :/

    • Gotham

      The pedophiles torturing him might very well be CIA.

      • Olivier Faure

        … I… don’t think we’re supposed to believe that *all* (or even most) of the doctors Patrick’s mom went to were pedophiles? I mean, that would be pretty weird statistically, if nothing else. Although we don’t know how mom has been finding these guys, so who knows.

        • Gotham

          We know there’s one and also /they torture people/ I have no qualms about putting the burden of proof on them

    • The CIA’s response could have been to shoot him. For every agent he contacts, they can never be certain he doesn’t know anything that agent ever learned, so have to assume all of it has been compromised. He’s a walking security breach.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        Pretty sure the sensible response would be to just keep him away from people with a higher security clearance, getting any intelligence he provides to them via letters, electronics, or maybe low-clearance intermediates for “all is well” and other low-risk data.

        • Olivier Faure

          That. I know we have a “The Man is out to get you” vibe here, but realistically, the CIA would love having an actual psychic spy (especially before psychodynamics became a thing).

          They would probably have created a dedicated unit for him, since StarGate project would have been shut down by then.

        • The problem is, once they know Patrick exists, they know the threat of him going rogue exists. Patrick could sit in a van driving past the Pentagon or the White House, or Congress, and skim the mind of everyone going in or out. And they don’t know his exact range.

          Shooting him is extreme, but Patrick’s life has taught him to expect extreme behaviour. Plus he’s ten.

          • GreatWyrmGold

            That threat exists for literally everyone working for the government. While it might not matter much for Pencil Pusher #4,396, there certainly are plenty of people for whom it does, ranging from the Secret Service to the army to the FBI. At some point, you just have to trust the loyalty of these people. And guess what? It works!

          • I’ve had* a security clearance, it barely got me access to any classified documents on my own project, never mind anything else (and I was usually running the data repository). A lot of stuff compartmentalises naturally – so while I’ve worked on F-22 (picking the most US-sensitive), I never saw anything beyond some limited documentation on the HUD. That kind of security only breaks down if there are systemic failures that allow people to reach outside of their immediate need-to-know, Chelsea Manning being the classic case.

            But if I’d been Patrick, then that limited access wouldn’t have been so limited, because I sat in on the meetings where we reported to the people who did see across the entire aircraft, not just the specific project.

            So Patrick doesn’t really fit the same security risk profile as your typical government or defence contractor worker. But worse, Patrick can get that same access remotely, just by eavesdropping on minds passing within range. We don’t actually know what his range is, but evidence seems to suggest it’s larger than a room, possibly larger than a building (his references to being almost overwhelmed by the clamour of other people’s minds mean he’s hearing a considerable number at once). If his range is larger than 100m or so, then he can eavesdrop on a considerable number of very sensitive sites – e.g. Congress, the White House – without needing to pass through building security. And no matter how much you trust your own high-clearance people who congregate in such places, they’re an open book to Patrick.

            That’s a security nightmare.

            (And of course this also goes for commercial stuff, which explains the rise of Patrick the businessman)

            * should be expired by now

  • allneonlike

    Yikes, so somewhere in that mind city, and probably real New York, is an apartment full of the memories of NYC sex workers who are all having a sitdown conversation, group text session, and/or strip club locker room discussion about how desperately worried they are about this Mystery Obviously Traumatized Twelve Year Old who is hiring girls off craigslist/backpage. Patrick, your bio family didn’t care about you, but please know that there are a bunch of sex workers out there who are going to be haunted forever by having met you and want to know that you’re OK.

    • Tripper

      If he let them remember.

      • Walter

        He can’t change other people’s minds, I think. He reads them, and alters his own, but his life would look very different if he could control people.

        • Tripper

          I’m trying to find the exact page, but it’s when Allison visits Patrick at his company and there was something about people there under his control.

          • Incendax

            That was just a reference to his ability to verbally manipulate people because he can read their thoughts.

          • Weatherheight

            and money – don’t forget money.
            People will do very unexpected things if you give them enough money.

          • korbl

            “You can get used to anything when money’s involved”
            –Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis

          • Weatherheight

            Warren Ellis rocks.

          • Gotham

            There’s an ongoing mystery about whether he can put people to sleep with his mind, or his manager privileges allowing him to impose team building nap sessions.

          • Or simply lace the fruit juice and coffee with a strong sleep medication.

          • Gotham

            I wouldn’t mind the trope in fiction (it’s been such a convenient plot device) but did you know? It’s fairly hard to get people to the right balance you want—sleep—and not either making them feel extremely dizzy and nauseated, or kill them good, when drugging them this way. A anesthesiologist friend of mine calls herself a obscenely well-paid glorified nightlight, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

          • Yeah, dosage is really difficult – cf when Russian Spetsnaz used a fentanyl based anaesthetic during the Moscow Theatre Siege and killed 130 hostages as well as the terrorists. However with a select known group, and Patrick playing charismatic host, it wouldn’t be impossible to make sure each got the cup with the appropriate dosage.

          • Zac Caslar

            That plan was easily the best choice of a bad situation. Lots of tangos and their victims rigged as human bombs, hundreds of variables, and lots of space to cover. Pretty much worst case operations.

            Good pull though.

          • There may have been a case for using the gas*, what was absolutely, unforgiveably and without doubt the worst case of counter-terrorist planning in history was not having pretty much every ambulance and doctor in Moscow waiting around the corner loaded with naloxone/narcan and resuscitation gear, and pre-briefed on what gas was being used and likely effects. Not to mention the sheer utter incompetence of rescue workers not putting survivors in the recovery position.

            *Even with the gas, fighting continued for a sustained period, as much as two and a half hours, so it actually wasn’t effective against the supposed human bombs.

          • The Distinguished Anarchist

            The actual trope in question is “Instant Sedation” ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InstantSedation )

            Your friend is obviously quite correct in her assertions of the effects that improperly measured sedatives will have on a random person– anything between mild drowsiness and instant death.

            It’s for exactly this reason that anesthesiologists are required to go to school for so many years and get paid so much fucking money.

          • Sterling Ericsson

            He explicitly tells her in the car ride that he can’t mind control people. He’s never had that ability. What was happening at the company is that he was deeply probing their minds for information on time travel and other topics.

          • Flesh Forge

            No that was Rohypnol. No, really, it was pretty much a date rape drug thing (assuming you mean the room full of unconscious scientists he had drugged and was mind reaming)

          • GreatWyrmGold

            I believe Patrick himself said that if you can read people’s minds and can’t make them want to do what you want just by talking to them, you don’t have it in you to be a mastermind.

    • Gotham

      You’d be surprised how many sex workers encounter young people (boys, mostly) whose first move when running away from home with some money is to try and have sex. It’s (hopefully) not what they provide of course, but it’s common enough for some of them to have a special term for it.

      • allneonlike

        I’m a stripper, not a full service worker, and don’t know this term– what is it if I can ask? I acknowledge that this isn’t my field, but the kids I encounter doing this are all in their mid to late teens, and I think Patrick is a lot younger than that here; I’m reading him as around 11-13 during this entire sequence. YMMV, but that is way younger than any teenage boy I’ve ever seen trying to lurk around the sex industry to get laid, and young enough that it would set off major alarm bells for me and for most of the other women I know in the industry. Apologies if I’m saying this out of ignorance– different branches of the same industry.

        • Gotham

          I may have oversold my admittedly limited experience. I stumbled upon that term when one of the troubled boys of 12 I was overseeing ran away and I eventually found him in a massage parlor ran by the nicest gal who was the one to tell me. According to her, though rare it does happen enough that she knew the child services number she called me on by heart, and one of her colleagues had coined the term “chibis” for them, some time ago. The way she spoke about it, apparently it doesn’t surprise them more than older teenagers trying to pass as young adults, only more heartbreaking.
          Didn’t get another call from them in years, I realize. Hopefully that’s a good sign.

          • 3-I

            One: Oh my god, they use an anime term for them, that’s adorable.
            Two: Yeah, your typical full-service sex worker is a person who knows exactly how bad it gets when you get the police involved in any given situation, because they use victims as punching bags. I would not be all surprised if they’re used to finding ways to get kids back to CPS instead. I hope it’s a good sign that it hasn’t come up!

          • Tylikcat

            If they trust CPS. I know distrust of CPS is very common.

            (For all my generally good experiences with the courts, I had some really awful ones with CPS, and I’ve been near at hand for some other really badly handled situations. I try to be even handed – I’ve had friends who have worked at CPS, and from what I can tell, they are structurally, institutionally set up to fail, despite having a lot of people who are really, really trying to do the right thing.)

            (Yeah, I suck at walking away.)

          • GreatWyrmGold

            When it comes to kids, things either go really well or really, really horribly.

          • Tylikcat

            If I strip away the thick layer of rage and betrayal that coats all of my interactions with them, mostly, they were just utterly useless. I was forced into dealing with them before I was ready, by someone who promised me they wouldn’t call CPS, and then told me after they did that clearly that’s what I’d wanted them to do, so I was already in a pretty foul mood about it. I suspect they mostly had no idea how do deal with me. The women who talked with me – remembering their faces now, I’d guess they were in their mid-twenties? The one I mostly talked to, anyway. They got a fifteen year old uni student who was coldly furious, told them since considering the matter at hand involved being violated without consent, forcing me to talk to them when I had declined did not show care for my well being. And then gave them a bunch of very reserved, precise, and minimal (but as honest as I could make them) answers. In which I included my own observations about the fallibility of memory.* I was pretty hostile, and I probably didn’t fit into any idea they had of how a 15 year old should look or act. They decided I wasn’t credible. I decided they were a bunch of unprofessional assholes.

            Since I didn’t go in with things I expected them to do, it wasn’t like their failure to act meant they missed doing specific things. I think my dad and I already had had cast iron frying pan stand off #2 by that time. But it was before my mother (who was in the middle of taking him to court because he was evil) decided to send him after me at the music store where I worked alone at night. Also, she wouldn’t change the locks at our home after he repeatedly came in and threatened me. (I’d already put my foot down about refusing to spend time with him.) My father, in addition to being a CS prof, is a former linebacker… But, of course, they didn’t do things like look into my medical history at all, and hello, the ER visits for vaginal trauma are kind of obvious, even if they only tell part of the story. And it meant they weren’t there for my younger siblings.

            * This was the time when people were pushing a lot of recovered memory stuff, and some of it made me really uncomfortable.

          • Seer of Trope

            How is the Child Protective Services structurally set up to fail?

          • Tylikcat

            Way too many cases for the number of people (which comes down to funding). Which means that the people are constantly overworked, that they can’t devote enough time to the cases, that there is a very high rate of turnover, and that there is a lot of selective pressure on the people who are there.

            Or so it was when I last was looking at it – I’ve been out of the loop recently.

          • Zac Caslar

            Probably budget shortfalls, too. I’m sure it’s a system almost deliberately designed to leech the humanity out of it’s workers.
            Like being a cop who has to work with the most painful victims and none of the power or respect.

          • Sounds fairly similar to the impression of the UK situation I got via friends (one dealing with policy at national level, their daughter dealing with it on the front line). I think I heard somewhere in there that time to career burnout averages 7 or 8 years for frontline social workers. There was useful work being done with new court models that worked more as a partnership with troubled families, but that model wouldn’t work with serious abuse.

            Cuts are a major problem for the non-child stuff. Not just because the money suddenly isn’t there, but because the social workers end up constantly reassessing care packages and under pressure to cut them.

        • Zac Caslar

          How about “Hi, I’ve got stock broker money, here’s 10x’s your normal hourly, meet my ‘son’ and rub his back like his Mom used to before the cancer got her, k?”

          Not that your skepticism is unfair, but that imo the request can be framed “reasonably” enough to be acceptable. Particularily once it’s repeat business.

          • Blub Blub

            that would work I think.

          • Tylikcat

            After living on the street for several years, he might just be more comfortable with sex workers. Which is a pretty broad term – he’s not necessarily finding people through web services, or hitting the independents or more high end side of things.

    • Darkfeather21

      “bio family”

      In instances like this, I prefer the terms “Sperm Donor” and “Womb Owner”.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        Patrick spent at least a decade with them; they contributed plenty more than sperm and a womb. A lot of it wasn’t positive*, but it’s still there, and probably shaped him much more than his genes.

        *It’s hard to say how much, since all we’ve seen of them has come from the cesspit of his mind.

      • David Brown

        I use “chromosome donator”.

  • The Distinguished Anarchist

    *blinks several times at the first panel*

    Oh. Hi there, Professor Gurwara.

    • Walter

      I don’t think that’s him.

      • Thomas S

        I also do not think it is Gurwara. The reasons are

        1) similar physique, face features and artwork/coloration are probably an artefact of the artists style.
        2) Being part of a corrupt military leadership group does not fit his claimed history (but it does not exclude it – his life shame story of shooting a doctor, if it were true, shows him as a grunt without powers of the mind, but with a streak of ruthlessness).
        3) Gurwara has only been seen as a solitary actor. No-one else around him. Here there are two.
        4) Gurwara’s motivation as we see it (Takes over a university level class to teach an opaque morality question of altruism to Alison, walks through the Mind of Patrick and removes data on the conspiracy for reasons unknown) does not intersect with corrupt military activity. The link is not clear, if there is a link.
        5) Gurwara seems to be an observer of actors, not an actor on actors. As we see him, he changes perceptions and thoughts, not physical features. Military suggests a changer of physical things.

        • The Distinguished Anarchist

          The problem I have with all of that speculation is that we literally know nothing about Gurwara right now.

          We know that the pretense he used to enter the class was a lie, and we know that he can lie well enough into fooling an intelligent and observant woman like Allison into believing that he is a genuine philosophy professor.

          Most importantly we don’t know his motivations. We haven’t the slightest inkling why he pretended to be a philosophy professor, other than perhaps to approach Allison for some reason. And since we know nothing about him, there is nothing at all to suggest that anything he told her at any point was true. It could all have been nothing more than a carefully calculated script intended to achieve a reaction from her. But since we don’t know his motivations, we don’t know if he even got the reaction he wanted.

          • Thomas S

            Oh heck yeah. Completely agree… Such a mystery and such an interesting character.

        • The Distinguished Anarchist

          Additionally, I’m also not wholly convinced it is him either; it was more a comment on the art style… what with this being the second eerily similar character design to crop up for me in as many strips.

  • MoonicaMusing

    “Component”. Huh.

  • AustinC123

    I’m imagining the conversation implied by that first panel:
    ‘Excuse me sirs, it’s come to my attention that we’re all very much the same on the inside and the motivations for conflict are often quite small minded and venal!’
    ‘… get this kid out of here, he’s high as a dang kite.’

    • Olivier Faure

      Yeah… well, you try to implement a “we’re very much the same on the inside”-based two-state solution for the Israel conflict!!!

      • AustinC123

        MAYBE I WILL

  • Pol Subanajouy

    This is dream of so many emotionally immature, I feel. To cut away all that is “weak” and screw the system until it bends to your will. I imagine for some this would be a power fantasy.

    • Tylikcat

      *blink*. Hm. I can totally see that. But I think the narrative tone has been chosen to specifically play down that reading, and instead emphasis how traumatized and fucked up Patrick has been.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        The two are hardly incompatible. They kinda lead to each other and bleed together. Traumatized, f*ked-up people accept those comfortable, immature impulses, which can lead to situations which traumatize and f*k them up more.

        • Tylikcat

          Granted that this is a possibility. Do you think this is what has been going on with Patrick, overall? (I would cast his storyline as one of accepting comfortable immature impulses.)

      • MoonicaMusing

        And not only the tone but the narrator, too.

        I’m sure the personas are not 100% accurate and stable and distinct as presented to A but we’re not hearing this story from teen-Patrick or adult-Patrick, who had already cut himself off from emotions etc. We’re hearing it from boy-Patrick. I don’t think that’s coincidental. I think any older and he wouldn’t be able to tell this story, maybe even allow himself to know/remember this thought process that brought him to the place where he became Menace.

    • Damon

      Cause, it’s gonna be the Future soon
      And I won’t always be this way
      When the things that make me weak and strange
      get engineered away.

      — The Future Soon (Jonathan Coulton)

    • Darkoneko Hellsing

      Immature … well, how old was he ?

  • JohnTomato

    Crawl inside the head of a sex worker? Can’t say I’d find that a healthy coping mechanism.

    • He doesn’t have the option of healthy coping mechanisms. He has the options of bad coping mechanisms, and dying.

    • peregon

      Presuming sex workers have horribly traumatic minds beyond pretty much anyone else working to eat is a bit insulting. Yes, there are horror stories, but if you think those are unique to the trade? Especially among women in poverty, often of color? You aren’t thinking very deeply.

      • Tylikcat

        At one point I had an extended discussion with a relative of mine, also estranged from most of the family, about her job as a stripper. Now, she had the advantage of working at a woman owned business (partly a my suggestion! There was no way I was letting her go back to her previous place of employment.) And it’s a limited kind of sex work – including a lot of peep show work, because that’s where you made the bucks, for reasons having to do with the local laws. (And this might be true elsewhere, but I know there’s a lot of differences in how much you make dancing, largely having to do with legal regulation. But that’s off topic.)

        At the time I was a fairly young but rising software engineer at Microsoft. We talked a lot about relative pay (hers actually came out better hourly than my salary, but then there were my stock options), benefits (I had great ones, she didn’t), stress (she was getting a worse attitude of men – though being backend server chick had a few downsides that way! – but didn’t have the hours or deadlines) stigma and danger (she got stigma and danger, I got people practically going into spontaneous musical numbers trying to sell me things, and general accolades), effect on our bodies (she was in great shape, except for having to dance in heels, whereas working at a desk all day was *hell* on my body)… oh, and what our relatives thought (I was suddenly the *good* cousin among the relatives who were talking to me, and used as an example to the other cousins. We both came down on her ability to annoy our elder relatives being the more desirable state.)

        …it was pretty close to a wash, when adjusted for our goals and where we were in our lives. And I was a white (or white enough) woman in a highly respected white collar job, right?

      • JohnTomato

        So you’re implying that it would be a beneficial coping behavior?

        • peregon

          Buying affection is rarely a beneficial coping mechanism, whether you’re a street kid or a celebrity holding elaborate parties. It’s the thin replacement, not the job of the replacement, that makes it unhealthy. With someone if Patrick’s abilities, there is probably no such thing as a safe person, at least not in any way determined by class or profession. Shit, look at his parents. Look at the casual harm the people like Clevin do, or even the shit Alli has faced WITHOUT mind reading from her peers.

          People are shit, broken, or both – the exceptions have worked hard to be so.

  • Tripper

    Patrick, as a monster, was made and molded by the minds around him starting with his mother’s hatred of him and his father’s fear. He’s more like his mother than he thinks, she took whatever fear she had and channeled it into hatred of her son, much like he “plucks out the parts that aren’t useful”. Except I think she transforms her feelings into something else and he saves them for a time when they may be useful again.
    “We,” as in humanity, created Patrick. Our fears, our lusts and desires, our hatred pummeled a little boy who’s true power was they he can never forget. Except, in one case, he does.

  • R Lex Eaton

    To inflict that degree of dissociation on your own mind…

    Too bad it can’t hold up under pressure.

    Also… Who despises heroes? Corrupt and powerful villains? Does it mean people with your kind of insight? Or just bog-standard tall poppy syndrome?

    • Tylikcat

      Physically weak undocumented underage whistle blowers? I mean, really – how well are most whistle blowers doing, even when they start with reasonable advantages?

    • Weatherheight

      There will always be those who will despise those they perceive as better than they are.
      There will always be those who hate anyone in the spotlight that they feel belongs to them.
      There will always be those who hate anyone who knows their true self, no matter how discreet that other person is or how devoted to them that other person is.
      There will always be those who perceive anyone else with power as a real and present threat to their own power.

      This is a lot more common than I would have thought in my youth, but many years of dealing with corporate cultures has shown me it is certainly there.
      Luckily, it’s nowhere near as common as I feared it would be, either.

    • GreatWyrmGold

      It depends on the world. In the DC or Marvel universe, 90% of heroes are great people who almost never make a mistake and absolutely never abuse their power intentionally. In the Wormverse, heroes are corrupt or selfish or short-sighted as often as real-world police officers with unusually traumatic backgrounds. SFP is somewhere between the two, so there’s going to be a fair amount of fuel for hero hatred.

      • R Lex Eaton

        Interesting stuff, surely. I’ve always been interested in the motives behind that kind of phenomenon in superhero stories.

        Probably my favorite treatment/character moment is from the Kingpin in an Ultimate Spider Man story.

        • GreatWyrmGold

          Then I’d recommend Worm. It doesn’t have much anti-super prejudice, but its sequel does, and Worm lays the groundwork for that. (Also, the sequel doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t read Worm.)

          • R Lex Eaton

            Thanks for the recommend. Unfortunately, Worm occupies a similar place in my heart that Invincible does: Something I should love, by all accounts, but I can’t get past its more gruesome elements.

            Just my own personal tic.

            Though, to offer back a recommendation, Thug Boy from Empowered is probably my favorite take on a character molded by anti-cape sentiments.

      • StClair

        You left out one more distinction:
        In the DC universe, the heroes are as you say, and are treated as such.
        In the Marvel universe, (most) heroes are as you say, and are treated like dirt anyway.

        (Some say that this is due, at least in part, to the differing tastes and perspectives of their original audiences/markets: children imagine, love, admire, hate, etc etc uncritically, while adolescents tend to question everything, cultivate cynicism as a substitute for actual maturity, and imagine themselves oppressed despite – or because of – their gifts and identity.)

        • GreatWyrmGold

          Marvel has proved itself able to market its heroes to children and DC to adolescents (and both to adults) with relatively few changes to its characters, so it’s probably not that. I’d instead argue that it’s because Marvel tries harder to build its superheroes with inherent problems that aren’t supervillains or power-nullifiers. A brief, bare-bones summary of the Justice League would look much different than a brief, bare-bones summary of the Avengers, because the characters on both teams were designed differently.

  • The Dread Pirate Steve #812

    You just had to go and make me cry, didn’t you? I always liked Patrick as a character and felt for him but now it’s off the scale.

  • Tylikcat
    • I think we’re going to end up flipping back and forth between that road-trip to see Feral in the hospital and this chapter. It’s the other place he half-opened up, and each may be the key to understanding the other, and together the whole.

  • Vespayik

    So the components are his need for love and his fear. So he functionally turned himself into a sociopath?

    • JeffH

      I think Patrick’s components are “emotions” across the board. Doesn’t seem to be embracing anger either, for example, although that seems like it would be a natural response to his situation.

      All the Inside-Out characters get pushed outside the wall — even his happiest memory is tainted with component…

  • McFrugal

    Survive in the short term. In the long term he’s killing himself.

    • GreatWyrmGold

      I mean, it’s better than dying in the short term.

  • Weatherheight

    The power of “I can know stuff about you that you really don’t want me knowing” is hard to actualize into a positive thing. Most people don’t like having their secrets brought out into the open, even if that “into the open” is an audience of one. Our knee jerk reaction is shame and we tend to redirect shame into anger and guess who gets to be the target of that anger?

    Consider the therapist Patrick might have made with proper training.
    Consider the difficulty of being the person who trains him, considering any self-delusion the trainer has will be exposed.

    Patrick’s anomaly needed careful handling – without such handling, coercion and manipulation of others is the simplest and most practical application of it. And coercion and manipulation of others is *really* useful in criminal activity.

    • Tylikcat

      And he’s a kid. And he’s deeply unwilling to be anyone’s dependent, which means he needs money.

      Making enough money to support yourself when underage is really hard. Partly because we have child labor laws, which are a great idea, but can be a real pain in the ass if you are out of category. Supporting myself as a fifteen year old was really hard (and I was entirely legal, except for not actually paying taxes on my dressmaking business, which was mostly not really knowing how to go about it and being broke and overwhelmed.)* As a ten year old? I mean, I could at least pass for adult, and had a lot of social currency to draw on. There really isn’t a legal way to do it.

      (Okay, I really need to step away from this board and mash stats for a bit…)

      * And I did spare a few thoughts about how I’d been offered a half-time junior UNIX sysadmin job at DEC the year before, but they had to rescind it because it turned out company policy was to hire no one before they turned eighteen. Ahaha…!

    • Darkoneko Hellsing

      it’s less “can know” and more “WILL know”, alas. It’s not like he had a choice in the matter

      • Weatherheight

        So very true.
        And you realize that only makes it even worse, right…? 😀

        • Darkoneko Hellsing

          of course x_x

    • GreatWyrmGold

      It reminds me a bit of Worm. The PRT (closest thing to an official super organization in the world) has an entire department devoted to using Thinkers’ powers for good. It doesn’t always work (one of the secondary characters was one of those Thinkers who couldn’t get his plans implemented properly, and who wound up turning to villainy), but nothing always works in that setting.

      • Oren Leifer

        On the sliding scale of physical action to social/emotional action, and on cynicism to idealism, Worm is at the first end, SFP is in the middle, and The Bright Sessions is at the latter end, each of which is very deliberately positioned, and provide a great series of contrasts to each other.

    • MoonicaMusing

      This is touched on in the fantastic Bright Sessions podcast, which features a therapist for super-humans including a mind reader.

      • Weatherheight

        I wish I didn’t have to sleep – too much to do, not enough time to do it while avoiding a psychotic break caused by sleep deprivation.

        • saysomethingclever

          🙁

          you ok? need your ears scratched?

          • Weatherheight

            Too many webcomics and podcasts and graphic novels and books and movies and role-playing games and computer games and good food I haven’t experienced yet.

  • Wow. This is amazing. Dark, but amazing.

  • Yeah, people don’t like being told the truth. I’d do it anonymously, send letters to people telling them their secrets or the solutions to the problems, to the media giving evidence of corruption and to statesmen and lawmakers giving advice on how to fix the world. Maybe jail the part of my brain that wants acclaim.

    • GreatWyrmGold

      I’m not sure mind-reading would provide you with many solutions that the people couldn’t figure out themselves. Aside from something like “Oh my god, you both have crushes on each other, just kiss already!

      • I figure in a lot of cases just knowing that someone knows exactly what’s bothering you and how it’s bothering you can encourage you to act to fix it. Depending on what it is, due to either being less lonely or more embarrassed.

  • Thomas S

    Again another example of Patrick using walls inside his mind holding and severing unwanted parts. Surely the plot going forward entails an integration of these walls and emotions. I’m not stupid enough to think that an integrated Patrick will be a benevolent Patrick … no … not stupid enough at all. But it is surely a way forward.

    Observation: Alison is probably the first accepted visitor to speak with and engage with Patrick’s fragmented mindscape.

    Speculation: The act of being knowingly observed changes the item being observed. I wonder if this journey will change Patrick and his walled off elements?

    Proposal : With Alison, Patrick’s various fragments breaks down walls and Patrick integrates “Stronger than ever”, however a major player in this is the Menace fragment – with his power, strength and hysteria, this could be a damaging thing to Patrick and Alison’s collective sanity.

  • Veev

    I know I’ve mentioned Patrick having textbook Dissociative Identity Disorder before but uh. Whoof. That last panel hits home hard.

    • R Lex Eaton

      Not quite sure if it’s DID, but it’s certainly dissociative.

      Elements of PTSD, or depersonalization…

      • GreatWyrmGold

        Adult!Patrick said he doesn’t really identify as a person, so…

  • BMPDynamite

    Oh my god.

  • Julia McGuire

    Oh wow, this issue has been absolutely amazing, and I think this is one of my favourite pages so far.

  • Ancusohm

    I know I’m supposed to be horrified (and I have been for most of this flashback), but this page got a small part of me to say, “Yes! Carve out your humanity! Be more. Be perfect!”

    His circumstances are awful, but his power… His power is pure wish fulfillment

  • GreatWyrmGold

    “Mento the Magnificent”? Hey, little!Patrick, I think you should talk with Skidmark about that name; his advice would probably help.

    (In case you can’t guess, Skidmark is bad with names. Exhibit A: His own.)

    • Zinc

      Well, it’s definitely better than “Mento the Freshmaker”.

      • Darkoneko Hellsing

        *snerrrrk*

  • Tiago Quintana

    If Patrick can “edit” parts of his personality, doesn’t that imply that he should be able to read his own thoughts?

    • Kifre

      I think that it’s implied that he can’t ‘read his own thoughts’ because of the editing. He’s just completely out of touch with himself.

  • Arturo Roa

    Genuinely heartbreaking and fascinating though this is, WHO THE HELL IS GURWARA AND WHAT WAS HE DOING IN PATRICK’S MIND? Focus, Allison!

    • palmvos

      I’m currently guessing we will find out after November 2018

    • Soqoma

      THANK YOU

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    I’m still wondering if the back rubbing is litteral or figurative.