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Posted (edited)

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 10:30 pm

The abode of Mona Teymourian, near the Waterfront

 

"She was adorable, Viktor," drifted from the kitchen area. "I know she wouldn't want to be described as such, but she was. The third heroine to wear the name Rossignol! A very sweet young woman, obviously quite skilled, but still finding her bearings. I wished her the very best and gave her my contact information."

 

Mona was unusually chatty, even gregarious. Viktor's arrival seemed to complete her day, and she was eager to recount the highlights. So after a quick kiss, she regaled him with the latest happenings while unpacking groceries.

 

"Do you want something to drink? I picked up some of that white tea you seemed to like." One mock glare later and she started an electric kettle. "Also some Black Death coffee, pomegranate kombucha, and a lovely micro-brew stout. A bit light on snacks at the moment. Some brie?"

 

The sounds of activity reverberated through the high-ceiling building. The space was big, certainly, with metal beams and rows of high, paneled windows above exposed brick. Perhaps, oh, a quarter had been converted into an open living space with a kitchen, adjacent seating area, curtained-off bedroom, and bath. The rest was devoted to her studio. Ghostly shapes of dust-clothed sculptures floated in the dim lights. Her workstation, an explosion of bright colors, seemed to glow through the murk. Even after months away, the place smelled of oil paint and stone dust.

 

Mona had been very proud of her handiwork. From a tour now many years ago, the fixtures and furnishings were secondhand or recycled, and Mona had bartered or DIY-ed much of the renovation. The original purpose, an ice warehouse, was abundantly clear from the Linden's Ice sign on the wall. The foundation and roof work were her doing, and superhuman strength proved a great boon in that regard. The crumbling antique had been picked up for a song. She had rather sheepishly admitted to being quite broke at the time.

 

The way her eyes lit up here, in this place, spoke volumes. The expression was much the same when seeing Viktor after a long absence.

 

As for now though, Mona deposited a tray of goodies on the coffee table. The little table was surrounded by a sofa and two armchairs. One chair stood out a bit: high-backed, Mona-sized, and eye-searingly pink. This one she drifted into tea cup in hand.

 

"Damn, it's good to be home. How was your trip?"

Edited by Dariusprime

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"Sounds like your first day back went better than expected!," Archeville happily replied from as he helped unpack groceries.  "Have you had a chance yet to -- oh, ah, coffee for now, I think, thank you -- a chance to meet up with any of the old gang?  I know this is just you first day back, but I'd imagine it would be easy to run into folks while flying through the city."

 

Viktor and Mona were still very much together.  Through all that had happened to him, even when he had been stuck fighting on an alien planet alternately fighting and evading the Communion's forces, she'd been by his side.  Through his recovery periods, recuperating from what had happened to both his mind and his body, she had been an inspiration to him, a reason to get better, to be better, to be worthy of her.  Some days, he almost felt he was there.

 

Viktor sat on the couch, on the end closest to his long-time partner, and took a handful of grapes from the tray.  "The trip was good, no troubles.  And in the first two weeks, I met with Grimalkin, some members of the Freedom League, and Miss Americana!"  She knew all this, of course, as he'd called her almost every night since he got back; the call on the night Comrade Frost sprung Aquaria on him had been an especially long one.  

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Mona stretched out one long arm and ran her fingers through his hair as he spoke. The gesture was at once soothing and affectionate. She smiled warmly as he spoke.

 

"Much better than expected. I did not run into any of the old gang, but I did also meet two heroines with similar power sets to my own. A Triakosia and Miracle Girl. We had an impromptu chat above Sentry Statue. Which is why apple turnovers aren't included among the selection."

 

Mona took a long sip of tea before continuing. Amusingly, her Freedonian accent began re-emerging. "Both were quite friendly and gave me the lowdown on the local scene. Plus Triakosia is from Centurion's dimension to boot! I tried not to be slip too far into fangirl mode, let me tell you."

 

Speaking of fangirls, a familiar patter of feet echoed from the shadows. Well, "patter" was a strong word. This particular quadruped was still adjusting to her increased mass. Which is why the couch suddenly tipped backs several inches as a giant Siamese mix scrambled over the top.

 

"Your biggest fan arrives," mused Mona.

 

Penny, creamed-colored body and gray limbs, turned her blue eyes on Viktor, meowed loudly, and plopped unceremoniously on Viktor's lap. All 60 lbs of her. Followed by a burst of motor-like purring and stretching. A clear signal of You may pet me now.

 

Mona turned her attention back to her partner, and squeezed his hand. "I'm happier every time I hear that, sweetie. And I'll say it again: you were so very brave meeting Aquaria. Yes, even with the fainting."

 

 

 

 

Edited by Dariusprime

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"Oh, nice, nice," he said, nodding, happy to hear of more heroes in the area.  Even if they were more flying powerhouses.  Why are those so prevalent?  Statistically, one would expect as many meta-intellects as there are meta-physical types, but that is not the case.  Perhaps I should work up a paper on cultural zeitgeists and metahuman manifestations.

 

Just then Penny arrived, interrupting his train of thought, though in moments Mona would have caught him and given him A Look.  He exaggerated an "oof!" as she jumped up on him, and obeyed the feline's silent command, stroking her with his free hand.  He squeezed Mona's back, "thank you, liebchen.  I'm still a bit miffed at Frost for pulling that, but," he shrugged, "I do understand the need for some blind testing."

 

"So this woman you met, Triakosia, she is from Centurion's dimension?  Fascinating!"  His tone and rate of speech lifted, "and she's a new agent on the scene, a recent addition to Freedom's superhero roster?  Did she recently appear in this dimension?  Or had she been here for some time, lying low?  Perhaps unpowered until some recent dimensional event?  Oh, I wonder if-" He stopped, chuckling, "sorry, sorry, trying not to slip into Super-Scientist mode."

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Mona watched Viktor's face. Technorganic or not, his face was quite expressive when thinking. Or perhaps Mona had just known him long enough to know his tells. Either way watching him think was fascinating to watch in its own right. Even if she had to lovingly steer him back to the topic.

 

"Understandable yes, but not exactly well considered. Being a blind test of sorts for both of you from the sound of it." Judging from the tightness of her mouth, she was still a bit miffed herself.

 

Listening to Viktor, her face softened to her contented baseline when the super scientist was about. She was drifting along with his new chain of thought when he derailed himself.

 

She squeezed his hand again. "Viktor Helmut Archeville. You do not have to apologize for slipping into Super-Scientist mode. Remember it was that big brain that attracted me to you in the first place."

 

"It's true," she added momentarily, "Yes, you were, and are, quite dashing, but that wasn't all. I'm just amazed you can tolerate someone who can't keep up with you."

 

"To answer your questions, she has been active in Freedom City for a few years now. From what I gathered, she arrived here with powers. I do not know if she was lying low. She was a Centurion of the Triakosia Legion, and volunteered for the mission when Omega attacked her world. Apparently, the technology used wasn't quite stable, and left her suspended between worlds for decades by our reckoning."

 

Mona rambled off the facts as if by rote. She did have shockingly good recall at times. Viktor was well aware of her penchant for painting landscapes from memory.

 

"Now what were you wondering?"

 

And Penny? Her purring suggested she was quite satisfied as well.

Edited by Dariusprime

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He looked down and blushed, temporarily chastised, and glad for having someone in his life who could -- and would -- handle him.  "Thank you," he said, softly.  He then turned to look up to her, "I will always find a way for us to be by each other's side."  He looked down briefly to kiss her hand, then stroked it as he gazed into her eyes a moment.

 

I really am quite lucky.

 

He took a steadying breath, "I was wondering if she had a similar reaction to Daka crystals as you."  He'd long sought a way to counter their effects on Mona, in part because so much advanced technology -- including his own, and now including himself (in minuscule amounts) -- incorporated Daka crystals.  "But... she was suspended between worlds for a decade?  No, sorry, you said decades, plural.  Wait, how many decades?  If she was from the same alternate as Centurion, launched at the same time he was, and he first appeared in '38, and she appeared just a few years ago, then she would have been suspended for... 90 years?!"  He let out a low whistle, which judging by her movements was slightly irritating to Penny.  "Sorry, kätzchen, sorry," he said softly while stroking behind her ears and under her chin.  "But was she in the Terminus," he turned back to Mona, "or some other interstitial plane?  If she was suspended in the Terminus for nine decades, surely something would have happened to her, yes?  Omega's forces would have captured her, or something.  Unless..." his eyes widened, and Mona could swear she heard gears turning, "unless whatever went awry also protected her in some way, making her undetectable or unassailable!  Oh, if so, that would definitely be worth looking into."

Edited by Dr Archeville

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"I love you too." Her eyes said she meant every word.

 

Someday, she knew, he would make peace with himself. A new, whole Viktor who was so much more than anyone who came before.

 

A dainty ding sounded as he began speaking. Her form blurred for split second, but before his hand registered her absence, she returned coffee cup in (off) hand. A fresh brew, just the way he liked it, and with a pinkish sheen of his manganese supplement to boot.

 

The word "daka", as usual, elicited a reaction somewhere between annoyance and grimace. This was especially true after her jaunt through space and time three years ago. Paradoxically, her tolerance level had improved while the effects were more pronounced in her coordination and motor skills. She was ever grateful to have a truly great mind pondering on her strange resonance. Before she could refocus herself this time, Viktor moved on.

 

Slowly, comprehension dawned on her face. Her jaw fell open at the full gravity of the situation. "I completely agree! Would that suggest another phase to the Terminus? A different frequency? She only said 'Void', which I took to mean the Terminus. This though...depending on how it functioned..."

 

Mona was no scientist, but she could see the possibilities. Stealth technology, anti-Terminus cloaking, suspended animation, even containment...maybe not that last one.

 

 

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"Ah, so it might not have been the Terminus then," he replied between sips of coffee.  "She may have -- oh, this is good -- may have, when she said 'Void,' been referring to the Zero Zone, where Centurion and the League have sent some of their most dangerous foes."  He nodded, "that would certainly fit the 'not aging or requiring sustenance' part.  I know Centurion was the one who discovered the Zone, but I don't know if his findings were based on methods developed in his own universe -- if it was, then perhaps Triakosia's rocket used similar principles, and was meant to travel through the Zone, not the Terminus as Centurion's had, but some error lead her to getting stuck there.  And prisoners have escaped from the- oh!"  A large grin appeared on his face, but he was careful to contain his excitement to that display, so as not to disturb Penny, "if that is the case, and we could access her ship, perhaps how she got in and got out and be examined, and a way could be found to make the Zone more escape-proof!  Or even ways to channel the Zone's properties in small doses, for suspended animation here!"

 

He turned his attention for a moment to focus on giving Penny some deep tissue massages.  Part of his mind still worked on Zero Zone theories, but other parts were focusing on other aspects of earlier conversations.  "And you said there was another, Miracle Girl?  I believe I've seen her mentioned a few times in the papers.  Is she as much an 'American Sweetheart' as the stories make her out to be?"

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Mona looked crestfallen. Despite all its associations, the Terminus was a favorite topic of hers. Still she perked up at the mention of the Zero Zone. The term wasn't totally unfamiliar, but frankly, she had only heard the layman's basics. Viktor, having been a member of the League, on the other hand...

 

She smiled in parallel. Though hers had as much to do with him being happy. Being himself again.

 

...probably knew a lot about it. "I will text her first thing in the morning! This is so exciting. The technological breakthroughs alone would be worth the look, but the basic science would be groundbreaking. I mean, has much research actually been conducted on the Zero Zone? From what I understand, you'd need ArcheTech-level resources. Her ship's tech could open an entire new avenue of funding for physicists!"

 

Penny, uncaring of the conversation about her, purred away and tried valiantly to guide Viktor's hand back to her ears. But deep tissue massages? Now while Penny was a dense ball of muscle, such attention reduced her to a cat's natural state: fluid. She was putty in his hands. The large cat yielded into a loaf and yawned. Her slowly flexing claws tugged at space itself.

 

Mona, long accustomed to his diverging thought chains, didn't miss a beat. "I went in blind. What I can tell you is that she is the perhaps the most earnest, wholesome, flying brick I have ever encountered. Now I realize that heroes have public personas, but she completely embodies the 'American Sweetheart' role. Perhaps, just perhaps, she really is that good of a person."

 

A wistful look came over her, while her voice sounded, jealous? Though she pushed that tone away. "Reminds me of Centurion. Just so damn kind and true and virtuous and inspirational."

 

"Sorry, I'm rambling." With a light chuckle, she turned her attention back to her tea.

 

 

 

 

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He squeezed her hand and looked at her lovingly, "nothing to apologize for, liebchen.  We both know you've listened to plenty of my rantings and ravings," he chuckled.  "It's good to know she seems that good."  He chuckled again, "might give Miss Americana a run for her money.  Ah, so, back to your question: from what I recall..."

 

Viktor's memory was sharp as ever, but there were gaps.  After the ArchEvil incident, several heroes -- an assortment of mystics, psychics, and techies -- wiped parts of his memory (his own and his computers), erasing knowledge of superhero secret identities.  He could still re-learn it, if he proved worthy of such trust, same as any other hero.  A fresh start, in a way, since he'd been as much a victim during the incident.  And while they assured him that such compromising information is all they'd erased, a part of him still had some doubts, worries that they had erased -- intentionally or accidentally -- some other memories, other knowledge.  So far, that fear had proven unwarranted, but it still lingered.

 

"... Centurion and Daedalus are the only ones who've performed much study of the Zero Zone, though Siren was also called in a few times for a more mystical perspective, and I believe they once reached out to the Star Knights.  Perhaps offering it as a prison for some of their criminals?," he shrugged.  "I was not in on that call.  I did have a few looks at their notes, while I was in the Auxiliary; it is advanced stuff, yes, and would need a lot of resources to work on.  But if that is how her ship got here, and it's still intact, and she's willing to let it be studied, and if the proper researchers could get to it," he cocked his head slightly, then took another sip of his coffee, "well, like you said, a lot could be done."

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"Thank you," was her soft reply, along with a loving look of her own.

 

She leaned back in her chair as Viktor delved further into the topic. Given her reach though, their hands remained intertwined. The thoughtful look on her betrayed little information, but she nodded to his conclusion. Nothing really more to say perhaps.

 

Truth be told, she was drifting down other trains of thought again too. Mona worried about Viktor. He was a fundamentally good man, but so much had happened to him. The decision to erase his memories were well outside of her control. After all she was still dreaming the sleepless dream of death in the Terminus at the time. Why the powers-that-be would do so made sense. The long-term repercussions hadn't been fully considered though. Only after the fact had his doctors formulated a plan. No wonder the man had providers across continents.

 

Triakosia's ship did bring up another issue: space. Mona did not know Miss Americana well, but the two seemed to share the same reservations. Maybe not reservations, but questions, about Viktor's motivations for this journey. The couple had discussed this idea at length. Lately though he seemed more firm in his convictions. She decided to broach the subject again.

 

"Speaking of ships, how is your ship coming along? Finally settle on a name?"

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"Coming along quite nicely!" he replied cheerfully, momentarily focused on inspecting Penny's claws.  "I got the last of my personal effects that the League had confiscated from my homes, including the tesseract generators from the house in Hanover.  Those took the longest time to incorporate into the craft, due to their power requirements, and I had to wind up downgrading them.  So the inside won't be quite as large as it was when set up at the house, but it's still much bigger than the outer dimensions would indicate, enough to carry everything I think we'll be needing."

 

Mona had seen the craft a few times already, as he'd been working on it sporadically for years.  He'd started not long after becoming a member of the Freedom League Auxiliary (a year and a half before the ArchEvil incident), after talking Daedalus into letting him upgrade one of the League's Pegasus space planes.  After that unpleasantness, and the League realized they could not figure out some of the modifications he had made, they simply locked it away, as they had with so much of his technology.  Once he was capable of doing so, Archeville helped them sort out what was safe and what wasn't.  Following his most recent encounter with the League two few months ago, and he'd expressed interest in exploring space, they allowed him full access to his craft, and moved it to a private hangar at Jameson Airport.

 

With a final stroke of her toe beans, he turned his attention from Penny to Mona, furrowing his brow a bit, "I am still stuck on a name, I admit.  Tradition is to name a craft after some mythological figure or creature, so I've been combing through those.  Nothing's really grabbed me, though.  Did you have any ideas?"  His desire to leave Earth and explore outer space had been growing of late, and he was overjoyed that Mona had agreed to come with him for some of the journey.

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Penny cupped one of his hands with her paw and, this time, successfully guided it back to her ears. The action, however, released a visible ripple in space, as if his hand was moving through water. The sensation wasn't bad, per say, just tingling and hair raising. Viktor's electromagnetic senses detected a small burst of seemingly random static. This was the new normal for Penny. Who know what she would do next.

 

His brow may have furrowed, but Mona raised one of her own. "If nothing grabs you, then forget that tradition. Try something else." The response was simple, not simplistic, and straightforward. Viktor knew, her heroic inspiration aside, Mona was rather anti-traditionalist. "Name it around a childhood memory, a fictional ship, something funny, or something that brings you joy. Jumble them together. Build an algorithm. Ask a stranger on the street for a boat name."

 

She cocked her head in thought. "Perhaps your mother? Cynthia Bauer sounds like a lovely ship name." Mona channeled the bittersweet conversations about his family and the mother he never met. "Or more lighthearted: Red Ship. Don't look at me like that. It's a bad pun that matches the paint job."

 

A sip of tea lapsed her into a thoughtful silence. Her eyes drifted over the darkened work room. "Hmm...how long before this bird flies?"

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Viktor said nothing, but his rapidly shifting expressions almost showed how quickly his mind was working.  Disbelief, beratement, acceptance, wonder, exploration, joy, all raced across his face.  Suddenly he leaped into the air -- sending Penny tumbling, gracefully, down -- and did a few somersaults, laughing with unbridled joy.

 

"Oh, my lovely, clever, amazing Mona!  That's it!  That's it exactly!"  He dove down and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, then backed away and did a barrel roll.  "Cynthia Bauer!  Or, rather..." he hovered before her, held up his palms, and a hologram of soft blue letters appeared, first spelling his departed mother's name, then shifting to, "Synthia Bower!  An artificial dwelling or retreat!  Yes, 'bower' usually refers to a retreat under a shady tree, but it's been used for private apartments and the like, so it still works."

 

He settled back down onto the couch, and murmured several hasty apologies to Penny.  "Oh, that's twice I've upset you, kätzchen, I'm so sorry."  He held one hand out, palm up, and held the other one up at prime ear-scritching height, and waited for Penny's reaction.  "Oh, um, it could be ready in about a week," he said over his shoulder, "but if you still had some things you needed to wrap up here before we go..."

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Mona sipped her tea, watched Viktor, and otherwise looked amused. Even when he kissed her forehead.

 

Penny, however, landed on her feet while still looking indignant. The cat glared up at the inventor.

 

She chuckled, her expression turning to a smile, when Synthia Bower appeared on the screen. When the opportunity arose, she replied in Berlin-accented German, <"Perfect, my dear doctor. Perfect!">

 

Her German skills were impressive after all these years. During his bad times, she'd read to him in his native language. During his good times, she'd deliberately shift Bavarian dialects or regional language groups to catch his attention. Or throw in a touch of distinct Berliner accent.

 

Penny glared for a moment or two more, looked at his hands, looked him straight in the eye...and finally climbed up into his lap. She may not have said anything, if that were even possible, but her body language was one long harumph.

 

"I'm pretty much ready. I'm mostly on social calls this week. I still need to visit my family and the Interceptors. See if I can track down Fatima and my "future brother-in-law", according to Mom. Various and sundry catchings up, so to say." She cast a sad look into her now empty cup. Not about the topic. Just the lack of tea.

 

"The scuttlebutt in art circles is that I'm heading for an artist's commune."

 

 

 

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"Well, in a way, you are," he said as he slowly resumed giving Penny another deep tissue massage.  "Who knows what manner of extraterrestrial arts we'll encounter!  Arts for beings who see more colors than we do, hear a wider array of sounds than humans, who have completely different senses!"

 

He paused a moment, in a way that Mona knew indicated he was deep in thought (at the accelerated time scale his mind and her body worked at).  "I can come with," he said at last, "when you visit family, if you think it would be okay.  I would like to see Afareen and Fatima again.  I..." his tone dropped, "don't know about seeing the Interceptors.  Things with Lynn went well," his tone lifted a bit, "as I'd hoped they would, but the rest... "  His tone dropped off again as he recalled the last things they'd said to him.

 

He was quiet another moment, then turned and locked eyes with Mona.  "Liebchen," he said slowly, moving one hand off Penny and onto hers, "there is something I need to ask you.  Something that has been in the back of my mind for some time, but always pushed aside by other projects.  It's something others have asked you, so I think I know how you'll respond, but I have never asked you, and I want to be sure I know where you are on the subject.  I want to know... what your thoughts are... on having a child.  With me."

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"Now you're just teasing me! The possibilities...," she laughed. Their cups "magically" refilled themselves. She tapped her cup in thought, "Ultraviolet! Like some birds. I can sometimes see them, sometimes not. I wonder what pigments they use? Do you think they'd even paint using pigments?"

 

This pleases Penny. Enough said.

 

At mention of his inclusion, Mona bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Honey bee, you know you're already family." Which was quite true. Although Afareen had come around a bit more slowly, Viktor was a de facto son-in-law. So much so that the family personally invited him to gatherings and communicated regularly over the years of his recovery. "They'd be hurt if you didn't visit."

 

"The Interceptors are moving on. Things change." She sipped her tea, the hint of mirth still in her tone, "I'm glad things went well with Lynn. She was the right one to approach first. Still a little firecracker after all these years. And a grandma too. I should have lunch with her before we leave."

 

She pointed her cup at him. "I know what you're thinking. If I remember right, Erik said to bring me back or don't bother coming back. Last I checked, Carrie and you succeeded, at great personal peril. I'd still be dead out there." She motioned in a general sweep.

 

Viktor's sudden intensity caught her attention, and she squeezed his hand in solidarity. The topic, however, caused her to visibly tense. Thankfully, years of practice kept her from clenching down, sparing his hand. Her face slowly slipped into a frown. She didn't look angry or sad, guarded perhaps, and tired. She stared down at her cup once he finished. Several minutes passed.

 

She looked up at the ceiling and sighed. Her reply was carefully neutral.  "Before I even mention my preferences, let me remind you of why this is a Bad Idea." Lifting her thumb from her cup, she said, "One, I have the maternal instinct of a cactus." The way she doted on her cat threw doubt on that claim. She lifted a finger. "Two, we're not using contraceptives, dear. That implies something. Three, you purged an alien corruption from your bloodline, and I'm a Terminus reactor. You'd be substituting one set of problems for another, and you know it."

 

To illustrate the point, she raised her arm so he could see the dampener screen.

 

 

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He nodded, an exhaled slowly.  "I have considered all those factors, yes, and more besides.  I am... reasonably sure most of those could be circumvented."  He had many ideas for solutions to some of the issues, a couple for others, but a few still had him stymied.  "But whether or not we can is one thing.  Would we want to, is what I'm asking now."

 

"I am -- and I'm not saying this in an attempt to influence you," he quickly added, "but just to let you know where I am on the issue -- somewhat torn on it.  On the one hand, as you said, I've purged a supernatural corruption from myself, my entire family line.  On top of that, I am the last surviving member of my family line, since That Thing used us to build its body.  So, in effect, a child would be the start of an entirely new branch of the Archeville family tree, one untouched by that corruption.  A huge opportunity, and responsibility."

 

"Linked to that, though, is my own paternal instincts.  My father was... troubled," he reflexively glanced aside, then back to Mona, "and while the source of the madness that plagued him is gone, and I understand why he did what he did, it still shaped me.  I can study all the books and videos on parenting there are, but that would only do so much."

 

"Then there are cultural issues to consider.  Society says we should be fruitful and multiply... but what difficulties would a child of ours face?  How accepted would they be?  You know better than I the issues Terminus Babies face, but add on the Archeville name..."

 

"Lastly," he paused a moment, and a series of lights flickered through some of his technological parts, "one of the advantages of this new body is that I should be extremely long-lived.  Not truly immortal, I believe, but good for several centuries, at least.  And in many beings, with increased longevity comes decreased desire to reproduce.  I would say this is true for me, also," he nodded, "having a child is not as foremost in my mind as it is in many other men my age, though the idea is still there."

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"Of course you did. Damn you for being so clever." She kissed him on the temple as he spoke. She may have been aiming for certain circuit pattern that recurred every 31.41 seconds.

 

She cocked her head at the mention of his father. That was one topic on which he was very guarded. That aside her face remained neutral. She sipped her tea.

 

Once he was finished, she nodded once in recognition of his words, and the difficulty he had obviously had expressing them.

 

"Patriarchial societies say to multiply. Biology tells us to multiply. Religions tell us to multiply. None are very... self aware." A little harsher than she anticipated, and she fell silent.

 

She took a deep breath, and smacked her lips. Several fitful attempts later, she stopped. A frown scrunched up her face. Was she thinking at regular speed or high speed? That was difficult to judge on her.

 

What was going through her mind was eventful to say the least. Having a photographic memory gave one a lot of leeway on thought experiments. A frantic jumble really. At first the focus was their relationship as a whole, the delicate give and take of a healthy one, and their current status. Then she incorporated his reasoning. That evolved to the various sacrifices they had made for each other. Instead of quantifying their "deeds", so to speak, she quickly realized that wasn't the important or healthy part. Could their relationship handle such a change? Could she? Part of her though...realized something else. That was overtaken by an intrusive thought. Was she just caving to various pressures? The realization though, was quite sweet really, if the implications were troubling... resent the decision later... She had made her preferences bluntly clear to her mom so many times... He said it himself, a new start... Didn't he deserve that?... pissed off, desiring, or just accepting... What did she want or deserve?... love the little boob grub just the same... She wasn't about to be a doormat like...Terminus babies. What was she thinking...not even human anymore... but he also asked her... is he really ready?... and yes, she supposed the idea wasn't completely out of the question... had thought of it off... no secret identities... and cared about her wants and terms... he'd be happy if she said no?... she would %$#@ never hear the end from mom... no doubt he would die to protect her... oh yes he was waiting for a response...

 

She sipped her tea, her face softening, but a little ornery. She looked him square in the eye as she spoke.  

 

"Teymourian on a girl. Archeville for a boy."

 

 

Edited by Dariusprime

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He nodded, stroked his chin, "yes, I suppose that would get around certain-"

 

And then he stopped, and Mona could swear she heard gears whirling and tiny crackles of electricity inside his head.

 

"Are you," his head twitched ever so slightly, "is that a... maybe?"  He reached out for her free hand with both of his, leaving Penny un-massaged, "I know you've been against the idea for some time, you've told me how some of the conversations with your mother have gone.  I also know minds can change.  But if you're changing just for me, Mona, please, don't: I'd respect and honor any decision you'd make."

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The ornery looked melted away, replaced with a small, pleased smile. "I know. Thank you."

 

She gently massaged the top of his hand with her thumb. A contemplative, somber mood replaced her earlier anxiety. She watched him quietly for a moment. Finally, she leaned forward and rested her other arm on her knee as she regarded him.

 

"I thought about leaving you," she started, shaking her head, "Not now. Not over this. Several times though. I had various reasons. I didn't appreciate how you treated the Interceptors at times or the manipulative undercurrent you used on me. The power differential in our relationship bothered me. During your recovery, I wondered how much you had played me for a fool. That maybe if I left, you would be able to focus more on healing. That is one reason I kept this place." Her tone was plain spoken without judgment or guilt. "I also remember the good times. Oktoberfest. Really, really bad German movies. Listening to your heartbeat as you cuddled me in your sleep. How much calmer you seemed when I was around. Moments like this."

 

"What I'm saying is what we've pledged before: that we'll stay together. I'm fiercely territorial and will not share you. I also want you to have children."

 

"You want kids, Viktor. You've also been studying the topic a great deal. The science, yes, but I imagine your research into parenting techniques has been extensive as well." She tilted her head and gave him a knowing look. "You will be a wonderful father."

 

She leaned back in her chair. "I have all the time in the world, Viktor. Not just centuries. I honestly believe...I have forever. But maybe you don't. My mother doesn't. And a small part of me is amiable to the idea of children. Building our own little Addams Family. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot."

 

"As to your question, the answer is yes." She squeezed his hands.

Edited by Dariusprime

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He was utterly silent as she spoke.  He focused affectionately with technorganic eyes on her attentively, desperately listening to every word she said, thinking about it at superhuman speeds, amassing that information, remembering every little thing, thinking about body language, how she moved, what kind of energies her body was emitting.

 

A few moments after she'd finished, he exhaled.  "I would not have blamed you if you'd left.  Well, no, I would have, at first, but eventually I would have accepted it, understood why."  Another moment of silence, "the worst thing about what happened to me, was that the thing that took over was not a completely independent entity.  It came from one, yes, but once that had mingled with my ancestor, a new thing was created, feeding off of and feeding into all the darkest parts of his psyche.  And so it did with his descendants, with my grandfather, my father, and me.  It was formed from the memories of the lowest, darkest moments of our lives, shaped to fit perfectly in the holes in our hearts.  Of my life, and my heart."  Penny nudge his arm, but he ignored her, "I know we are all capable of great evil, and of great good.  That we all have darker aspects to our psyches.  And that's what that thing was -- me, on my worst day."

 

"But I know a person is not who they are on their worst day.  Or on their best.  They are all those things, combined.  Which is on reason I have worked so hard to be better, to prove I can be better."

 

He sighed, wiped a tear from his eye, "sorry, I slip into explain-and-apologize mode so easily.  So, yes.  A child.  We're going to try for a- hrm.  This will require some modifications to the Synthia Bower."

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Fulcrum's energy output hadn't varied much. Certainly, the rate spiked at his initial question about having a child. But then the readings receded to baseline and stayed there. Of course that baseline was still an oddity. Unlike most people, whose electromagnetic auras almost "sang" to the Doktor's senses, Fulcrum's was defined by absences. She was absorptive of electromagnetism, and her presence should have registered as a void. Yet paradoxically, she still registered in normal bands. In addition wisps of Terminus energy danced around her only to be reabsorbed. Yes, she seemed rather relaxed, content even, or as content as someone living with metabolic regulators could be.

 

What was she doing during this time? Giving Viktor the sweetest, most affectionate smile. Listening intensely. Considering carefully much as he had done. And judging from her eyes, loving him fiercely but with obvious pain at all he endured.

 

"Viktor, please look at me," she began gently, releasing his hands and cupping one side of his face, "Someday this pain will pass. You will be the free, good man you already are. One of the greatest minds of your generation. Of many generations. I will continue to speak this truth until you embrace it." And for that brief moment, the strength of her belief in him was undeniable.

 

Eventually, her hand returned to his and she sipped her tea. Her tone lightened, "Not too many modifications I'm sure. Those tesseract devices - never trusted those things - mean you probably have everything and the kitchen sink already. If you really want to to this," she added, giving him time to reconsider before continuing, "then the small matter of timing should be considered as well. I'm not familiar with space citizenship questions, and I can only imagine current U.S. policy." She laughed lightly at the last sentence.

 

She looked to say more, before freezing in place. Her mind was a whirl, easily seen in her eyes. "Viktor, dear, are you implying that that thing was just an offshoot of something else?"

 

Now that spiked her emission rates.

Edited by Dariusprime

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He felt that strength, and it fortified him.  Being able to stand up for oneself is all well and good, but knowing someone else has your back, that's a marvelous feeling.  I will do all in my power to prove worthy of your faith, Mona.  And I pledge my all to you.

 

He smiled and kissed her hand before she withdrew it, and moved one of his hands back to Penny's head.  He nodded, "well, I'm still loading the craft -- I only just got the generators integrated, and there's a lot to move from storage -- but you're right, not too many changes.  There'll already be an advanced medical bay, and sleeping quarters.  And the databanks containing some of Earth's cultural and scientific knowledge, for use in exchanges with any friendly aliens we meet, could also be used for educational purposes.  Though that wouldn't be a concern for some years!," he laughed.  "You do bring up a good point on timing, though.  Since we would be facing so many variables just in getting to the point of having a child to hold, should we delay the trip until after, to increase the odds of a safe pregnancy and insure that they are considered a citizen of Earth?  There has been some research already on pregnancies might work out in space or other planets, how microgravity might affect things, though the ship would have artificial gravity so that part shouldn't be a concern."  Part of him didn't like the idea of delaying the trip any longer, but another part saw the wisdom in it.  He was reasonably certain he could handle anything with what he'd planned to take with them, but might it be better to now have to take those factors into account at all?

 

"Hrm?," her question broke his reverie.  "Oh, well, yes.  I'm sorry, I was sure I had explained that part to you."  He took a sip of his coffee, "as Phantom explained it to me, the 'parent' of that thing was a chaotic, malevolent entity known as a Nameless One.  There are many such beings, and there have been many mad cults dedicated to such beings -- the Deep Ones seem especially prone to doing so -- despite how utterly alien and unknowable their thoughts and motives are.  It's difficult to tell if they're even aware of us; if they are, they give us no more thought than a person does a bacteria.  In other words," he took another sip, "when they do look our way, it's to wipe us out, disinfecting a place before moving in.  When I -- when it -- went back in time, and saved my ancestor Vischer with grafts from those Deep Ones, some part of their Nameless One patron also slipped in.  This created a new entity -- the one that had lurked in my family, gestating, hoping from Archeville to Archeville, until it was finally born through me.  It was akin to a Nameless One, but because it was bound to both my family's flesh and our name, it became anchored in this dimension, gaining a stronger foothold, and slipping past The Pact, which usually keeps things like that out."  He finished his coffee, "I've not studied magic or the supernatural to any appreciable degree -- which Phantom says may have been due to its influence, making me distrust that which could have detected and exorcised it from me before it had fully manifest -- but from what little I have read since then, it sounds like a solid hypothesis."

 

Some of this did sound familiar to Mona -- he had gone over parts of this with her, in broad strokes, but not all.

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Penny accepted the scratches with some irritation. After all mere scritches were nothing compared to the earlier massage. Nonetheless these came from one of her favorite humans...so they were okay. Cue more purring.

 

Fulcrum considered his examination of the Synthia Bower and nodded occasionally in agreement. At a couple of points, an eyebrow went up, but she waited for him to finish.

 

"That reminds me. How long are you intending this trip to be anyway? Remember I didn't plan to go initially. The more you talk, the longer the trip sounds." Not that he was treading on dangerous ground, but she was obviously curious. "Also my mother would never forgive me if she missed the birth of her grand baby. I can commute back for the delivery." At the second sentence, she grimaced. Viktor had known her long enough that the topic wasn't the cause. It was that she let something slip.

 

As for her question, she looked at him with a deadpan expression. Partly, yes, this was old news to her. The other part however listened and listened closely. But the idea of such monstrous entities didn't seem to phase her in-and-of itself. She managed to crack a grin. "You're such a curious man, Viktor. At the existential horror, you're quite the dispassionate scientist. Yes, that does sound familiar. The part I missed, or misinterpreted, was that it was an offspring of the Nameless One. My understanding was that it was the Nameless One." A dramatic sigh. "Oh well. Thank you for filling in the gaps. Making you suspicious of magic would be a brilliant defense mechanism."

 

Mentally, a new life goal was added to the list.

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