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Calling on the Aunties


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Silberman's Books

2021, Mid-November (not long after Spies Like Us and Friend Like Me), a weekday afternoon

 

Davyd Palahniuk had graduated from the Claremont Academy some five months ago, yet was still unsure what to do with his life. He'd sought out advice from family and friends, and friends of friends -- including some rather (in)famous folks! -- and was getting a better idea of what he'd wanted to do with himself. (At the very least, he'd learned some harsh truths which made him rethink and discard some ideas.) There was one more stop he wanted to make on this quest, two women who'd already offered him an immense amount of guidance and assistance, who he'd come to view as surrogate aunts: Grimalkin and Miss Grue.

 

The silver bell above the door jingled merrily as he entered, just audible over the few customers in the store. In one spot, two young men were arguing by the comics section over which writer "got" the Raven better. Elsewhere, a woman was looking at dice sets, waiting for her daughter to pick out her first one. And over at the counter, chatting with one of the store's regulars, was Lynn Epstein. Davyd waved at her, then slowly began walking around the store, waiting until the owner was free to talk.

 

Ooh, the new Best Horror of the Year anthology is out!

 

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Lynn Epstein looked up and smiled at the young shapeshifter, then looked like she just remembered something important, signaling Davyd with an enthusiastic but confusing hand gesture before turning back to he customer. "I'm sorry, could you excuse me? I have to help one of our special clients."

 

Coming out from behind the counter, she gave the recent Claremont grad a big sisterly hug. "Welcome back, kid! How was Europe?"

 

As they walked and talked, the bookseller led Davyd into the backroom, and towards a set of three white magazine storage boxes, slightly stained with age and bearing the delightful musty scent of someone's basement.

 

"I have something special for you! I told Gretch to keep an eye out for any movie magazines for you, right? Well today she just sent the motherlode over from the EC store. Check it out!"

 

Inside the boxes was a treasure troves of back iseues, bagged and boarded, of Cinefex, Cinemafantastique, Fangoria and Video Watchdog. They weren't solid runs, but they were all from the mid-80s to the early 90s, the golden age of practical f/x. Davyd saw grinning Terminators, battle-scarred hockey masks and creepy Cenobites peeking out of the boxes like old friends.

 

Lynn stood behind him with arms folded, beaming at his visible excitement "Hah? Did Auntie Grim deliver or what?"

Edited by Heritage
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Horrorshow

 

Excited barely began to describe his reaction!  Davyd's jaw dropped and eyes bulged, far more than any human should be able to, but he quickly regained his composure with a vigorous shaking of his head.  "This is amazing!"  He instantly began rifling through them.  He had a few of the issues already (gifts from Uncle Sasha), and bits of others as low-res pdfs on his computer (from the publisher's initial attempts at online distribution), but this was a treasure trove!  "Where did she find all of these?  And how mu- oh, wow, this one takes me back!"  He picked up one issue of Fangoria, which has the original articles he'd first seen reprinted in a limited edition special Fangoria Legends he'd gotten when he was 11... and, a few moments later, he's shrunk down and was his eleven-year-old self!

 

He barely seemed aware of the shift, so engrossed he was in the magazine, until he remembered the reason for his visit that day.  "Oh, yeah, I came by to tell you something.  Maybe ask something, too.  You and Daphne.  It's not, like, time-sensitive or anything, but- when did you get so tall?" he asked, finally tearing his eyes away from the lurid images and looking at -- up at -- Lynn.  He looked down at himself, raised one hand to his face, then the other; his expression went from shock to embarrassment to amusement.  "I guess nostalgia's a powerful thing, yeah?"

 

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Lynn chuckled at Davyd's clear excitement "Yeah, it sure it is. Take as many as you want; I already paid Gretch for them. As far as Daphne goes..." She pulled out her cell and fired off a quick text to the excitable Grue.

 

Quote

Young Master Davyd dropped by the store, has something to tell us.

 

Quote

How soon can you get here?

 

 

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Ms Grue

Luckily Daphne had volunteered that day for monitor duty, it actually a nice way to relax and catch up on her television show. Mostly because today was pretty quiet and most of the major issues were dealt with by other, for others it might have been boring but spending so much time alone in space meant you learned to fill your time well.

 

I have a call from Ms Epstein about your “Cousin” I shall tell them you are busy working…

 

No wait it’s okay my shift was almost over, and for once we can take advantage of this for once…

 

The replay was a little cryptic, A step to the left please, but the shimmer of the League’s teleporters made he idea obvious. Which quickly, when the area was clear, formed into the shape of Daphne

 

Hi am I late?”

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"Auntie!," he exclaimed, not really expecting Daphne to arrive so suddenly.  "No, no, not late at all -- I knew you had League stuff to do, I never imagined you'd come down here right away!  But, well, you're here now, and that's great!"

 

"So, ah," he leaned back against a wall, trying to look nonchalant, "you two know I've been trying to figure out what I'll do with myself since I'd graduated from Claremont, yeah?  Well, I managed to talk with some people I'd been trying to get in touch with -- and some folks I'd never dreamed I'd get a chance to meet -- and I think I'm getting a good idea for my future.  But," he pushed himself off the wall, and looked them both in the eyes, "I wanted to run some things by you two, before making any final decisions.  And to, ah," he scratched the back of his head, "see if either of you had any suggestions or whatever."

 

"So, uh," he leaned to one side a bit, looking at the customers in the book store, then back to Lynn, "is now a good time?"

 

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"Here, let's move into office; I'll let the staff know I'll be off the floor for a minute."

 

A few minutes later, the three heroes were in Lynn's cozy office, with its big desk, comfortable leather chairs and bookshelves full of intriguing knickknacks, some quite old and others futuristic. Above Lynn's chair were her late husband's rifle and revolver, mounted in a place of honor. The computer and green-shaded lamp on the desk continued the theme of old and new.

 

"Have a seat and tell us all about it," Lynn offered as she dropped into her oversized chair.

Edited by Heritage
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Ms Grue

Even though they were staying out of sight Daphne shifted to her human form, it was what she felt most comfortable being. Daphne then gave her little Nephew a big hug, she’d proud that he’d been to Claremont and done all the things she’d never had a chance having arrived on her own. She could have read his mind for the news, but she want to enjoy the excitement of him explaining it all.

 

Yes take a seat and tell us both about it!”

 

She scooted round beside Lynn, no need to look like they were playing favourites or anything, they we’re all family after all!

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Horrorshow

 

Davyd laid it all out for them, haltingly at first, but with a growing smoothness.  Some of it, like his original (pre-accident) plans of becoming a make-up effects artist, and his later thoughts of becoming a stunt performer -- the perfect Stunt Double -- they well knew.  Others, like his musings on becoming a secret agent, he'd kept from them, though Daphne had had some inkling of that train of thought.  Then there were the newer ideas, working search & rescue operations or various expeditions with Danger International.  They knew of his trips with Veronica Danger, so those weren't too big a surprise.  But the last one -- working as a performer or even journalist for Danger Media (though he was careful not to mention the still-being-built Danger News Network) -- was perhaps a bit of a shock.

 

"So, yeah, that's where my little quest for post-Claremont purpose has taken me.  Maybe not quite a Campbellian "Hero's Journey"," he shrugged, "but it certainly had some moments of revelation, yeah.  But, before I say anything more," he sat up a bit straighter and clasped his hands, "I'd like to know your thoughts are on all this."

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The whole time Davyd was talking, Lynn struggled to keep an idiotic grin off her face; my how there kid had grown! When he finished, she looked between him and Daphne a few times before finding her words.

 

"Look, I think it should go without saying that as your surrogate, shape-shifting aunties, we will be proud of you and root for you in any path you choose for yourself. The important thing as that you choose what's right for you, not to please someone else. You need to be true to yourself."

 

The changeling came around the desk, sat on the edge of it, and sighed.

 

"As someone who's actually had kids...and grandkids and great-grandkids...I've been in this situation before. And, it never gets any easier or less wonderful. You have your whole adult life ahead of you; that means you don't have to have the answer right away. Give yourself the time and opportunity to try lots of different things; explore, experiment, make mistakes and fall down. And listen to your heart as you do it all. It might take a while, but you'll know what you're looking for when you find it."

 

She smiled and laughed, with tears in her eyes.

 

"It's a bit like falling in love; you just know."

Edited by Heritage
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Ms Grue

When Daphne had arrived on Earth with particularly nothing she’d had dreams of living a s a normal teenager before becoming involved in the entrainment industry, the very thing that help raise her into the person she was. Knowing no one she’d managed through a mix of skill and luck to land a job as an assistant at a local television station, oh and become an Auxiliary member of the Freedom League. As such she was estatic that a member of her family, partial adopted or not, had achieved what she’d original dreamed of and even more!

 

That amazing! I’m really happy for you!” she kept her squee down to a minimum “I can recommend some good people if you get to hire your own people.”

 

Lynn’s own reaction hit her like an emotional semi-truck, human never seemed to do such thing.

 

Ow empath here!”she joked, but she also gave Lynn a comforting hug “But Auntie Lynn here is right, I have access to an old Grue slush (invasion) fund, even with the money I give to help people there’s enough to give you a stipend if you want to spend some time finding yourself. You can even borrow Baby for a bit if you wish, I think she’d appreciate the exercise!”

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Horrorshow

 

Davyd could not help but smile -- he knew his "aunties" would react to this positively, but he wasn't prepared for just how positively!  Of course, there was some bitter-sweetness in Lynn's reaction, and he immediately joined Daphne in giving her a warm hug.

 

"That's, ah, incredibly generous," he finally replied to Daphne, "and I will definitely take you up on that offer... but not just now.  You see, I've already got a bit of a start!"  A seam opened in the palm of his right hand, from which a dingy yellowed business card emerged.  "Ace Danger gave me a card for an agent -- Saul Humberto, in Parksige -- and I'll be calling him soon.  But Ace has also arranged for me to conduct an interview with someone at Claremont, for Danger Media!"

 

"Oh, that reminds me," he pivoted so he still had one arm around Lynn, but was looking at Daphne, "I might need some gear from you, if Ace's people can't come up with something.  Some audiovisual equipment, that I can carry & operate no matter what my size or form.  Does Baby have anything like that?"

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Ms Grue

Well the money was for a Grue expedition, so I don’t feel guilty using it help people. Especially family! And Mother Unit like to play the markets and she’s incredibly good at it for obvious reasons.”

 

Actually Daphne was glad, with her now legally an adult Mother Unit didn’t have a

, adopted purpose, so managing her finances keep her busy. She seemed happy at least and that was the import thing for Daphne.

 

Baby has an industrial replication device, its how she repaired herself on the journey to Earth. If you can give Mother Unit the plan I can pass them along and get things made, might take a day tops.”

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Lynn took in the hug for a nice long while before wriggling herself free, her cheeks a little pink. 

 

"Alright, alright, that's enough of that now!"

 

As Davyd describe some of his future endeavors, his changeling auntie looked thoughtful. She wasn't a tech genius it, but as a veteran superhero, she'd encountered a lot of interesting things in her lifetime, which occasionally led to interesting ideas.

 

"So are we talking about A/V equipment that shrinks or expands to match your body, or does it stay the same size, but you can still control it? Maybe like a camera that's also a drone that you ca.n control mentally, even if you don't have hands. Because it seems like that would be ideal."

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Horrorshow

 

"Oh, uh," he replied to Daphne, sounding a bit dejected, "I was sorta hoping Baby might already have some plans for a Grue camera... thingie.  Something they could carry and use, no matter what their form, for reconnaissance missions.  I mean, it's okay if she doesn't," he quickly added, not wanting to sound ungrateful, "Ace said he could put a word in with some of Danger International's tech folks.  And once I get it, I could let Baby scan it so she could make copies... maybe even a copy for you, yeah?," he added with a smile.

 

"I'd thought about a drone," he turned to Lynn, "but I think that might be too much trouble.  That'd be two things to keep track of, the drone and the controller."  He shook his head, "I was thinking one device, that could grow and shrink with me, that could attach itself to me, or maybe even ride inside me.  Something with simple controls, that I could manipulate no matter what," he held one hand up and wiggled his fingers, which morphed into five tentacles, then braided and combined into one larger tentacle, flattened to a seal's flipper, then shifted to an eagle's talons before reverting to a normal human hand, "with auto-focusing, lots of automated stuff, so I could focus on who I'm interviewing, or on my surroundings.  Not sure if I'd want it to be able to broadcast, like back to a base camp, or just record on an internal memory -- a broadcast could be blocked, and might spook some new critter that can perceive radio waves."

 

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Ms Grue

Daphne always felt weird talking about her life before coming to Earth, it was something that was special to her but also private. But this was family and it was important to be honest to family found or otherwise.

 

All Grue data was lost in the attack that launched Baby in the first place, and what with the whole deal with the new Meta Mind I’ve not had chance (or desire) to get the data backups.”

 

As she was speaking she realised something and gave a big smile.

 

The League has extensive records on things this however…”she went a little vacant for a second “Mother Unit just found something I can have something for you within the hour!”

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