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Dr Archeville

[Vignette 2/2011] Coming Home (Edge)

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Feb. 23rd

Mark walked in the kitchen door and found his father waiting for him. "Jesus Christ, Dad!" Mark exclaimed. "What are you doing here?" His father wasn't alone, either; his mother was there with him. For a second, though, Mark's eyes were all on his father, Rick Lucas. He hadn't seen Rick since his father's abortive return during his grandmother's illness, and they'd exchanged some strong words then. And now...? Rick was looking taller and more robust than Mark remembered, his dad now every inch his own memories of his father. Surely there was only one reason he could be home... "Oh, God! Have you come to stay? Come so we can be a family again?" The prospect, even after so much anger, was like a weight lifted from Mark's chest.

"Yes," said Rick, stepping forward to embrace his son. He smelled like redwood forests and aftershave, everything a father should smell like. "We're going to be a family again," said Rick proudly. "I'm going to make up for the mistakes I made. The mistakes I made when I left... and the mistakes I made when I raised you. You've grown up into a good man, Mark, and I want to help you as much as I can. Pack your bags, and we'll be ready to go." For her part, Martha looked more than ready to go herself, looking smiling and confident with a dufflebag over her shoulder and in a Panama shirt and shorts unsuitable for the climate of Freedom City in February.

Mark was almost to the stairs up to his room when he paused, and turned. "Wait... why are we going? Can't you stay here?" His father had talked quite a bit about his inability to remain on Earth-Prime after the emergence of his reality-warping, universe-shaping self, but that wasn't something Mark had been able to really understand: had his father left because he _couldn't_ stay, or because he didn't want to give up all that he'd gained? "Are we going to have to live with the genies?"

"No," Rick reassured him, "I've spoken with... with those people, and they agree that my place isn't there. Whatever magical act may have given me birth, those aren't my people, and that man isn't my father. You've already met your grandfather." Mark didn't ask how his father knew about that adventure; he surely was already familiar with that sort of thing if he was watching Earth-Prime at all. "We're going to live on Earth-Electrum. It's a beautiful place, I've been visiting there, and-"

"... wait, _what_?" Mark's jaw dropped. "You want us to just pack our bags and go live in some other dimension? But I haven't even finished school!"

"We can't stay here," said Rick firmly. "I've shown your mother what's happening to this dimension, and she agrees. This is no place for us to live out our golden years, much less for you to have your young manhood." Mark looked past his father, but Martha looked uneasy, not the support that either man might have wanted at this point. Mark felt a sudden, ugly stab at those words. Did he change her this time? Rick fixed his son dead in the eye. "The Terminus is coming. Our family won't survive if we stay. We have to go elsewhere and-"

"No!" Mark exclaimed. "No, we can't do this again! Dammit, Dad!" He grabbed Rick's arm, heedless of the power that had once shattered reality in half. "If the Terminus is coming, stay! If you can't take action, if you're some kind of cosmic entity now, at least warn us so we can organize our defenses! The world needs you!"

"No, it doesn't," said Rick flatly. "This world hasn't needed me in a long time. It needs-"

"Mom, please!" Mark looked past his father, looking pleadingly at Martha. She'd tried so hard for so long after his father's disappearance, things were going so well for her; what could Rick possibly have said? "For God's sakes, you can't just leave! What about your work? What about our family?"

"I've left enough pictures that they can carry on without me," said Martha, raising her head proudly. "That's why I've been back in the studio so much lately. I know this seems hard, Mark, but things are going to be all right. Just come with us, and let this world go for a little while. Our family is depending on it."

Mark flushed red, shouting "Our family?!? All my life, both of you have taught me to stand up for what I believe in. To do what's right, no matter how hard it is? And now you're expecting me to give up on my friends, give up on saving the world, because you say I should? That's insane!"

To his surprise, Rick smiled, and exchanged a look with Martha that was terribly knowing and terribly sad. Martha wasn't smiling at all, but Rick said, "No, Mark. I guess I really didn't." "We'll see you again soon," said Martha, and before Mark could do more than cry out, his parents vanished in a spectral spiral of black, inky bubbles.

He stared at them, his mouth open, and it was seconds before he yelled, "Noooo!" Mark dropped to the kitchen floor, still staring at the spots where they'd been, watching as the sun moved across the floor as hours went by. He tried his communicator only once, but when no one answered, he didn't bother again. The house was empty."For the first time, Mark was alone.

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