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Port Regal, Freedom City, New Jersey
Cline Home
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

 

William walked into his family's home with less than his usual vigor and energy. He was oddly subdued and, unusually, glad his father wasn't home. His mother could feel the relief. She'd felt Will's subtle probe and inquiry earlier, when he'd been "told" that his father and younger sister were out and about in the city, likely getting into some sort of trouble. 

 

William wasn't carrying an overnight bag or anything (not that he needed one; he had enough supplies at home to split his time if he liked), and didn't even have a backpack full of homework. He just had a couple slightly wrinkled sheets of paper clenched in one hand. 

 

He moved into the kitchen, looking for Paige.

 

"Hey, uh, Mom? Where are you at?"

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"In the office!" Paige called, her voice only slightly muffled by the walls. Holly's room was securely baffled against auditory and psychic noise, but the thin walls in the rest of the house weren't exactly soundproof. The home office on the first floor was a strange sort of room, half office and half production studio, with a cluttered desk shoved into a corner and the rest of the space taken up with monitors and editing equipment and bookshelves full of history books and reference guides to metahumans.

 

Paige was watching dailies in front of the center monitor, a routine job she brought home most nights when there'd been filming done. There were tired lines around her eyes and she looked a little sad, like she had for most of the past month or so, but it was getting better. She paused the screen and turned to him, opening her arms for a hug. "Welcome back, my baby! How's school treating you?" Just by looking at him, Paige could tell that something was bothering her son, not to mention the emotional echo around his communication earlier, but she wouldn't talk about it until he was ready to bring it up. 

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William meandered his way into the office, taking a moment to gaze around at the equipment. He didn't get to come in here much; something about how his "fool antics might break something even if we can afford to replace it that's an irresponsible use of our talents and resources". 

It's amazing how easy it is for a psychic parent to make you remember their lectures in perfect detail with the precise tone of voice used...

 

He shook off his musings and moved over to his mother, giving her a half-smile.

 

"School's pretty good. I think I might even be able to get a bit ahead of where we thought I was at first, year-wise. And I'm making friends and learning stuff. Plus, you know, pretty girls."

 

A grin so like his father's, at least for several moments. Then he was serious-ish again.

 

"Listen, I know you're probably just going to say "no" or something, but there's this field trip, right? And ultimately it's going to the MOON, which is okay, one of the big-time seniors, Mali, is going, and the teachers have it all planned, and we're gonna see the Farsiders and stuff, but...uh."

 

He held out the forms, apprehension on his face.

 

"They said something about having to go through the Goodman Building."

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The smile slipped from Paige's face, leaving her looking somber and sad again. "You know that's the headquarters of the Atoms." It wasn't a question; Will wouldn't be so concerned if he didn't realize the problem. "And there are likely to be a couple of Atoms on the moon as well. Last I heard, Chase and Victoria were living up there, and I can't imagine they wouldn't turn out. After..." She paused and swallowed, closing her eyes for a second. "After everything that happened, they know who I am. So they probably know who you are." 

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Will nods at his mother's analysis.

 

"I know, mom. At least about the running in to them. I...I hadn't thought they'd know for sure who I was, but I guess it's not hard to guess, what with you and dad being on television and stuff. Your names are out there. I'll be going in with them knowing my name. Not a hard leap. And if they have any doubts, they probably have some fancy-schmancy high-tech whiz-bang gadget to scan me or probe me or something."

 

He thinks on his next words carefully for a few moments.

 

"A big part of me still wants to go, to try and keep getting to know classmates better, make friends, that sort of thing. Plus...well, the Moon. But part of me is scared to walk in that place. Scared they'll just...lock me up on some trumped-up charge. Or tag me like a criminal while we're there. Or...I just don't want to see...him."

 

She knew he meant Jack Wolf.

 

"I mean...you know that I never knew...and I only had what you and dad said and all your warnings, but...."

 

But his grandfather is dead. Ignominiously dead. And the only people mourning him that weren't classified as criminals were in this house. 

 

"What do I do, Mom?"

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Paige motioned to Will to take a seat on a chair that was only partially covered with books and papers. She looked as though she wanted to say something, but then bit it back and looked him in the eye. "You're sixteen now, William," she told him soberly. "Old enough to be on a superteam, old enough to save the world." She laughed a little, not exactly humorously. "I'd be lying if I said that didn't keep me awake nights worrying. But we've done the best we can to prepare you, and your father and I are both very proud of you."

 

Reaching out, Paige took her son's hand and squeezed it lightly. "Being old enough means you're going to have to make some hard choices for yourself. If it were my decision, I would keep you home. There's enough trouble in the world without going out and borrowing more, and I've made it a habit of avoiding Atoms for thirty years now. Even before... before what happened last month. It's in my nature and my training to lay low and avoid threats where possible. It's been a long time since I purposefully courted trouble." She smiled a little, wistfully, reminiscently at that. "But you're more like your father than like me, and I understand that."

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"I'd settle for saving, I dunno, a city block. Or a few princesses."

 

Definitely his father's son, Will's cheekiness shines through even in this somber moment as he sits next to his mother. He gave her a soft smile of his own and squeezed her hand back.

 

"Yeah, I know what you'd say. But a month ago it wouldn't have even been a question; I'd have wanted to go and just kind of keep my head down. It's just the recent stuff that made me step back.

 

But. I'm not going it alone; there's going to be other kids from the school there. I guess..."

 

He took and released a deep breath.

 

"I guess that means, if things get weird or hairy, I've got some backup. I think Elias is going. I'm pretty sure he and I totally are friends now. Plus Mali, who if nothing else could probably just bend everyone in half or something."

 

Will certainly isn't intimidated by stronger women.

 

"So, if it's okay with you, I'd like to go. I think both of you need to sign, but this way the harder talk is over. Dad's probably just going to try and convince me to spray-paint their bathroom or something."

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Paige nodded, not looking entirely happy, but accepting what she'd known his decision was likely to be. "No spray paint," she told him firmly. "We're better than that. Have you thought about what you're going to say to your friends, how you're going to explain  any precautions or irregularities?" Paige fixed him with a serious look. "Going into a situation that might be dangerous is one thing, but you're also carrying the secret identities of this whole family with you.The Atoms aren't the only heroes out there with a longstanding grudge against any Psions that might make themselves available for punishment. More than a couple of villains, as well. And as twisted as it may seem, the one big threat that might have stayed their hands is gone now. We have to be careful." 

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"Yeah yeah it was just a joke, mom."

 

But at her question, he looked almost crestfallen.

 

"I'm...not sure. I mean, they know my legal name. Obviously. They probably know my parents' names. I don't think I want to just say "hey guys I'm totes a Psion descendent". But you were right, the Atoms probably can connect the dots with me. Maybe they'll see the name, look me up, freak out, then calm down before we ever go there. If they don't make a deal of it I sure won't.

 

I...don't think I should say much to the others. If there's a confrontation or whatever, I'll just say it's a private family thing. In our "business" that should be enough, right?"

Edited by KnightDisciple

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Paige raised an eyebrow. "You certainly don't have to say anything more than that to your friends, but is that going to stop them from wanting to know more?" she asked. "I know there are a lot of ninjas in your class, and they tend to be better than most about not asking uncomfortable personal questions, but kids are naturally curious. You need to know ahead of time what you're going to do if someone starts pushing." She smiled a little. "That's another one of those lessons you learn now and carry along for the rest of your life, by the way. Secret identities are a pain in the ass." 

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"I think it's as far as I'll discuss it on the trip unless circumstances force me to tell them more. It's not exactly stuff I want getting around even If I trust everyone there, and to be honest, of the folks going on the trip, Elias is the one I trust the most to keep quiet about it. If they push me I'll tell them it's not something I want to discuss on the trip."

 

He gave an amused smile and a shrug.

 

"Mostly because he doesn't talk much and he's super-private himself. He'll probably understand not wanting to talk the most. It's not like it's going to compromise the trip or anything."

 

Then he realized something else, and his cheeks may have reddened just a bit.

 

"Also, it's an overnight trip. Just, uh, you know."

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Paige's eyes sharpened a bit at that, definitely a Mom Look. "Overnight on the moon, huh? Talk about being a little bit out of reach on a class trip. And with a big-time senior named Molly?" She began to look at the crumpled papers in her hands, scanning the information provided on the slip. "So who are the chaperones going to be on this expedition?  Are you going to need to pack food, or money, or your passport? What's the weather like on the moon these days?" She swiveled her chair to grab for pen and paper off one of the monitors. "You haven't grown out of those flannel pajamas yet, have you?" 

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"I'm guessing it's a bit of a trip so they can't really do it in one day. And it's two nights, so I guess like two and a half days? I think they have some sort of communications gizmo thingy that'd let us talk. And yeah, Mali's the lead student. Presumably because she can just pretzel-fy any of us if we get out of line. You met her on my first tour, remember?"

 

William was relaxing a bit despite talking about an overnight trip to the moon that involved girls. 

 

"We don't really need money; I guess the Farsiders' economy is different enough it's not an issue. They're providing food, lodging, guides, and even the spacesuits for the moonwalk. They said the weather's nicer than here, since it's artificially controlled. No need to pack a bunch of layers. I'll bring a good jacket and pants instead of shorts, but I don't think it'll be a big deal. And I think the pajama pants and sleep shirts I have at the dorm will be just fine, mom."

 

He'd not answered about chaperones yet...

 

"And the chaperone is, apparently, uh...Chase Atom."

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At those words, Paige's hand stilled, her pen halting mid-word in the packing list she was making. "Chase Atom," she repeated softly, "is the chaperone?" Will could see the sudden doubt in her eyes, even feel it on the edges of his mind despite his mother's excellent control. Right at this moment, Paige wanted very much to call the whole thing off, forbid the trip and keep her son on Earth, where if not safe, he'd be safer, and she could keep an eye on him. But to do so now would ruin the lesson she was trying to teach and undermine his self-confidence at the same time. So instead she asked. "Are you sure this is something you want to do, Will?" 

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"Mom, this country sent, what, like 20 guys to the moon? Nothing else. I could literally be making history! Would I be the first Jewish boy on the moon?"

 

It was a terrible attempt at a joke. 

 

"And I mean, at least Chase basically just lives up on the moon and doesn't get into...shenanigans...down here. And if it gets bad I'll have them send me home. Or something. But I want to go. Not just because it's the freaking Moon, but because I want to try and make friends. Actual, real friends. And doing stuff like this is one of the ways that happens, at least with super-folks like us."

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She laughed a little, though there wasn't much heart in it. "I suppose I'll take your word for that, you're in unknown territory as far as I'm concerned. Everything I know about high school, I learned from watching television. Promise me you'll be careful, all right?" Paige returned to making her list,jotting down things like toothbrush, underpants, and long-range homing beacon. "And stay away from that wretched moon monkey if it's still around," she warned. "It's probably got rabies or moon fleas or something horrible like that. Nasty little thing." 

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"Those TV shows are bunk. No one ever breaks out into spontaneous song and dance routines. Except in music class."

 

William's the closest thing to an expert they have, really.

 

"And yes, Mom, I'll be extra-careful. I'll keep my eyes open and my mouth shut."

 

He pauses.

 

"Well, I'll try to keep my mouth shut. And yeah, no moon monkey. The teachers didn't mention a monkey. I'll make sure to keep my distance if one shows up."

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"All right then." Taking a deep breath, Paige filled out and signed the permission slip in neat, precise handwriting. "I expect you'll act in such a way that both we and the school will be willing to let this be the first of many field trips." She handed him the papers. "And I hope you have fun. Just don't listen to anything your father says when he tries to give you advice about space travel. He just has a bad taste in his mouth because the cosmic flyers are so much faster than he is," she advised sagely. "Do you have to go now, or do you want to stay for dinner and run film with me?" 

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"ThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyou!"

 

Speedsters can get a lot of thanking in with  just a few breaths, and Will was no exception. As soon as Paige finished writing he threw his arms around her in a big hug, a grin practically splitting his face.

 

"I'm going to be on my best behavior. Seriously, the best. And I know it's going to be fun!"

 

He zipped out of the room for a moment, then came back, a half-empty water bottle in his hand. Probably just thirsty.

 

"And I, uh, kind of was thinking that, Mom. That's why I came to you first."

 

William loved his father, and (much as he tried to deny it) often ended up imitating him, but he also knew that Richard's background meant he had some odd views on the more fanciful parts of superhero life. 

 

"And I'd totally be up for dinner. What are we having? Do you need help cooking? Can I help with film now?"

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