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Avenger Assembled

June/July Vignette - Patrimony

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Patrimony - property inherited from one's father or male ancestor. 

 

Inheritance law doesn't really work that way in most places anymore. 

 

But it can mean a lot of things - it can mean Father's Day, a day you celebrate your male parent. 

 

It can mean the Fourth of July - the day you celebrate the nation you inherited from the Founding Fathers. 

 

It can mean Confederation Day and the 150th anniversary of a nation inherited from the Fathers of Confederation. 

 

And maybe all this talk of fathers means nothing - but there's a story there, too, don't you think? 

 

The theme of the June/July vignette is PATRIMONY. 

 

Please post them here by July 31. 

 

 

(As a reminder, vignettes follow the same general rules as posts in terms of content, player character limits, and so on. You may have only one vignette per player character. Each vignette should be at least one page (~500 words) in length; if posted in your thread counts at the end of the month, it is worth 1pp for the associated character. An especially long vignette, 1000 words or more, may be worth up to 2pp. Multiple players can collaborate on a single vignette - we recommend Google Docs for this, it's very useful - but the vignette should be about one page per participating player. - Fox)

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Like My Father, But Bolder- Hyperactive

 

June 30th, 2017

Seasonal, outside Chicago

 

The ball went sailing through the air again. It was kind of a weird experience. The lights and the cameras and the microphones all for a game of catch. But that was what they needed for this shoot. The government had a series of grants running for those supers willing to shoot what amounted to essentially propaganda videos. The Seasonal, the training facility and base for Mr. October and Sunset Speedster, had been more than happy to shoot a video for the government project and their son Tyson, aka Hyperactive, had been willing to be a part of it. They'd settled on a super powered game of catch to show off the young heroes training and skills. 

Tyson was paying attention, but his mind was in the past. Catch had been the way Tyson and Frederick Masters had connected when Tyson was growing up. Tyson's powers had come piecemeal, his speed first and reflexes much later. Tyson's father hadn't had that problem and so both of them had struggled with the clumsy super sonic youth. 

Tyson watched the ball as it came in slowly at only about a hundred miles an hour. He held up his mitt and snagged it out of the air. He flicked the ball back into his other hand before sending it off with a flick of his wrist over at one of the kids who now called the Seasonal home. Whiplash, as the young man was known, let his arm stretch out and grab the ball almost a hundred feet away. Frederick Masters, in a limited version of his costume as Mr. October, dropped down besides his son. 

"Glad you could make it." Boomed the middle aged hero to his son, all for the cameras. The ball went flying towards 2.0 who wasn't paying attention. Neither hero reacted as both watched the ball impact with the girl's jaw. Before it had moved even another centimeter Tyson Masters aka Hyperactive stretched out his hand and pulled the kinetic energy from the ball freezing it in the air. 

"2.0!" Hyperactive asked zipping forward and grabbing the ball as the teenager rubbed her jaw. "What was your mistake?" 

"I didn't catch the ball?" She asked and Hyperactive sent the ball whirling at her.her arm snapped up in response. She snatched it out of the air. 

"Why'd you catch it that time?" Mr. October asked as 2.0 sent the ball back at Whiplash. 

"I wasn't paying attention." Sighed the young technopath. The game of catch resumed and October hovered near his son. Both men stepped back. They watched the ball streak back and forth as they took in the display of powers. 

"My base is still cooler." Hyperactive punched his old man before making a show of shaking his wrist out. This was only partly for the camera. 

"But you know this is all publicity." October said stepping back and waving the mic away. Hyperactive flashed the number five. 

"Sure. The Seasonal stands ready to keep the streets of Chicago Clean." 

"Hey J.T. Bought us new toys who am I to argue?" Shrugged October. The new toys had been some much needed renovations to the base. Including a means of rapid transit for slower heroes, much to 2.0's delight. 

"Yeah Zyte and I will be working on that for Waco in a little bit. Hornet and Vagabond were thrilled with the upgrades." Both men went back to watching the ball fly. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. "Did you ever wonder if your team would last?" 

"Condor and I butted heads as boys. Your mother and her father didn't always see eye to eye." He paused as he watched the ball fly back and forth. "And the rest, well I'd hardly call us a team. We stuck to those old fashioned rules." Again a pause as both men watched the two up and coming heroes send the ball back and forth. "They didn't." Hyperactive closed his eyes behind his mask. He remembered the video of Mr. October, Sunset Speedster, Condor and Summer Son had protected Condor from the vigilantes Treble and Base. Those two had come to kill the original Drone Master and the four heroes had defended her. It had split the city's opinion. Some had supported the attempt at a public execution while most had been appalled. 

"You know I'm so thankful for that." Hyperactive said looking at his father. "For all the times you and Condor kept me from killing. It made me a better man." Hyperactive looked forward. "I miss him dad." 

"I know son." Sighed October. "That run you did for cancer with those other speedsters was great. I'm sure he loved it." The ball flew like a weaver's shuttle between the other two. "J.T. Wanted me to convince you to run for his federal team." 

"Did he ask you?" 

"No he wants to leave states and cities with some heroes." October snagged the ball as it came near and sent it long for Whiplash. "Was a little insulted when his request for me was to convince you."

"I'm loathe to leave the warriors." Sighed Hyperactive. It was true, but not all the truth. He was thinking of the other teams of Federal heroes and how sometimes they were seen as being wholly ineffective. 

The ball went wide and he was out and snagging it and lobbing it back into play without a thought. He really hoped they could get enough video for one shoot. He didn't want to do this all again. 

"I remember the days of state sponsored heroes, and the licensing programs." October said. "I'm happy taking money until they tell me to kill someone." 

"I don't think that's what they have in mind." 

"That's not how it starts." October added. 

"I know I know. Public safety becomes registration, becomes camps, and death squads." Most days Tyson was flippant when he said things like that to his father, but today? It was serious. He'd run across the multiverse, fought world conquerors and seen the might of the Terminus from afar. But he had always had Prime to run home to. 

"You want to prevent that? Then join them. Let your voice be heard. Stand for what is right." 

"Like you and mom and Summer Son?" Tyson grinned. 

"Better than us Son." Frederick said. "But Hyperactive. Remember that no matter what happens, we love you." The two men hugged and Hyperactive really hoped that it was caught on camera. 

 

A few hours later, Tyson sat in the Attometer watching the lightning burn across the sky of the Shadow Zone. He swirled the Dr. Pepper in his glass as the communication array stabilized. 

"Mr. President. I've considered your proposal."

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Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility
Leavenworth, Kansas

Marie Locke waited in the meeting room. She had waited for the guards to confirm who she was; she had waited for the airline flight from Freedom City; she had waited for the lawyer to draw up the papers. Through the whole thing she had waited patiently but now, here, at the finish line she found herself drumming her fingers impatiently. For whatever reason the closer she got to her husband, the more nervous energy she had to contend with.
 
And as if thinking about him had summoned him, Anthony entered the room with a guard at either shoulder. He still walked with the easy, rolling gait of a man who owned the entire world even as he was dressed in prison orange, and Marie felt her old affection for him even now. She kept her face blank as he was sat down across from her, though, and as the guards moved back to the doors. He smiled at her and reached out for her hands; she didn't stop him but didn't respond when he squeezed her fingers. "Hey Marie. It's good to see you. I, uh, was hoping Warren would come with you."
 
Marie's lips were suddenly dry and she had to swallow before speaking. "I thought that he shouldn't see what we're going to do here." She freed her hands and pulled out the stack of legal papers from the manila envelope in her lap, sliding them over to Anthony. "I came down here... because I want a divorce."
 
Anthony stared for a moment, speechless, before he picked up the stack of legal documents and started flipping through them. Marie watched his eyes flick from place to place as his gaze washed over them, though she was sure he wasn't reading them fully. "I... you don't want to be with me anymore? But, Marie..." He trailed off without asking the why. The why was obvious, was hovering over the entire conversation like a great, gleaming elephant. Anthony had broken the law, stolen from the government, and endangered their family to try and save their son. It had gone about as well as anyone could expect it to go, but the fact was he had broken so many laws and endangered their child. The why couldn't be more obvious if they were still standing in that hospital room.
 
Anthony turned through the document again, more slowly this time. "I thought that maybe you might wait for me, Marie. When I get out --"
 
"When?" Marie's voice was full of venom and tense anger as she cut him off. "Anthony, you committed treason. You stole from ASTRO Labs and AEGIS and endangered God knows how many people with that damn vial of -- of alien goo! Do you still believe you're going to get out at any point? You'll be lucky if they don't -- they don't." Marie's voice shook with sudden emotion and she swallowed past it. "If they don't kill you, you're going to be in prison for the rest of your life. And I... cannot deal with that. I am still trying to raise our child and I can't do that if I'm married to a, a traitor."
 
Anthony dropped the papers on the table and gripped the plastic surface hard, his knuckles going white. "I served all over the world. I know I wasn't there for a lot of Warren's life, but I sacrificed everything, everything, to save him. He would be dead in a couple years if it hadn't been for me!"
 
"Yes, Anthony," Marie replied harshly. "You were gone for years. I raised Warren myself, alone, for years. I took him to the hospital myself. I measured out his pills myself. I took him to physical therapy myself. And I managed to do it because I said to myself that you were away protecting the world, trying to make some part of it better. Then... I got a call saying that you stole from AEGIS, that you were racing through the city with some godforsaken alien technology and shooting people!"
 
"Never shot anyone," Anthony muttered to himself. "Just... threatened them."
 
"Goddammit Anthony, listen to me!" Marie slapped her hands on the table, surprising even herself with the noise. "I saw our child wasting away every single day for fifteen years! And I got through it because I thought I had a partner, that I had someone who loved me and would get me through it. But then you go off on a half-cocked plan that could have killed Warren, could have destroyed the whole city! And you never even breathed a word of it to me! You could have killed absolutely everyone, and you never thought to tell your wife!? Anthony, was I ever your partner, or was I just another secretary, another subordinate doing some job you didn't have the time to do yourself?"
 
Anthony kept his eyes on the divorce papers, his voice still low and almost under his breath. "I thought I would protect you, from the blowback. If you didn't know, they wouldn't arrest you..."
 
"Protect me? You do not get to protect me from this! Enemies foreign and domestic, okay. Foreclosure and bankruptcy, yes. A, a, a mad dog when we're on a walk? Good! Protect me from those! But this -- Anthony, you exposed our son to god knows what and you did it without ever asking me. I can't forgive that, and I can't live with the man who did it." Marie wiped at the corner of her eyes, surprised to find tears there. "I need to have someone in my life who respects my opinions and won't... Won't sideline me in literally world-changing events! You have no idea what would happen!"
 
Anthony raised his eyes for the first time since he'd seen the divorce papers. "Someone in your life? Is there... are you seeing someone?"
 
Marie laughed, the sound harsh and flat. "Between AEGIS questions and getting Warren settled in at Claremont and avoiding the press and seeing my therapist -- Anthony I feel like I've barely slept in the past three months. You want to know if I've been 'seeing' someone? Okay, fine: no. I've been faithful to you through this whole... mess. But I can't anymore, Anthony. I want you to let me go, I want to do with quietly and painlessly, but if I need to I'll take it to court." Marie fell silent and the silence stretched between them for long minutes. Finally she stood up, stepping away from the plastic table. "My lawyer's card is on the last page. Cal him if you want to talk."

-------
 

Some days Marie was sitting in her clean ranch house in a Bayview subdivision, looking at the papers. Anthony's signature and initials were on all the right places. She noted, distantly, that it was all dated just two days after her visit and thanked him, silently, for not dragging it out. Now she just had to learn what it was like to be single again in her forties.

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The Treasure That Cannot Be Stolen

 

Samantha Carson, alias Terrifica, was at home. Specifically, in her basement where her lab and supplies were. It was late, and the children had been put to bed. She was preparing for a trip. Her Fiber Armor Battlesuit was packed away, along with the Terrifi-Staff and assorted other items. She even had a changes of clothes if she should need them. A clue to her father’s fate had turned up in Kenya. She stepped back and judged her preparations complete. Anything else could be purchased onsite. She shouldered her bag and turned around to find her husband Stan Gresham standing there. “Did you need something, Stan? I told you about this trip a week ago. There shouldn’t be anything left to discuss.”

 

Stan just looked at her, his trademark mild expression firmly in place. “You’re off again, then.” It was simply a statement of fact.

 

Sam eyed her husband somewhat impatiently. “Yes, that was the idea. I told you, I have a fresh lead. Summer classes have finished. I don’t strictly need to return to work for weeks.”

 

Stan just kept on looking at his wife. “Yeah, I know.”

 

“Then you’re in my way.”

 

“I know that, too.”

 

Sam’s tone became harder edged. “We’ve had this discussion, Stan. I’m going, and that is simply all there is to it.”

 

Stan’s gaze remained steady. “That makes three things.”

 

Sam was now clearly irritated. “Then would you please get out of my way?”

 

Stan looked around. “Plenty of room to go around me.” It was technically true.

 

Sam pursed her lips. “That’s not the point and you know it. You don’t like it when I run off at the first hint of my father’s fate.”

 

Stan looked at the mother of his children steadily. “I don’t recall saying anything of the kind.”

 

Sam glared at him. “You don’t have to say it. It’s the way you act whenever I pursue a fresh lead.”

 

Stan didn’t even appear to notice his wife’s growing hostility. “Hmm. That’s a bit strange. I don’t recall being particularly negative or obstructive.” To prove the point, he stepped a bit to the side to let Sam by. “Though it would be nice if you gave me a kiss goodbye.”

 

Sam frowned and strode forward. She pecked him perfunctorily on the lips, and started up the stairs. She paused midway, her irritation vanishing like a summer mist. There was a slightly pleading tone to her words now. “You don’t understand.”

 

Stan turned to look at her. “Four things, now.”

 

“I have to.”

 

“Five things.”

 

“I’ve told you. The world makes sense. There are no unsolvable mysteries.”

 

“Things six and seven.”

 

Sam sighed and unloaded her shoulder bag on the floor of the first level. “What do you want from me? You know how my mind works.”

 

Stan kept that steady gaze on her. “Yeah, I do.”

 

“Then you understand why I-“

 

Stan cut her off for the first time in the conversation. “Can’t say I do. You’re smarter than me. You understand plenty of things that I don’t.”

 

Sam pouted. “If you’re going to be difficult, I’m just going to leave.” To prove it she picked the bag back up and finished climbing the stairs.

 

Stan started up the stairs after her. “Don’t forget to send us a postcard.”

 

As he reached the top of the stairs, a furious wife awaited him in the kitchen. “That’s low, Stan. Involving the children. You think I don’t know this isn’t healthy? That I should give up and accept that some things in the world just can’t be explained? I know! I know, and it makes no difference!”

 

Stan didn’t so much as bat an eyelash. “We’re up to things eight and nine now. Eh, ten I suppose.”

 

Sam sagged, her momentum brutally curtailed. Her voice was desperate. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

 

Stan took his wife in his arms. “I love you, Samantha Carson. Flaws included. You’re the bravest and most caring woman I’ve ever met, and the most callous and cowardly.” Sam started crying in his arms. “Even if I wanted you to stop, you still wouldn’t and you’d resent me for it. The only way you’ll ever stop is when you want to. So in the meantime I’ll make sure you always have a place to come back to, and a reason to come back to it.”

 

Sam managed to get herself under some semblance of control. “S’not fair. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

 

Stan held her a bit tighter. “Deserve had nothing to with it. You looked lonely, and sad. Feelings I knew a lot about, at the time.” Stan’s social skills were on par with his wife’s intellect. He could accurately pinpoint most of anyone’s personality traits after a single conversation. He could play anyone like a fiddle. Lying was effortless. Persuasion easier still. It made interacting with people incredibly boring. But at the same time…it made him feel vaguely dirty, like he was doing something wrong. So there he was. Bored, loney, and suffering from a gradually deepening depression. Enter a young woman who could understand what he was going through, and had a desperate need to be understood. Stan let his wife go. “Go, love. Satisfy your obsession. We’ll be here.”

 

Sam kissed him, passionately, until both of their air supplies simply ran out. Gasping for breath, she clung to Stan. “I can stay. I don’t have to go.”

 

Stan gently disentangled his wife from himself. “Yes you do. Two days, right? You’ll be back.”

 

Sam looked at him for a moment, vulnerability written all over her face. Then she exhaled sharply, her usual mask (aside from that of Terrifica) sliding firmly back into place. “Yes. It’s a good clue this time, I can just feel it.” The two walked to the door, and Stan held it while she departed.

 

Stan watched his wife ride away in the airport taxi. He smiled a little. After all this time, their particular brands of broken still meshed. He didn’t think he deserved her, either. But as he said, deserve had nothing to do with it. She’d saved him just as much as he saved her. Hmm. Strike the past tense off of that. They were still saving each other, every day. Now, he had a bedtime story to tell to his daughter.

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Bird of Arms – Fatherland

 

The celebrations for Sun-Stay came soon. They would be no different to those held in previous years, yet to Prince Jann Lo-Nah they meant a lot more. Not only was it one of the last times he attended them as a child, it had also been the first time he’d partaken in any of his ancestral celebrations in a year.

 

He’d celebrated Star-Stay back in Claremont, but it had not been the same. Without his people, without the elders, without the proper materials. Without any stars, too. It had been a sad thing, one of the times he’d wished he’d been home. It happened sometimes.

 

Now he was. He’d left America only days after school had ended, and arrived back in the Aerie shortly after. It had not been as he’d expected. There had not been a big greeting. No real greeting of any sort. The only people that met him were members of the Royal Guard. They’d escorted him back to the palace, and broke the news. Strict orders to not let him out of sight, to not let him out of the palace. He would only be allowed outside during Sun-Stay, ten days later.

 

The first day, he was brought before the Queen, his mother. Her decision was clear. He was not to leave the palace in any case, as he had been injured more than enough already. He would need time to recover, and to relearn parts of his training. He objected, but it did not mean anything. There was no purpose in challenging the Queen’s decisions, he was well aware of it. And there was even less purpose in challenging her decision afterwards. He was escorted back to his room, where he spent the rest of the day.

 

There was not much to do. He had brought some things with him, so the entire day was spent perfecting his usage of throwing hatchets. By the end of the day, the wall was starting to show first signs of wear. The axes did too, even if he’d resharpened them multiple times. He did not care either way.

 

The next day, it was Crownprincess Va, his elder sister, who approached him. She would help him with his training, and also bring him back up to current matters on internal politics. The former he could just barely care about, the latter not as much. Some things had changed, mainly thanks to his brother On’s dedication. Medicine was becoming more like in America, with all the benefits it brought. Even if it meant that currently, most of the healers were not in the country. They would return for Sun-Stay, On would too.

 

The remaining time passed without much of interest. Va continued to train Jann, if one could call it training. It was mainly sparring. Va had more experience, yes. But Jann had trained harder than his siblings, harder than anybody he knew. And he’d been able to keep up with his sister for a long time.  She did however have a massive advantage in Ja-Zo-Tra, the ancient martial art passed down between generations. It was generally only taught to adults, and it was one tradition Jann could not break. And while he’d learned some, there were many things that one could not learn unless taught by a grandmaster.

 

Va was not yet one. But she was at the point where she could fight both her mother, but also the captain of the guard, and win. In a no-rules fight, Jann had a chance. Under the ritualized combat of Ja-Zo-Tra, he could only dodge. And only with his armor was he able to keep up properly.

 

Every day he got better. It was small improvements, but he was soon able to expect his sister’s actions, and counter them with his own. It was where he skills became apparent. He saw her do something, and soon afterwards, he could do it himself. Yet every time he improved, his sister held back less. And no matter what he did, Jann always knew that she was not yet fighting at full force. Time passed quickly, as Jann could only think of one thing. He was back to how he’d been for most of his life. To get stronger. To get faster. To be the warrior he may had been fated to be, but also wanted to be.

 

And then, Sun-Stay. The biggest celebration in Avian Culture, celebrating the victory and re-emergence of the stars over the sun. From now on, every day the gods would look down upon the people of the Avian longer and longer, until Star-Stay. Everybody in the Aerie celebrated. The healers and Prince On returned from the faraway Europe. Prince Jann returned, and for the first time in a year, appeared in public.

 

Celebrations started at sundown, and lasted until sunrise. And for many, even longer. The Prince among them. He had not indulged in the festivities in too long. He had truly missed it. Everything it involved. He finally staggered back into the palace, accompanied by some of the guard, in the late afternoon. The guard were not in a much better condition than he was.

 

“Weak.” Jann woke up to a stinging pain in his arm. He tried to move, yet he could not. Somebody was on top of him, their weight perfectly spread out so the teen was restrained. They’d also just managed to lodge a knive in his shoulder. But Jann knew exactly who it was. “They have made you weak. Have you already forgotten?”

 

The man hired to train Jann. The man he’d never outgrown. He called himself Wound-Maker, and he was a mercenary. He was not always around, he pursued other jobs. Yet, all throughout the Prince’s life, he was the man who taught Jann the most.

 

He twisted the knive slowly, before pulling it out. “You did not secure. Don’t rely on guards, or on the “security” you gain from the Academy. You were harmed because you were not on guard. Now get up. You’ve forgotten too much. “

 

And so Jann did. Wearing nothing but his undergarments, and blood running down his arm, he left his bed and turned to his mentor. He could still feel his arm, it was no concern. He assumed a combat stance, as he waited and followed his teacher’s moves. There was no light, yet it was not a concern to either of them.

 

“New scars. You really forgot everything. What do they teach you? Nothing useful, clearly. Back to the basics.” Before he’d finished the sentence, Wound-Maker had already drawn and launched a trio of throwing daggers, each of them heading straight at the teen. Each of them ripped into his arm, raised defensively, to protect his head. Jann knew this enemy.

 

He removed the throwing daggers, and now, properly armed, charged forwards. Full charge, sudden stop. Throw a dagger, then charge again. It threw off most people. And it did, in fact, allow Jann to get close, where he could even get in a slash, which promptly got countered, and followed up with an elbow to his head.

 

“You’re completely open. Just because your new teachers can’t see your flaws, doesn’t mean I can’t. You’ve grown complacent. You’ve forgotten to defend yourself properly. There is no threat. No challenge. Just flowers and sunshine. “ A flurry of punches. “The world isn’t flowers and sunshine. “ A raised knee, a palm to the ribs. All easily countered. “You’re nothing. The food chain doesn’t even acknowledge you. They play on a different level, and no two-hours a day training will prepare you for that. “

 

Wound-Maker jumped back, clearly finished with the trading of blows. “And considering who you’re befriending, you’ll need much more than what you’ve just shown. You’re amassing liabilities. “ It was only then that Jann realized the two push-daggers sticking in him. Adrenaline, it was quite the thing.

 

His mentor threw him a roll of bandages, while turning around and walking to the door. “Cover your wounds and get dressed. There’s a lot of time left, and we’ll use every last second of it. “

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Sea Devil 

Creation Story 

 

This is the song of

the Deep One hatching birthing

our first song begins

 

lost Lemuria 

the gods below reached up

and touched worthy

 

reborn in their skin

their eyes their teeth their power 

reborn as Deep Ones 

 

the first pod sang us

the first of song first of voice

Dagon and Hydra!

 

"our young drink no milk

but chew the flesh of the weak

Dagon and Hydra!

 

we smash the temple

of the strange Surface gods 

Dagon and Hydra! 

 

we sing the great song 

between world and star and sea 

Dagon and Hydra! 

 

our young play in sun and surf

we build temples for the gods

Dagon and Hydra! 

 

our arms are strongest

our teeth are sharpest 

Dagon and Hydra!" 

 

but we were cast out

the weak the foul the betrayer 

Curse-d Atlantis! 

 

Dagon and Hydra 

welcomed us to below 

and taught us secrets 

 

we sing the world 

we sing all the stars above 

we sing sea below

 

we suffer today 

their armies hold the sea 

strange gods in the sky

 

hear the starving young 

see the blood of broken eggs 

sing the mourning song! 

 

but in tomorrow

tomorrow the stars 

the stars will be right! 

 

 

 

 

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Edge/Monsoon 

Paternity - and Maternity

Late July, 2017 

 

Two of the most powerful people on the face of the Earth had dozed off on the couch watching reruns - but the beeping of Mark's phone alarm woke them. Having luckily put his phone in his lefthand pocket, Mark was able to reach down and turn it off without disturbing where Nina had fallen asleep with her head on his lap. She was awake anyway - but this way she didn't have to move. It was the sort of thing she appreciated in the third trimester. "Well, this is it," he commented, his voice quavering a little, "it's midnight." If they'd done the math right, and if Miss Americana's scanners had been right, Nina was today exactly nine months pregnant. 

 

"Soon Amir Lucas will enter the world," agreed Nina, resting her hand on her stomach. "Perhaps today will be a national holiday in the future," she teased. "Life is not so easy as it is in those calendars, I am feeling no labor pains and I think today will be just another day. Oh, he's awake, feel him..." She took Mark's hand and laid it on her belly, pulling up the stained Freedom City Heroes T-shirt that she would never let anyone else see her in but that was one of the few items of clothing she owned that still fit. For a while neither of them said anything, before Nina said, "He's strong. He takes after his father." Nina had been a trifle worried about carrying Mark's child, but his great power did not seem to have expressed itself in a super-powered infant. 

 

"I hope so. I mean, it'd be great if he took after you, but I think I make a better man." He rubbed her stomach lightly. "And I want him to be a good man. God, I can still hardly believe it," he admitted. "Another couple of days, and he'll be out of all those ultrasounds and up in the extra bedroom." His mother was there now, having moved in after the Fourth of July to help the couple out. Their friends had been there for them, both his and Nina's, but at the end of the day they were the first in their circle of contemporaries to have a child. (Chris had come over several times to help, but the truth was that Geckoman just didn't move in the same circles as they did anymore.) They'd be the ones offering advice in the future if their colleagues ever had a baby, a thought that Mark still found faintly intimidating. He'd always thought Trevor would make a better father than he would, or Mike for that matter. 

 

"For as long as we live here," Nina agreed. With great effort, she gradually sat up, leaning back against the couch and Mark to support herself. "Much depends on when he has his powers." Nina herself had manifested her hydrokinesis from an early age - but Mark's abilities hadn't fully emerged until his late teens. "And you'll be a fine father, Mark," she said, picking up on the inner insecurities he hadn't quite voiced. "You'll teach our son to be brave and loyal, and how to stay true to his principles even when it's difficult. Don't sell yourself short," she added. "That's a rare quality, even among superheroes."  

 

"Well yeah, I mean, I don't think I'll be a jerk..." Mark shifted on the couch cushions, trying to put uncomfortable feelings into words, something that he knew perfectly well wasn't his strong suit. "I just worry about everything else. Raising him right, making sure I'm there for him. Not leaving him..." Nina squeezed Mark's hand at that, knowing the hurt brought out by the close proximity to his mother over the last few weeks. 

 

"Your father lost himself to power because he had no control over it - it was a tide that swept him away even as he resculpted the world." Mark and Nina had visited that Earth, truncated as it was, more than once. Nina had not found a duplicate of herself there precisely, but she had noted that the al-Darsah daughters of that universe all managed the strange art of wearing full veils and belly dancer outfits simultaneously. She did not think very highly of Mark's father, but she knew not to bring that subject up. "You are an artist, changing things without being changed yourself. I know you'll always be there for me. And for Amir." Amir Richard Lucas, to be precise, as had been the subject of some argumentation. 

 

"I love you," said Mark, kissing her softly on the top of the head. They'd both let their hair grow out over the last few months, largely because they weren't traveling as much as they usually had - he'd cultivated his blond locks into a short ponytail while Nina's own thick black hair now reached close to her waist. "And you'll be a good mom - you'll have things to teach him nobody else could. Maybe this baby was an accident, but we'll make sure he has the best life we can give him." Nina's own mom had visited them a few times, but the coolness between the two women hadn't really warmed up even with the prospect of a grandchild on the way. Nina hadn't said much about that - and hadn't been interested in discussing it either. Putting those thoughts aside, he smiled, rising to his feet. "You know, we don't have to go to the wedding. Eve and Becky said they'd understand." 

 

"No, I told you it's fine," said Nina, in no particular hurry to get up herself, especially since she was limited to the locomotion provided by her swollen ankles. Her powers were being kept mostly in reserve, the manipulations of her internal fluids that came with her hydrokinesis being dangerous for a gestating infant. Her sisters had had to do the same thing while they were pregnant, as she'd remembered, a lucky recollection that had probably saved them a great deal of trouble. "It's not that I mind learning to knit with your mother...but I want to go out and have one last night with you. And after all we went through to get that black dress, I want to be able to wear it before the two of us get back to our usual shape. Unstable molecules are a mother's best friend." 

 

"And I know something else that is," said Mark, reaching down to take her hand and lift her, and him, through time and space and a swirl of multicolored dots in red, green, and blue before depositing her gently onto their bed in the upstairs. The king-sized bed had been excessively large when they'd first acquired it, admittedly, but it was comfortable enough, especially with the mattress set that had been among their wedding presents seven months earlier. With a happy sigh, Nina sank down into the bed, watching Mark as he took off his polo shirt before sliding into bed to join her. It hadn't been that long ago that slipping into bed together at midnight would have meant something altogether different - but not with Martha just a few doors down, and not when she was quite so pregnant. "Good night, Mother Lucas," Mark teased her. 

 

"Good night, Father Lucas," Nina teased him in return as she rolled over on her side to face him. "And Boy Lucas," she added, laying her hand on her stomach again. Amir did not always have the same sleep cycle as his parents, something that would hopefully correct itself in the womb. Mark laid his hand on Nina's and smiled. 

 

"He's dreaming about the future," he said. 

 

"So am I," said Nina with a white smile in their darkened bedroom. "I...I will be right back," she added after just a brief hesitation. She carefully rolled over and made her way out of bed, her bare feet quiet on the thick, carpeted floor of their bedroom as she headed for the master bathroom. There were some places she wasn't about to have Mark teleport her. 

 

 

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Lady Horus 

Patrimony

 

"Okay, Willy, since you asked, I'm gonna tell you about your Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma Cline. I don't like to do this but you're a man now, so you're big enough to hear this. 

 

Your great-grandpa Sean was a big guy - your typical thick, meaty-looking Irishman with red hair, lots of freckles, and big, rough hands from working in steel mills ten hours a day. His dad, your great-great-grandpa, was the one who'd come over from Belfast in '97 and changed the family name from Clyne to Cline. Where was I? Anyway, he met your great-grandma Irene at a church social in Bedlam back when our neighborhood, Hardwick Park, was fulla big Irish guys and pretty Polish girls. Oh yeah, back in the day, an Irishman marrying a Polish girl was a big thing in the neighborhood - luckily your great-grandpa could handle himself in a fistfight when my ma's brothers came by to try and scare him off! 

 

Now, your great-grandpa and great-grandma, they were good old-fashioned Catholics - Latin Mass, fish on Fridays, prayin' on your knees, the whole ball a' wax. I'm a little rusty myself, I ain't seen a lotta need for such churchgoin', but...anyway, where was I? Now, most of the families we grew up around, they had five, six, seven kids at least, but Ma just had me and, uh, your great-uncle Charlie, the one that died in Dubya-Dubya-2. Charlie was older than me by about ten years and he was born hard, so Ma thought she couldn't have any more kids till I snuck in there, huh!? Anyway, Charlie was like your great-grandpa, a big, tough kid who'd go out and scrap with anybody in the neighborhood who looked at us funny. He joined the Navy soon as he turned eighteen and went off to fight in the Pacific. Real son-of-a-bitch war that one, wasn't like the one out in Europe. He died at Midway on the Yorktown. 


I was just eight and a half when that happened. I never saw your great-grandma cry before that day. 

 

Anyway. Your great-grandpa was a strong union man, 100%, and that meant he got into a lotta fights with strikebreakers. Bedlam had a lot of 'em back then, especially in the 30s when things were so desperate and people were starvin' in the back alleys. If it weren't for all the friends they had at church, same thing might have happened to us, because being in a union sometimes meant they blacklisted you and wouldn't hire you anywhere. So we moved a lot when I was a kid - Bedlam to Madison, Madison to Milwaukee, then Milwaukee to Freedom after Charlie died. I ran kinda wild once we go to Freedom, because that was about the time my aunt Aileen moved in with her eight kids while her husband was servin' in Europe, and yer great-grandpa was busy with the union and maybe hittin' the bar too often, yer great-grandma was busy with the church groups, and they just let me do my thing. Things were different back then, y'know? 

 

I was a real hellraiser when I was a kid. Fightin' with other girls, sassing off to priests and my teachers, smokin' cigarettes when I wasn't supposed to - your great-grandpa tanned my hide pretty good sometimes but he stopped when he figured out it wasn't doin' any good. I dunno why, I was like that, I just was crazy about everything. Crazy about all the cousins, crazy about all the moving, crazy about Freedom, crazy about Charlie...I dunno. I ain't a psychiatrist, honey, I never finished high school and just got my diploma when I was in stir, you know that. Anyway, where was I? Turns out the union local your great-grandpa was in had gangsters in it - Midnight came in and busted most of 'em up back in '46. Your great-grandpa was...I don't think he knew. It hurt him bad to know all his friends were scumbags stealing from the till. 

 

After that, things started getting worse. We had to borrow money from the neighbors a lot, and your great-grandpa started drinkin' more. That's why you never see me drink to excess, honey, I may have done some stupid things in my time but you'll never see me getting hammered on a street corner like...anyway. I fought with my parents a lot. Your great-grandma prayed about it a lot but by then I was only going to church when they dragged me by the ear. They were gettin' up in years by now, and I think they were just waitin' for me to turn twenty-one so they could turn me out with my bag. I was a bad influence, y'see, with all the cousins still runnin' around underfoot. Aileen's husband drank even worse than your great-grandpa did, and he never did get all the way back on his feet after the war. 

 

Like I said, things were different. But by then I was running, really running for the first time, and I was in Troublemakers, so I didn't care one damn bit what the old man and the old lady thought of me. I thought they were just a bunch of squares tryin' to hold me back from breakin' into supervillainy. You know, I think they knew I was in a gang, but they never did learn I had powers, not then, anyway. Could'a showed 'em, I guess, but that woulda meant not havin' a place to go back to, and I wasn't ready for that. They didn't mind I was bringin' money into the family for the first time, that's for damn sure. 

 

I left home in '52. Told 'em I was workin' downtown and stayin' with some girlfriends, but I was runnin' with the Troublemakers. Pa and Ma, they took the money for a few years, till the summer of '56 when we pulled off the big Studebaker job and the damn Centurion caught me by the hand! I got away from that golden gargoyle but not before that damn Jimmy Lucas took my picture with his damn flashbulb! Thank God I had a mask back then, and hardly anybody from the old neighborhood had seen me in the daytime, but...but Ma and Pa knew. When I came back to give 'em their share of the take from the last job, they met me at the door, told me I was no good, and told me never to come back again. That was the other time I saw your great-grandma cry. I don't blame her. I was a bad influence. 

 

I started cheatin' after that - skippin' forward a coupla months, or a coupla years, between jobs, and I'd stop by to see if anything had changed, but by '59 they moved and I couldn't get anybody in the old neighborhood to tell me where. I found out their cover story for me was that I'd gotten knocked up by some low-life and was raising a bastard kid while working as a gangster's moll, which is pretty goddamned funny when you think about it, but like I said, it was a different time. After '59, there was the big skip, and no, Willy, I ain't gonna talk about the big skip with you today, so don't even ask. 

 

Anyway. Anyway. 

 

I was outta Freedom when the big Hades invasion happened. Big battle, first major one since right after Dubya-Dubya-Two. I, uh, I got shown where they lived, never mind how, boy. They both bought it. Goddamned...goddamned centaur just...just trampled them on the street like they were goddamned animals! That bastard and his machine, if I'd gotten there a little sooner, maybe I coulda done something. You think I ain't never fought a horse-man in ten years of supervillainy? 

 

...anyway. Wasn't my job. Heroes were supposed to be the ones lookin' out for the little guy, but they didn't do squat. Never did do squat but hurt people just tryin' ta make a dollar. And fight the Nazis, I guess, but you know it was a long time since we'd seen any Nazis by '61, y'know? So I decided I was gonna keep on being Calendar Girl - but I was gonna do things my way! I met your grandpa a little after that...but that's a different story. 

 

They buried yer great-grandma and great-grandpa at St. Sebastian, that little place in the Southside right next to the little Italian...no, I think it's a taco place now. Neighborhood's changed a lot since then. I still visit. 

 

You mostly look like yer dad, which means you mostly look like yer grandpa...but when you smile, I can see your great-grandpa in your eyes. When he smiled, he could light up a room like the Fourth a'July, and when he played the piano while yer great-grandma sang, it was the best thing in the world. Yer lucky you've got a pa and a ma who love ya, Willy. Be good to 'em."

 

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Patriarch

Ace Danger

 

The young scion stared up almost in wonder at the elder Danger with bright eyes almost too blue beneath tousled blond locks.  “You said you’d tell us about the war after the other grown ups were done.”  the younger insisted with a stubborn set of his jaw that spoke not but trouble for the boy's future.  The older Danger shook his head, “Now now, patience.”  he mock scolded with a trademark grin that took any bite from the words as he led the child and his friend followed him into the garden.

 

Settling on a stone bench worn with age he swept his arm over his diminutive audience calling for them to sit caring no more for the grass stains then the children did.  “Hmm about the War you say?”  he asked with a cocky smirk that had broken more than a few hearts in it’s day. With a shake of his head the elder Danger made clear their needling wasn’t going to loose his silver tongue on those tales this day.  “War isn’t for young ears.”  he confided gently as he patted his leg thoughtfully.  “Hmmm no,  I think we can do better than that.”  Among children and the grown alike the Danger penchant for a tall tale well told was well known, and he’d not disappoint his audience this afternoon any more than he would have the grown crowds he’d spoken before earlier.

 

“No no, children need stories of adventure,”  he stated resolutely despite a few disappointed sighs, “No I think today is a day to celebrate life not death.”  He let loose a grin, “Unless you don’t want to hear about the time we helped retrieve the Heart of the Congo?”  He looked over his fidgety audience as they bounced eagerly to hear of the famed adventurers career and exploits abroad.  “We’d flown in at the request of an old friend of mine, the life had gone out of their fields”  he began slowly, “Bringing in the plane on that tiny dirt runway was an adventure itself, but perhaps for another day.”  he elicited a few rolled eyes at the teasing.

 

Looking down at the children around him he smiled wide, “As I was saying, the life was gone from their fields and they had little to eat.”  He ran his hand over the twining vine as he spoke, “the government and the university claimed it was a drought, and played out soil.”  he shook his head ruefully, “But the villagers knew better, the Living Heart had been taken by some so called archaeologist, for study of course.”  He swept his hands up in mockery, “The betterment of all civilized man!”  he exclaimed in an over the top british accent.

 

“Ah Mr. Danger Sir?”  Came the polite if ill timed interruption, “If the children are bothering you…” he trailed off uncertainly as the storyteller frowned, “On this of all days I think we could all use a reminder of youth.”  he corrected firmly and waved the meddling adult off.  “Now where was I?  Ah yes the living heart…”

 

***

 

“Uncle Ace!”  the younger Danger exclaimed excitedly, “You said you’d tell us about the Invasion!”  the child's father quickly approached, “Sorry Mr.  Danger I’m sure today of all days you-”  he was cut off by a wave of the immortals youthfull hand, “I think today we could all use a reminder of youth.”  he smirked and led the children toward the garden, “Have I ever told you about the Jungle Patrol retrieving the Heart of the Congo?” echoed back as they vanished behind the hedge.

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Dream Daddy

Sandman

 

Ellis looked down with tired eyes at the file on his desk and shook his head.  It had all the hallmarks, the drawings of the figure in the doorway, insomnia, anxiety, refusal to even speak of what was so frightening about the dark, the resolute belief no adult would believe him.  Of course Ellis had no reason to be looking over the files the Hospital kept on it’s young psych and neurology patients.  He could make some excuse about a consult for sedation, to help with the insomnia of course.  But these were the files that plagued his nightmares.  He’d see the boy.  Not a touch of the dark dreaming on him.  Sometimes the things that went bump in the night were all too human.

 

He autodialed as he stood, “You’re a saint you know that Sis?”  he said as he stepped out of his office, “Yea put them on.”  he strode down the hall the lights of the ward dimmed already for the night shift, “Good night pumpkin and sweet dreams.”  he said gently, “See you in the morning big guy.”  he hung up as he stepped past the nursing station.  “Have a good night Dr. Sanford.”  came the chorus from the nurses as he waved good night to the staff.

 

The upscale Hanover townhouse seemed the perfect suburban domicile of a young family.  If the recycling seemed to clink a bit more on recycling day they must have had a dinner party, if things got loud being a day trader in midtown was stressful, sure his pretty young wife seemed a bit accident prone, but it really wasn’t their business after all, and the lawn was well kept, not like they were renters.  Ellis stared at the home for a long time lurking across the street in a manner that would have been deeply suspicious if he wasn’t handsome, well dressed, and the correct color.

 

Finally crossing the street he was resolved to his course however, it might not have been purely in his mandate, but then again it really ought be in everyone's.  The hour was late, John Miller was already passed out on the couch when the Sandman flowed into the livingroom rising from the threads of sand that had worked around the doorway.  It took only a small flexing of his power and the tendrils of glowing dream sand gave Ms. Miller and their son the rest they so richly deserved for at least a night.  It was a good thing as well, it was no easy task waking the so called father from his drunken slumber, if it hadn’t woken them the angry ranting from the still inebriated alcoholic would have.  In another neighborhood the neighbors might have called about the noise of course.  But Sandman wouldn’t have been here if these were the kinds of neighbors that would risk a call to police that might lower property values.

 

First came the anger, the righteous outrage, this was HIS house after all, then the cocky mockery, what was a hero going to do to him?  His wife and kid knew better than to talk to the police, he’d be back in hours and make them pay for telling the ‘spandex squad’.  That didn’t last long.  No.  There was a kind of insight that came of work with dream and nightmare, Sandman knew exactly where to press to bring the man's fears to life.  Then again that would be almost too easy, no, this required a poetic touch.  

“You’ll leave in the morning, they’ll not see you again except as the name on a very regular check.”  the dream guardian rumbled voice echoing with otherworldly power, “You were supposed to be his Father.”  It took only a touch to the forehead and John Miller fell back on the couch once more to spend his night reliving every nightmare he’d inflicted upon his son, he’d spend many nights that way before he got through them all.

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Papa can you hear me

Ouroboros

 

The fog roiled around the child's ankles as he padded through the darkened wood.  No more than six years of age he crept giggling from tree to tree, “Daddy?  I gonna fthind you!”  he called out to the empty echoing of the midnight forest.

 

Overhead lurked the terrors of the night incarnate.  Clinging to shadow and wrapping night like a cloak around him the vampire watched with a predatory eye as the child ambled from one stump to the next scrabbling to peer into one hollow or another.  As the babe turned down the narrow lane, the hunter followed dropping on silent feet to the gravel below.

 

His step was so light it disturbed not stone as he stalked the child through the dark of night.  Ahead the tiny wanderer paused and suddenly spun as if sensing the danger lurking so close at hand but not quickly enough.  The night hunter was gone in the blink of an eye vanished like smoke on the wind.

 

Shivering against the chill of the night the boy continued on steps crunching lightly on the gravel lane.  Crouching he crept quiet as he could manage, feeling the eyes upon him even if he couldn’t pinpoint the chill building at the base of his spine.  Some instinct told him he was being stalked even as the hunter gave away no clue of its presence.

 

At the end of the lane a heavy wrought iron gate stood slightly ajar, lit by the pale light of a lone streetlight.  Beyond the gate the carefully manicured lawns and landscaped parkways of a quiet north bay community.  Inside the walls the overgrown and twisted wood the hunter stalked his target though as the babe crept curiously toward the gate, peering behind him nibbling his lower lip uncertainly as he reached the gate.

 

The child peered carefully into the gathering gloom as some nocturnal animal scampered away from the danger it could feel but not see.  “Daddy?”  the boy questioned as behind him the stalking vampire lowered himself from an overhanging branch, eyes aglow with vampiric power piercing the dark, fangs and claws and all the deadly implements of the worlds most finely crafted hunter.  Looming in terrifying relief as the clouds blotted out even the moonlight the child turned toward the night hunter and gasped at the monster before him.

 

“Daddy!” the boy exclaimed clapping his hands eagerly as he lunged forward to hug his father about the knees.  “Ok now my thurn thu hide!” he screeched with glee as he tumbled into the underbrush to make way for his hiding spot, “An th’u gotta coun’ a hunred!”

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Substitute

The Shrike

 

Mark McDaniels didn't stay around to witness his daughter's first birthday; all he left her was a stupid name and the bitter lesson that you couldn't trust anyone. All her life, people left Gretchen, or abandoned or disappointed her in some way. At school, the kids called her "Gretchen McDonald's" and made rude jokes about wanting to see her 'McNuggets' or taste her 'special sauce'; it was just easier to pretend she had no father than acknowledge one who'd brought her nothing but pain.

 

Harold 'Butch' Epstein was not like most fathers she'd met. First of all, he was around; when he found out he'd gotten a nice Jewish girl pregnant after a Christmas eve concert near Princeton, he didn't run. He stayed. He stayed and learned to love a woman who was difficult, who was not like other girls, who was smart and sarcastic and even a little mean. 

 

He'd been a man. A real man.

 

It wasn't a crush; not exactly. It was more like...wish fulfillment. To a girl who'd never had a real father, Butch was impossibly cool; he was a carpenter and a musician, a man who'd lost the use of both legs and not let it slow him down. A man who struggled with drugs and a gambling addiction, but was still there to raise three very different but amazing children, one of whom, a damaged, sparkling magical soul, had stolen Gretchen's heart. By the end of their first jam session at Christmas last year, she was officially smitten.

 

- - -

 

"Can I...borrow your dad?"

 

Lynn rolled over in bed and stared at her strange and wonderful girlfriend. "Why...?"

 

Gretchen struggled to find the right words, or rather struggled to speak the words she'd already found.  "I've never...I've never had a dad. Ever. Not one Father's Day have I had to suffer through dad jokes, or gotten sick from eating too much cotton candy or...done any of that stuff." Her face was hot and her throat was tight. "I'd just...like that. For a day."

 

Tears welled up in the changeling's eyes and ran down her cheeks.  "Yeah, you could...I'm sure that'd be fine."

 

"Good. Thanks."

 

- - -

 

Gretch took Butch flying; she made herself invisible as she flew over the skyline of Freedom City, gently holding him with her telekinesis as he whooped and hollered like a big kid, zooming up and down and around on the world's greatest roller coaster. And she laughed until she cried.

Edited by Heritage

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Every Clone has a Daddy...

Miss Grue

 

No one would have believed that the Earth was being watched keenly and closely by intelligence's greater than humanity's and yet as mortal as his own.

 

DO YOU HEAR THAT?

 

In an inner chamber deep in the depths of Grue Prime dwelt the newly reformed Meta-Mind, planning its evil schemes.

 

SO THAT'S WHAT YOU HAVE IN MIND, SHOW YOURSELF.

 

In front of the massive brain of the Meta-Mind formed the psychic image of a Grue, but unlike all other Grue here they had a mass of hair piled on their head. They also wore silk pajamas filled with the image of Marvin.

 

"Hello Dad, or is it Step-Dad after all you are new? I am Daphne Celeste of Earth, cause #11172013 is a bit of a mouthful."

 

"YOU KNOW THAT THE META-MIND PERSISTS BETWEEN FORMS, I AM AS I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE META-MIND. WHY ARE YOU HERE DEVIANT ONE?

 

Daphne for a few moments just smiled not at all phased by the massive quivering brain, aware that it must be attempting to dominate her over the distance.

 

"Ah straight to the point I'm here to negotiate about the fate of the Free Grue. And please stop trying to control me, it tickles."

 

The Meta-Mind just chuckled

 

"AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER ME DEVIANT?"

 

"My genetic structure, we both know that a depowered Grue reverts to his Grueness, but when I do that I retain certain features my hair for one."

 

She gently touched the mess of hair piled on her head.

 

"Just think what you could do with that, you infiltrators could pass almost undetected anywhere they want. And all I ask is that you leave the Free Grue alone for the time being."

 

"AND HOW DO YOU KNOW I WILL KEEP MY WORD ON THIS?"

 

"Kill switch in the code obviously, I am Grue after all!"

 

If a brain could smile and sound proud then the Meta-Mind did when he spoke again.

 

"THEN WE HAVE A DEAL YOU MAY TRANSMIT THE DATA WHEN YOU ARE READY."

 

"Okie Dokie MOther Unit you may start transmitting. And see you later Dad!"

 

Back on Earth Daphne came back to her senses and looked over at one of the most powerful psychics she knew or at least the one that didn't dress as a giant bug.

 

"Was that a wise decision?" she asked having been her support during the entire discussion.

 

"Oh, I might have left a surprise of my own in the genetic code." Daphne gave a little smile "So I got the idea from this show where the lead tricked the baddies to use the opposite factor from the one that they wanted, and it just happens they're going to become a lady as well. So I got some help to encode the descendant's genetics so that there expressed genders is tied into their abilities."

 

"Every Grue has a Dad I just thought it'd be nice if they started having  a Mom as well!"

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Honor Thy Father and Mother
Nevermore/Raven III

 

Aleksander Garen Nakani stood quietly in front of two small grave markers. They were pale imitations of the real ones, sitting across the ocean in a graveyard he’d visited twice since being freed. The first visit, he’d barely understood what he was seeing; the second time, he was viewing the markers for much of the rest of his extended family. It was not a lively part of the world, and sometimes, people died. These gravestones sat under a mighty oak tree on a back corner of his adopted family’s property, paid for by Callie Summers, like so many things in his life were; Alek had decided he was done with his birth-country, and so they’d placed these here so he could remember his birth-parents without returning to a place he had no connection to. They each bore an inscription. “Henrik Nakani, Loving Husband, Heart of a Warrior” and “Maral Nakani, Loving Wife, Soul of a Warrior”; perhaps a bit fanciful, but Loren and Melissa had more than once said they believed he got his fighting spirit from his birth-parents. 

 

He just wished he could talk to them now. He struggled so much with understanding and grasping the beliefs many of his friends, and even the Barbeaus, had; intellectually he could go through all these different faiths, but nothing felt right. So he stood there, unsure if he even believed these dead people would ever see him again…but he couldn’t not say something. His heart cried out for him to speak.

 

Mother. Father. I…I wish you were here. Loren and Melissa, they are good people. Good parents. I’ve even called them ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, and meant it. I didn’t even know you two, not really…but I miss you. I wonder what you would have taught me? What you would have done if you’d lived and they’d still taken me, but then the League had freed me…would you have welcomed me home, or recoiled at what I was?

 

The bouquet of flowers in his right hand shook, as did the rough stone in his left. 

 

I just wish…I wish I could know you were proud of me. I wish I could know you’re proud of what I’m doing. Who I’m becoming. What I’m becoming. I…Loren and Melissa say they’re proud. But I still wonder! And it makes me feel weak. I question myself. Would you comfort me, here, if you could?

 

Only wind answered. He stood there, silent for over a minute, breathing heavily.

 

I miss you. I never even knew either of you, and I miss you. I can’t bring you back. And I guess I can’t hear you, if you’re even out there to be heard. But…I want you to know. I’ll get justice for you. Not revenge, justice. I’ll do everything I can to be what Mom and Dad say I can be, and more. I’ll do it for both of you. Then, maybe one day, I’ll hear you.

 

Tears tracked silently down the face of a young man who, for this moment, was so very alone. He knelt down and placed the flowers in front of his mother’s grave. White daises, shining like pearls in the sun. The rock, bearing a rough, simple shape like a bird, was laid in front of his father’s grave, or the stand-in he had for himself here. His eyes closed behind his sunglasses, the wind blowing his hair about just a bit. He took a deep breath, and stood, squaring his shoulders and not-so-subtly wiping away the tear tracks. 

 

I’ll be back by next year. And in the meantime. I’ll make you proud.

 

He turned, his coat flaring in the wind, and began walking back to the house. There was work to be done.

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Is this what you do with your nights?

 

Errant’s heart beat skipped.


That was to be expected.  He wasn’t in his weight class, not by a long shot.  Even before the wires and the drugs and everything that Horatio put him through, he shouldn’t be hanging in there with the people after Fast Forward.

 

But…

 

Supposed to was the operative way to put it, and it wasn’t the odds that caught his breath in his throat.  It was the descent.  People rarely looked up.  He knew people.  Or did.  Or… Things were blurred, like his environs, before a jarring impact, and a surprise sound.  And he had to pulled his mind out to the present.

 

He had to.  Obligation fed need, became synonymous with want.

 

It was messy.  Bowling shoe pretty, was the description that came to mind.  It wasn’t his.  But it fit, and he leaned against the nearest wall.  He hurt all over from the accumulation of the night’s efforts.  A knee buckled, as his gloved hand slid down the brick lined wall, and he landed with a grunt.
 

The boss was down.  The man who had orchestrated the hit.  There was hostility at the core, somewhere.  The prime mover of all of it, fueled by a grudge, old, and threadbare like a tired mall that had sickly sweet beverages that were orange and something else.

 

He was getting closer to…

 

Wait, where was he?  Kneeling, slumped against the wall.  Wasn’t he already done?  No he was back at the first.  He felt the concrete through his gloves.


The other hand pushed up his mask, and he fed himself a work-out bar, chewing on it mechanically, joylessly.  Dimly of aware that it was mint, or something.  Breathe.  Swallow.  Slump against the wall, before pulling himself up to his feet.

 

He’ll just push them away again.  Right?  Just an alienist.  Right?  Correct.  He was getting closer.  He had to be getting closer

 

To what, precisely?

 

Fist to face, the pressure hitting the mask hard.  Enough to send him skittering.  Good their focus was with him.  He was the threat, the immediacy they couldn’t ignore and their attention had to shift to him, to stay on him.  Thoughts got fuzzy and jangly.  Too many blows to the head.  Focus came back sharp, as fingers curled around a chunk of something hard, and he lashed back out.  Holly.  Paige.  Will.  They couldn’t lose Richard.  Even the weird little loner who had attached himself to them had to be something the surrogate father, he had sort of claimed, vocally.

 

It was over something stupid, old, dead, and likely forgotten by Richard.  Errant didn’t know.  He didn’t care.  He was more desperate.  Hungrier than they were.  He was the immediacy.  He was the threat, and he make himself bigger than Richard so they’d have to stop him.

 

A focus that would be considered far beyond driven.  To the point of psychosis. Dangerous.

 

That was the point.  That was always the point.  Make them forget what they supposed to do.  Make them afraid, make them react.

 

 

It was over again.  Or for the last time.  And breathing hurt.  The man with the cane and affinity for pinky rings was there.  He was standing, Errant was onto top of him, with them having punched and clawed and it ended with a forearm against the man’s throat until he slipped consciousness.  

 

Make yourself a threat, enough of one, and they’ll forget about their other enemies.  This is what he did.  He used the conditioning and the memories of the man that brought him into this world to save the man who had been more of a father to him.

 

Until you betray him.

 

It started with a brief thing.  A passing moment, a whisper carried on the wind that he also hadn’t believed.  Someone was after Fast Forward, the kind of malice that Errant knew.  Was he already done with this?

 

His eyes searched and found the source, a host for it.  Carrying the glimmer of rage and hate and bitterness.  Errant knew who it was for.  The taste of it, the heaviness of it pressed against him.  An acrid trail through the city.

 

He had to follow it.  He had followed it.  Might not be able to reap the benefits, the happy dinners from the Clines.  But he'd fight for them.  And he fought, very, very dirty.

 

Is this what you do with your nights?

 

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