Ten minutes. Ten minutes. That was faster than I’d like. I’d hoped for a little time to gather my wits, prepare, be ready to meet the old man for the first time in… damn, for the first time in twenty-two years now.
Ten minutes. He had a lot of failings and bad traits, but he was always punctual. If he said ten minutes, he meant ten minutes, on the second. So I had to hurry.
Five seconds after he hung up, I was racing up to my room, phone still in hand, already stripping out of my clothes. I got a second suit out of the wardrobe – Memo to self, do something really nice for Elouise – and put it on. A more casual, dark green one, with a matching tie and a maroon shirt.
I was just buttoning up my shirt when my gaze fell on the pictures of my mother. I wish you were here, I thought, for the millionth billionth time since that day. But more than ever, now. You always wanted grandchildren. I wonder what you’d have thought of Hennessy and Elouise? If you’d been alive, you’d have known about Tamara. You could’ve helped her, when she gave birth to Hennessy. Taken them both in.
Sitting on the bed, I put on fresh socks and clean black shoes, while I reminisced a bit. It was painful, as always, to think about my mother. But some – most – of my fondest memories were tied to her, too. And as much as it hurt, it did serve to shut the monkey up, at least so long as I stayed away from… that day.
Don’t go there, Aaron, I thought, promptly giving myself a start. Using the old name again, huh? I guess today’s a day for returning to old stuff.
I put on the tie, quickly but without hurry. I still had five minutes. “I have to wonder, what would you’ve said about all of this? This entire mess I’m in – the mess I’m partly responsible for myself?” I said out loud to the central picture, looking her straight in the eyes. “You’d probably be scolding me, wouldn’t you? For leaving, for not coming back earlier. For all the pain I caused.” My vision turned misty. “I wonder if you could help Hennessy and Elouise. You always had a hand with damaged people.” I used a tissue to clean my nose and my face, then finished the tie and put on the jacket. “I wonder if you could help me.” My feet took me closer to the pictures without a conscious decision on my part. “What would you tell me to d-“
I stopped, staring at her twinkling eyes. Well, use your brain, stupid! She might have been long dead, but I knew her. We’d talked a lot, even though I’d been too young to understand most of what she’d said. But she’d known I’d someday grow up and be able to use it, so she’d told me anyway. I knew her better than anyone else in my life, really.
And as soon as I realised that, I realised what she’d be telling me to do. Cut the knot. Like Megas Alexandros. Do the smart, obvious thing.
Sitting there, I calmed myself and took a step aside, to look at the situation once more. Think, Aaron. Ask yourself – what would a calm, reasonable person do? What is the most obvious, simple solution to your conundrum that you can think of, regardless of how awkward or uncomfortable it might be?
Asking the question like that really only left one answer. It would most likely hurt (me), and it might be hurtful for Hennessy, less so for Elouise, but…
It’s the best chance we have to make it through all this in one piece. And that had to be the first thing on my mind, now that I was a father. It’s decided, then.
I made two quick phone calls, finishing only moments before I heard a car pull up outside.
After the doorbell rang, I counted to ten before approaching and opening it. My father stood on the other side, and for a few moments – which felt like years, really – my brain locked up. Then I blinked, and it started working again… barely.
Neither of us spoke for a while, neither of us breathed, really, for at least a minute. Just watching each other.
He was tall, as usual – the man wore faces, identities, the way other people wore hats, but he always preferred being tall – and he actually looked like, well, my father. Older than I’d ever seen him before, too. Thin, wiry with a gaunt, sharp-featured face. His skin was slightly darker than average, ruddy like that of someone who was no stranger to outdoor work. A hawk-like nose gave him a predatory look, and he had a bushy moustache that merged with his sideburns. His head was topped by long, straight hair that fell down to his shoulders. All of it, hair, moustache and sideburns, was as black as mine, with a few strands of silver threaded through, giving him a distinguished appearance. His eyes were purple, like mine, but much sharper in expression than mine ever got. Much like me, he was wearing formal clothing – in his case, black pants, a white shirt, maroon vest over a black tie and a black coat over that. White gloves, black shoes and an expensive-looking black lacquered cane with a golden crook completed the look.
He always preferred the old-fashioned look, I though absent-mindedly, while I simultaneously flashed back to many an evening playing with one of his canes while he and mother were talking about something I wasn’t interested in, and at the same time I was trying to keep the monkey down before it made me attack him.
Fortunately, he made no move to talk or do anything, giving me the time I needed to subdue the monkey and regain my composure. He knew, after all, what happened when I lost control, and neither of us had any interest in that happening.
“Hello, father,” I finally greeted him, barely hiding a tremble in my voice.
“Hello, Aaron, my son,” he replied, and his voice let loose another cascade of half-buried memories… good and bad ones, and I wasn’t in any state to tell which ones outweighed the others. “It has been a while.” I couldn’t read his expression, nor his voice. Or perhaps I could, but I didn’t let myself. I wasn’t sure.
“Yeah,” I replied lamely.
We kept looking at each other, standing on both sides of the door. Both of us knew how to converse, of course. We could both, at any time, put on a mask, become people who’d be able to carry on any kind of conversation with each other.
But the moment either of us did that, we wouldn’t stop. It was too comfortable, too safe. We had to keep this as honest as we could, or we’d never get anywhere.
That, of course, meant that instead of two suave, well-trained orators, there were two introverted, socially withdrawn men with enough issues and neuroses between them to supply ten seasons of a nineties sitcom. Before factoring in all our baggage.
After a few minutes, his lips quirked, and he gave me a familiar half-smile. “We’re still no good at this, the two of us,” he said. “I dare even say we still fail catastrophically.”
“I would have been surprised had that changed, to be honest,” I replied, and I felt the ice break at least a little bit. “I… can’t say that I am glad to see you, father. But…”
He cut me off with a wave of his hand. “I understand, Aaron. But I am very, very pleased to see you again, son. I have been waiting for your call since the day you stormed out of the door,” he explained smoothly, with just a hint of sadness in his voice.
I just nodded in acceptance. There wasn’t really anything to say to that, at least not yet. You’re on a deadline, Aaron. Get your ass in gear. “I…” I started, but had to cut myself off and clear my throat. “I didn’t… call you just for a reunion. I need your help.”
“And you shall have it,” he said, without hesitation. My heart skipped a bit, and I felt myself choke up a bit. Twenty-two years, and he gave a promise like that so easily. I had no doubt he was willing to follow through on it, either.
Then again, he hadn’t specified what kind of help he was willing to render, or whether it would be the kind of help I actually wanted, or that which he considered…
No, don’t go down that road, I scolded myself. Don’t ruin this. Give him a chance, the same way Hennessy gave you one. He deserves it no more than you deserved it, but you should still offer it.
“Let’s go out. There’s a great restaurant near the beach,” I said. “There is a lot to talk about, and this isn’t the place for it.”
He nodded and stepped aside, gesturing towards the limousine he’d come in. “Of course, let’s go.”
No matter what else I might hold against him, my father knew how to travel in style. His limousine was almost as exquisite as his chauffeur, and said chauffeur looked like she belonged on the cover of the Meta Journal. Blonde, curvaceous without being ostentatious and wearing a dark grey pant suit very well, despite looking like she hadn’t hit drinking age yet. The only flaws were her cold, grey eyes – the eyes of a killer. She reeked of danger, and the monkey, already irritable, was quite eager to fight her – and then have its way with her, until there was little and less left.
I squashed its demands and got in through the door she held open for me and my father. He came in after me, and we sat opposite of each other, with him looking much more natural and relaxed than I felt. I gave the woman the address and the car took off so smoothly I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the changing scenery beyond the tinted windows. A partition rose up to give us some privacy. She never said a word.
“That’s quite the looker you have carting you around,” I said after a few more awkward moments. How very suave, Aaron.
He clucked his tongue against his teeth. “Faith is one of my more recent acquisitions. An exceptional lass, despite her youth. Very skilled, very loyal. Quite professional for a metahuman of her age.”
I nodded. “What are her powers?”
“She’s a wayfinder – her power provides her the most efficient route to her goal, considering whatever conditions she sets, then helps her get through it. Obviously, this is a very useful ability for a chauffeur. And it has quite a few combat applications as well, in case that becomes necessary,” he explained openly. “She also has some minor, if broad, physical enhancements, and exceptional reaction speed, even by our standards – though not nearly to your level, of course.”
Or to yours, I thought, though I only nodded in response. Then we fell silent again, with him giving me time to sort out my thoughts. I decided to feel out the waters. “How much do you know, about what is going on in the city right now?”
“Very much, though less so than usual,” he said. “Though I’ve been keeping tabs on a certain young heroine in the city, I mostly ceased to do so since you returned, as per our standing agreement that I do not meddle in your affairs, directly or indirectly.”
Keeping tabs on Hennessy, I presume. I believed him when he said that he hadn’t kept tabs on me, so he most likely didn’t know she was his granddaughter, which meant his reasons for keeping an eye on her were probably less than good. Far less. “Keeping tabs on her because of her power?” I have to be sure.
He nodded. “Quite so. I see that you have some idea of what that girl can do – I’m sure you agree that such power should not be left unobserved, if not… controlled. In fact, I have been considering some intervention for a while now,” he explained, and I barely held the monkey back from lashing out on the spot. I don’t think he noticed. “Frankly, if it wasn’t for her rather high moral standards, I would be warning you to stay far away from her – or take her out of the picture.”
My lips jerked, showing my teeth for a moment, making him frown. “I knew she was troublesome, but I didn’t think she rated that much worry. She’s a power shifter, sure, but…”
“A power shifter?” he asked, surprised. “You mean Chayot?” I nodded, and he broke into laughter.
I sat there, looking at him with a stunned expression as he held his stomach with one hand, laughing. “Ah, Aaron, it’s not Chayot that I am worried about!” he explained. “Honestly, that girl is not nearly as troublesome as one might think!”
What the hell? “Please explain. I fail to see how a power shifter could be less troublesome than is obvious,” I said with a carefully restrained voice.
He subsided, leaning back again and straightening out his shirt. “She is a power shifter, yes. But her selection is rather limited – you know she draws on a reserve of energy tinted by the emotions she absorbs, I assume?” I nodded. “Well, those emotions don’t just fuel her power – they also determine it. If she uses anger, she gets an ‘angry’ power, something befitting it. If she uses sadness, she gains a sad power, and so on. Her actual control over what power results is limited to choosing the emotions she draws on, and even that is not completely under her control, as she might be overwhelmed by emotion. Furthermore, the emotions she uses to form powers also become predominant in her mind, meaning…”
“That she has less control the more power she uses,” I finished the sentence. Now her rampage made even more, horrifying sense. Oh, Hennessy. “I assume that more violent emotions are necessary for combat-appropriate powers… which in turn makes her more violent herself.”
He nodded. “And the more extreme the emotion, the stronger the power. The purer the emotion, the stronger the power. She might have more control if she mixes several different emotions, but to really use all her potential, she needs to completely drown herself in a single, extreme emotion – which rarely does, for fear of losing control.”
“I… understand why you consider her less troublesome than might be obvious,” I said after a minute or so of considering his words. “But who were you talking about, then, if not her?”
“Well, Dearheart of course,” he replied with a surprised expression. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what that girl is capable of!”
I shrugged. “I know she can fly and that she can somehow mess with people’s’ powers – countering their effects, and affecting them in other, weird ways.”
He waved that off, to my surprise. “Insignificant. She has four separate powers, each of them enough for any metahuman – she manifested alongside three other children, and they were all linked, leading to a synchronised manifestation…”
“Chayot, Slough, Dearheart and the Jabberwocky,” I breathed. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of them being one of the rare synchronised manifestations, but it made sense considering all the circumstances… “What can she do?”
“The children manifested in rather interesting ways,” he explained. “In Chayot’s and Slough’s case, the synchronisation led to a single, multifaceted power – but Dearheart and the poor boy who people call the Jabberwocky instead ended up with several separate ones.” He took a breath, letting me absorb that. “Dearheart has a personal force-field that grants her protection, some enhanced strength and flight, and which can be stretched to protect others, as well. She has a rather powerful regenerative ability and an invisible attack that can disrupt powers, though it becomes weaker if used directly on a metahuman.”
“That already sounds like a troublesome combination, though I assume that her fourth power is the most dangerous one,” I concluded.
He nodded in confirmation. “Yes. She is one of the most powerful mind controllers alive, though the UH are rather determined to keep that a secret – and the girl fortunately has strong enough morals to resist the temptation of using her power excessively.”
Oh crap. True mind controllers were… an issue. And my daughter was in love with one. “What are the specifics? Why does it worry you so?”
“It worries me because of how it works,” he replied. “She doesn’t simply enslave a mind – she inserts herself into. Not insofar as she overrides their personality – no, she inserts herself into their memories. Her name is quite indicative of how it works – her power creates fake memories, and alters existing ones, to feature her as the single most important, beloved and desired individual in the life of her victim, to the point where they are willing to lay down their lives for her. It is as efficient against metahumans as it is against baselines, there appears to be no limit to the number of people she can affect at a time, nor to the duration for which she can keep it up, and unless one is outright immune to such effects, there appears to be no means by which to resist or escape it without her cancelling the effect.”
I was pretty sure my mouth was hanging open, though I couldn’t really tell – I’d gone numb all over. Oh, joy oh joy. You sure know how to pick them, Hennessy, I thought quietly.
He gave me a few moments to digest that, then continued, “Fortunately, the girl has a rather strong set of morals, and refuses to use her power in any but the most dire of circumstances, and only for as long as absolutely necessary.” The corners of his mouth quirked up. “Really, I am grateful that such a power is in the hands of a true hero – it would be catastrophic in the hands of anyone with less conviction to be… good.” He switched to a frown then. “Though considering that the Ascendant is now coming for her – whether or not he already knows, I cannot risk the Gefährten getting their hands on her. I might have to kill her after all, for all our sakes.”
I barely restrained myself from lashing out, right then and there. I didn’t even need the monkey for that, it was all me. Hennessy loved that girl, and I’d be damned if I…
“You object, I can tell,” he spoke as calm as ever. “My gut tells me it’s not just simple moral quandaries which are responsible for you nearly striking at me just now.”
“I… They are off limits, understand?” I said between clenched teeth. “Chayot, Dearheart, Slough and the Matriarch – you keep your hands off of them, and if there’s anything concerning them, you come to me, first, understood? I am dead serious here.” My eyes fixed his, and I saw them widen for just a moment as he absorbed how serious I was.
“That is acceptable,” he said after a moment. “Though I would like to know the reason why, especially regarding the young Matriarch.”
“Later. There is much to talk about, and not all of it concerns the Ascendant and the madness going on in this city,” I explained. “Just… remember that. Those four, and anyone connected to them, are under my protection. Anything regarding them goes through me.”
He nodded. “Very well. I trust that you have good reasons for that.”
We fell silent again, for half a minute or so.
“So, how did that business with the new faction go?” I asked. “Did you find anyone to oppose the Dark?”
He shrugged. “Yes, though the boy was a disappointment in the end. I never expected him to actually win, but he folded rather quickly, in the end, and his supporters – those who survived – were scattered. Though easy enough to gather again around me.”
“Business as usual, then?” He nodded. “I heard there were some new recruits to the Five. What happened to the last ones? Opacity in particular, I rather liked the guy.”
That drew a weary sigh from him. “Sanya committed suicide and was replaced by Maverick, who died in a fight against Quetzalcoatl, then replaced by Dajisi, Naraku was murdered by his daughter and his seat given to Lamarr, and Opacity died in a lab experiment gone wrong – Mindstar replaced him.”
I nodded, not really sad. Opacity had been a rather pleasant fellow, but not to the point where I’d mourn his passing. There was something rather strange, though. “Why Mindstar, though? She’s supposed to be highly unstable.”
He shrugged. “True, but our research indicates that both she and her brother are true second-generation metahumans. That alone would justify taking her in, even into a group such as the Five, but she also got an incredibly versatile and powerful set of powers.”
I felt my eyebrows rise up. “Second-gen? I thought those were just a rumor.”
“No, they are quite real, though the conditions required for them to come to be are so rare, and the differences to first-generation metahumans are so subtle to the untrained eye, that few exist and fewer still know of them. But that is a subject for another day – I believe that is our destination,” he concluded just as the restaurant came into view.
The Lakeside View restaurant was one of the older establishments of Chicago, and had stood where it was now since long before I had been born. The building it was in had once been a hotel, though it had gone bankrupt after the second great depression and been later turned into a five-star restaurant with several high-price apartments above it. I’d chosen it because it stood a good bit apart from the other nearby buildings, it was unlikely to be too full at this time on a weekday and it had incredibly good food – and I could use some of that, if only to calm my nerves.
Faith stopped in front of the entrance, positioning our door perfectly in front of the red carpet that led to the entrance, and then opened it swiftly. The two of us walked into the tastefully colourful art deco building, while she drove away to wait for us, doing… whatever she did when she had to wait. I neither knew nor cared.
Inside, we found about half the tables occupied – which spoke of the quality and reputation of the restaurant, to have such a turnout at this time – and a waiter who was all too eager to seat the two expensively dressed, well-groomed men that had just come out of a limousine worth more than any three or four cars standing outside.
After a brief greeting, and another waiter taking my father’s coat and cane, he seated us near the windows overseeing Lake Michigan and gave us our menus. Father ordered a glass of wine, while I got a lemon-iced cocktail. We both ordered some of their Italian appetisers for starters.
Once a rather cute waitress brought our drinks and snacks (and got a rather generous tip from my father), we spent a minute or so sampling the selection, and our drinks.
Father was the first one to break the silence. “Did you know that I once took your mother to this place for a date?” he said in a nostalgic tone of voice, throwing a contemplative glance around the comfortable building.
I felt my heart lurch as I heard him mention her, and took a sip from my drink (extra strong, so I’d actually notice at least a little of the alcohol) to give me some time. “No, I didn’t. When was that?”
“Oh, before you were even born, though she was already pregnant at the time,” he replied, his eyes returning to my faces, though he didn’t quite stare me in the eyes.
“So that was before you got bored with her and went back to your real wife.” There it was, said before I’d even considered it, from my memories to my lips without taking a detour through my brain.
Unlike the last time I’d accused him of this, many years ago, he didn’t become angry. Instead, he became… sad. Sympathetic. I’d rather he’d be angry again, I thought, even though that would be much less favourable for what I had planned.
“I never cheated on your mother, Aaron,” he said calmly, and I could hear a slight tremor of carefully restrained outrage in his voice – so, not entirely changed, then. “Not once.”
I almost restrained myself from pushing the issue. Almost. “Maybe not physically, but she was always just second choice to her,” I said with as much venom as I could muster. Now that I’d started, I knew that I wouldn’t stop until I had it all out of my system. “You never loved her, or me, as much as her.” His eyes flashed with something not unlike shame, or perhaps offence. I wasn’t in any state of mind to tell.
He sighed, looking away and out onto the lake. Neither of us talked for at least five minutes, and when he turned back to look at me, his eyes were calm again. “A long time ago,” he half-whispered, “Someone a whole lot smarter than both of us, and everyone else around, put together, told me ‘Love is without measure’.” Slowly, he took a sip from his wineglass, before he continued. “There is no such thing as ‘loving more’ or ‘loving less’. One does not have a finite amount of love inside that they distribute in bits and pieces to those they care about.” He spoke with the utter conviction of one who had heard truth from the lips of a wise man. “Love has no measure. I love your mother, even beyond her death. I do not love her more, nor less than I love you, or her, or the daughter she gave me,” he continued. “I love each of you, not equally, for there is no such thing as equality in love – I love each of you in your own way. I love your mother the way I love your mother, and I love her the way I love her. I love you the way I love you, and I love your half-sister – whom I really have to introduce you to, and soon, she’ll be quite ecstatic to have a big brother – the way I love her.” He stopped and emptied his glass.
I subsided, leaning back on my seat to think it over, turning his words around in my head looking for a flaw I could attack, some avenue to lash out. I didn’t find any that felt true to me. Finally, I nodded, and I felt more than saw or heard him relax, almost imperceptibly.
Several more minutes went by before either of us spoke up. The only thing that happened was that the waiter came around to refill my father’s glass.
“It is a strange thing,” I said. “If you’d said this to me back then, I wouldn’t have accepted it. If you’d said these words just a day and a half ago, I wouldn’t have accepted them. But now I can.” Because that’s how I feel about Hennessy and Elouise, even if I barely know them yet.
“What changed?” he asked. I looked up into his eyes, and found honest curiosity in them. He really didn’t know, probably wouldn’t even guess it unless I told him. It was not within his expectations for me, I knew.
“Everything,” I replied simply, before I looked around. “I am awaiting a few more guests, but this isn’t very private,” I told him. “Would you mind providing some privacy before they arrive?”
He complied without inquiring further, simply snapping his fingers. The monkey stirred as I felt his power brush over me without effect, but it was immediately obvious when it reached everyone else.
Slowly but surely, people finished their meals – most of them early – before they paid and left. Within less than ten minutes, the entire restaurant had cleared, save for the staff, all of which had adopted a rather glassy-eyed stare, oblivious to everything that was going on yet still present and able to serve if necessary.
He was thorough like that.
“It’s nothing. And now I am quite curious about these guests of yours,” he said.
“Soon,” I said. “And I’ll need you to be… you for the meeting.” He raised an inquisitive eyebrow. ‘You’ was a rather big, versatile word when used in relation to him. “I need you to put on your cowl. The big one.”
Now his eyes widened, though the rest of his face remained controlled. “Well, this should be interesting.”
“Oh, it will be. Very much so,” I promised him.
Then he changed.
Eight minutes later, a car pulled up outside – the first one since the enforced exodus – and I heard three sets of footsteps approach us. I’d only expected two, though I was reasonably certain about who the third pair belonged to, so I got up and approached the door. Their smells announced them long before they came into view.
Hennessy had the same expression as always, but she was dressed to go out, in a dark purple dress which made me want to wave around a huge mallet to scare off any guys who’d even look at her. It was tight, leaving her left shoulder and arm bare, while extending into a long sleeve on her right arm, and going down to her ankles. Fortunately for my sanity, she was at least wearing sensible purple shoes instead of high heels. The whole ensemble really brought out the colour of her eyes. And her hair was braided expertly, falling over her bare shoulder, giving her a very refined appearance along with the subtle make up.
When she saw me, I felt a wave of childish pleasure emanate from her, before her gaze went past me and to the man on the chair waiting. That killed any joy she might’ve felt, but it didn’t lessen the somersaults my heart was making.
Arm in arm with her walked Camille, wearing a dress that perfectly complemented Hennessy’s, with her right shoulder and arm bare, and in a dark blue colour that underlined her blue eyes and red lips. Her hair was braided to match Hennessy, with the braid falling over her bare shoulder, too. Unlike Hennessy, though, she was wearing high heels, diminishing their difference in height.
She seemed less pleased to see me, though I was pretty sure that was more due to stubbornness than actual distaste at this point – or at least I hoped so. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped when she saw the man on the chair.
A bit behind them, initially smiling brightly, came Tamara, and I instantly knew that she was responsible for their appearances – she must’ve heard ‘Lakeside View’ and immediately decided that such a place merited a certain amount of refinement. I wasn’t going to dispute or complain, because I was enjoying the sight of the three of them immensely. Tamara herself was dressed in a more subdued manner than the young beauties in front of her, in a dark green, less tight dress that wouldn’t be misplaced at a school event. She also wore low heels and had a purse with her, and her hair was open instead of braided.
An objective observer might have concluded that, even in her prime, she would not have matched the two visions walking arm in arm, let alone their combined splendor, but to me, she topped them both, easily.
And I realised, somehow, once and for all, that I could never have her again. I saw her beauty, and I felt the appeal, but deep inside, I knew that I’d never again be able to be as close to her as I so desperately wished in that moment.
Which was probably a good thing, because while she’d been smiling at first, once she saw the man in the chair, she turned her head back to me and gave me an utterly outraged look.
I answered with an apologetic one, then spoke to all three of them – though only Tamara seemed to pay me any attention. “My dear ladies, I am so glad you could join me on such short notice,” I greeted them. Finally, the other two also looked at me, and I smiled soothingly. “And might I say that you make life worth living just for this sight right now?” A little bloated, as far as compliments went, but it had its desired effect of distracting the girls from him for a moment, and slightly mollifying Tamara. “Please, join us. I’ll explain everything presently.”
They sat down at the table, opposite of him, with Tamara and Camille keeping Hennessy between them. They sat as close together as possible.
Fortunately, he knew to stay quiet, simply giving them a little time to relax and absorb the situation.
And then another car pulled up, followed by a single set of footsteps approaching with the telltale click-click sound of stiletto heels. Hennessy’s head whipped around to stare towards the new arrival, and I tried to project as much calm as I could, hoping that she wouldn’t lash out now.
Elouise entered the room, in a tight, shoulder-free black dress and matching heels, her lush white hair open and falling down to her waist, having come without a mask as I’d requested when I called her to set the meeting. She smiled warmly at me, for just a moment, before she noticed Hennessy – and from the way her eyes widened, I could tell that she recognised her, somehow – and then they went on to see the man in the chair, though only for a moment, before they snapped back to Hennessy.
I could almost see the pieces falling into place in her head, the facts and questions lining up to come to the one, inescapable conclusion. She stared at me in shock, then at Hennessy, then back at me, and for a moment I was afraid that she’d faint.
But she caught herself, straightened her back and nodded at me before approaching the table to sit halfway between Camille and him. Her shadow was literally on her heels, flat on the ground, radiating a sense of tension not unlike an animal ready to fight or flee.
I went to stand opposite of Elouise, between Tamara and him.
“Welcome, everyone, and I am sorry for calling you all on such short notice,” I said, as I watched Hennessy’s eyes dart between Elouise and him, unsure who was the greater threat, or how to react. Camille had gone white as a sheet, Tamara looked confused and yet ready to either murder me, or grab her girls and run – or both – while Elouise looked like she was caught between ecstasy and mortification. He, on the other hand, was just staring blankly from Elouise, to me, to Hennessy, to me and to Elouise again, round and round and round, probably more shocked than anyone else in the room. “As you can tell, this is more than just a simple social call – but most definitely much simpler than some of you might expect.”
I looked around the table, and somewhere beneath the nervousness and the fear, I knew that, whatever else happened, the memory of my father being utterly, completely dumbfounded would keep me warm for many, many a future night. Provided I lived long enough to even experience the next one.
Showtime. I walked to Hennessy, and calmly pulled her up off her seat. “Come here,” I told her, gently pulling her to Elouise. My other daughter rose of her own accord, and I took her right arm by the wrist, guiding it up to meet Hennessy’s left arm, which I was also holding gently by the wrist.
Even if I’d been an empath myself, there was no way I could’ve made out all the emotions on Elouise’s face, or those being projected by the slack-jawed Hennessy.
“Elouise,” I said, looking at her. “Hennessy,” I continued, looking from one to the other. “It is long overdue that you two learn that you’re sisters, or half-sisters at least.” I looked at Tamara, talking before she could feel hurt. “It happened before the two of us got together for the first time – the first Matriarch tricked me into spending one night with her, having planned to get pregnant by me. The reasons ought to be obvious soon enough.” She just stared from me to her daughter, and to her daughter’s half-sister. Camille looked ready to commit murder – though I wasn’t sure just whom she wanted to murder.
The girls were just looking each other in the eyes, their hands holding each other loosely. But I wasn’t done yet, and I left them to walk behind him and them, putting him between us. He was still staring blankly, quietly, at both of them, and now the two of them were looking at us with equal looks of a lack of comprehension.
“Elouise, Hennessy,” I said gently, as I put a hand on his shoulder, making it sink through the shadows to touch the actual shoulder beneath, as six unblinking red eyes stared at two scared, confused, ecstatic, gleeful, mortified children. “Meet your grandfather.”
Saw it coming.
It was my second bet, I was about to be reading this page it all it says is “PLOT TWIST, HIS FATHER IS THE ASCENDANT”
So freaking confused, how is his father The Dark? But he said people to go against him…. But it’s obvious now. You also tagged him as the dark in the tag list.
Wait NVM. I think I may get the tactics behind it, it was similar to what Madeline does with the rebellion groups. He isolates minority factions within the syndicate that oppose his rule and every time any of them try to take him down he raises them up only to completely and utterly annihilate them from the inside, and swarm down on the recourses to bring it into his own group.
……….. I believe the proper reaction to this chapter and the tags is a quite simple “wow”
Tieshaunn you sly fox you, teasing us like that, leading us around until all our theories were as improbable as the next, building up the hype for the great reunion and making it bigger and better, adding discovery to the mix.
Tieshaunn, I believe this may be one of your finest works yet, if not the finest.
And the best part, it builds up even more hype for the next part.
Pardon my french but “ce qui la baise!” I actually found a typo in your work Tieshaunn. Normally it’s the opposite. I’m glad this universe has access to journey man because the one we’re living in no is obviously broken I would re-read: ‘Chayot, Dearheart, Slough and the Matriarch – you keep your hands of them”
Of -> Off
fixed, thank you
I was pretty sure it was going to be him. Aap mentioned that he thought the shadow following him earlier was from his father and who else does that, and also knows Journeyman.
I can imagine Tie back in December, thinking he could pull a fast one on us like this, but as soon as he introduced JourneyMan and people caught on, he had to execute the ‘Wild Goose Chase to Throw Theorists of the Trail’ (WGCTTT™) maneuver!
Provided a lived long enough
Provided I lived long enough
fixed, thank you
Now that’s what you call a cliffhanger.
I really loved the bit with them refusing to “put on their masks” that was a clever bit of work. This whole thing raises a lot of questions to me about “The Dark”.
He acts very differently here than he does when ‘un-cowled’ with GG and I’m curious as to how much of that is him being in very different situations and how much of that is him playing different roles. He even says directly conflicting things about his love for Aap’s mother (“that was nothing like what I feel for Gwen” vs “I loveher the way I love your mother.”). His eyes have also been a different colour each time (amber, so dark a blue the almost looked purple, and outright purple). And he has diiferent Cowls!! Of course he does, that just makes perfect sense.
Also some very interesting information on Basil and Amy. This surely has to do with their memories, it’s to big a coincidence for it not to, but I’m hesitant to speculate. Also I really want to see that Aap meet Irene (and Lady Light?).
Basically well done, you’ve answered one question and spawned a dozen more, you evil bastard you.
I still had five minutes.”I have to > .” I (space)
soon as I realised that, I realised what > realized (In American English)
situation again.Think, > again. Think (space)
that hadto be > had to
White gloves. black shoes > Black
too comfortable, toosafe.
less than good. Farless. > Far less
to a synchronised manifestation > synchronized (again American)
. I hadn’t evenconsidered the possibility > even considered
of the rare synchronised manifestations > synchronized
the synchronisation led to a single > synchronization
colourful > colorful (I’m sort of assuming you’re using American English)
Italian appetisers > appetizers (It is set in America, after all)
less favourable > favorable (With an American point of view, no less)
, norless than > nor less
Loveher > love her
any thatfelt true > that felt
the colour of her eyes > color
a dark blue colour > color
them immensily > immensely
And I realised, > realized
she recognised her > recognized
Provided a lived long > Provided I
I have to ask, is this something you want people doing? I feel like I’m creating more work for you and being… unappreciative, like I’m looking for little flaws rather than enjoying the work. (I didn’t actually notice any of these on my first go through, by the way). On an intellectual level I figure it’s a good thing but, I dunno, a piece of me is always a little hesitant.
I love it when people point out my typos. It’s like having a dozen editors I don’t have to pay a cent for 😉
The bit about “love her like your mother” was an embarassing typo on my part, thanks for pointing it out. It’s supposed to read “I love your mother like I love your mother, and I love her like I love her”.
I try to stick with British English, so as to form a habit. Nothing against american english, but at my university, we are encouraged to stick to one or the other, and I chose BE back when I started
I’m not finding most of these mistakes, especially the ones related to missing spaces – maybe that’s a problem with formatting that doesn’t show up for me.
Ah, right, I get it. Definitely a formatting era on my end. What I’m doing is copy pasting into word and running a spell check. The problem arises where no space is needed on the site (because the sentence is over 2 lines) – in word I just end up with a non-existent typo. Sorry.
no problem. thanks for the effort
I learned the British spellings, it’s far more excepted professionally. I had it at my Russian international school and even at my American one currently. You’re better off using the spellings as well considering most foreigners learn it that way.
So second generation…..I have a feeling, you are going to leave us hanging on what that means for a long time.
Would I be so cruel?
Yes. Yes you would.
My thought on this is that it is a true passing on of powers/Memories? from one super to someone else. Or maybe some sort of reincarnation of a preexisting power
This is why I read this story, for the golden pieces of writing like this ones. Kudos on the back to back updates!
Is anyone else eagerly waiting for Gloom Glimmer to meet Aap???
OMG… Gloom Glimmer, Aap, Henessey and Elouise – The Dark Gang 😛
dratz. forget I said that
I’m not going to say anything, can you delete your comment???
probably for the best, though I do dislike censorship
For the time being, all we know is what Macian wrote of her:
“Who is Bree? Someone cries her name, but she can’t hear it. The crying person sounds so sad, I cried when I heard her voice (I’m not prone to crying).”
This was copy pasted from B009.9
You sir, are and evil, plot-twisting individual.
I have bin wondering, what are the Dark’s ratings? We know what lady lights ratings are but not the dark’s would you mind telling them?
Spawning, Meta, Manipulation, Movement, Perception
oh right, that too. my bad
And I’m assuming the whole face-changing thing is an application of his darkwraiths, rather than a discrete morphing power? Also I’m getting more and more why the Dark is so powerful. His powers are crazy versatile.
it’s an application of his wraiths, yes.
He does have a correspondingly huge weakness… it’s just that he’s smart enough to do everything in his power to keep it secret
Which means that, should Tieshaunn subscribe to narrative tradition, it will eventually come up and be used against him
Every body engage your tin hats! What if the reason Dearheart is so protective/bitchy about Hennessey is because she is constantly worried people would ‘steal Hennessey from her’. If that assumption is ture it implies, she was never hers to begin with, which implies that Dearheart may have used her power in Hennessey, presumably when no one would have noticed, like when they’ were still under captivity by the Ascendant. * Removes tin hat*
Acording to our Dark friend, it’s apparently unblockable unless you’re outright inmmune to such effects, which makes me wonder how Amy, Basil, Irene and Prisca would fare.
However, I think that the highest point of interest from that particular conversation is the bit about Amy and Basil being 2nd gen.
What does this mean, what makes it so especial, I assume they are potentially more powerful, perhaps that can get a 2nd manifestation? Perhaps they already have? Or maybe their powers can grow further from the norm? It may be that they can break the rules on some aspects of their power, or maybe they can draw power and knowledge from some sort of 1rst gen counterpart?
Only time and Tieshaunn will tell.
You’ll get more info soon, I promise
Thank you, I shall be patient.
I wonder if the 2nd gen thingy as something to do with the fact that they got their power while being young(either as a cause or an effect).
It doesn’t make any sense for it to be the cause, however, it being an effect sounds perfectly plausible.
mess I’m party responsible for
party = partly
I could just nod in acceptance
Sounds a bit odd, maybe replace ‘just’ with ‘only’ or ‘I just nodded’
until there was little and less left
Sounds a little odd but I’m not sure what to suggest that would make it sound better unless ‘and’ was supposed to be ‘or’
it’s a kind of saying I’ve come up with. I’m kinda attached to it
What a twist!
hello mr shyamalan
Has anyone read wildbows new serial twig yet? I really like the freakenstein_punk world being built and the cast of cold hearted children.
The part about the Dark supporting competitors from behind the scenes in order to get everyone in a fell swoop was understandeable and in character.
The whole “le’ts put red herrings to confuse the reader” was not. It felt way too forced, like you were trying too hard, or maybe just shoehorning a twist in for the sake of the literary device itself, no matter the cost to the flow of the story.
Besides, with the hundreds of unanswered questions, you do not really need a twist to keep interest. Revealing something about the Dark not-LL relations was probably enough, at least for me.
I was less after a twist and more just feeling like doing something silly, sorry. Gotta get my chuckles wherever I can.
Things we have learned in this chapter
1. Basil is the son of Atrocity and Amy is the daughter of Mindfuck.
2. The Dark is a Shapeshifter and probably Magnus Karlson.
3. Deerheart is going to be trouble.
4. Aap knows about Gloom Glimmer???
1. don’t be too hasty
2. He is not a shapeshifter, but one of his wraiths is
4. She *is* a public figure, and he did also get to talk to Journeyman for hours…
Care to elaborate on how you came upon those conclusions?
> 3. Deerheart is going to be trouble.
I’m sure you’re exaggerating. She is simply a little girl that wants to be loved. And the Dark wants to kill her because he’s a supervillain. It’s what supervillains do, right?
Besides, everyone wants to be loved right?
What could possibly go wrong?
Umh, how could I raise more death flags?
Hei Tieshaunn, mind putting on this nice vintage federation uniform? It’s all red and shiny.
I prefer the old SS uniform I found in my school attic a few years ago
@Tieshaunn. We had tons of uniforms leftover from the Soviet Era, when I lived in Russia. People keep old uniforms from former countries. Anyway do you mind putting a link to the Wikia somewhere? http://the-blazing-stars.wikia.com/wiki/The_Blazing_Stars_Wiki
My current operating theory is that the Dark is every character until proven otherwise.
The awkward moment when you realize that the dark makes up 41.1811 percent of the cape community. Brownie Points to whoever realizes what I did there….
greenhelm, I was perusing the wiki and found a few mistakes I wanted to point out:
1. Gloomy’s cape name is misspelled as “Gloom Glitter” in the United Heroes page
2. The Gadgeteering page claims that there are no Gadgeteers with multiple powers, despite a theoretical possibility. that is untrue, it is simply rare for gadgeteers to have multiple powers, but not unheard of
Good to note TS, more power to the Basil warps time to get his gadgets done theory.
OMFG, that’s what I said about Gadgeteers! They were like “Nah.” Also I didn’t make a lot of the character pages. Have you made a wiki account yet? You should it’s really easy and makes things a lot simpler than being anonymous on changing as I can make you an admin/bureaucrat on the wiki.
I also need a good format for the pages if you could come up with one it would be much appreciated. On that note do you mind giving me the complete list of the Chicago Junior Heroes? Also do you have a new cape name for Aimi and Osore?
they kept their old names, Bakeneko and, well, Osore.
The current lineup of the Chicago Junior Heroes is:
Wait had they actually committed any crime before they joined the .J.U.N.?
nothing that was public
Also can you give me an estimate of how many metahumans there are in the world. I’m trying to visualize my chances of meeting people who would have triggered (IN this reality), could you give me a statistic of the percentage of Metahumans within the population.
NVM. We just got a new format.
You know what I take from this chapter? That the Dark has learned a lot since he raised Aaron. The first child takes the brunt of all the parenting mistakes, and Irene has borne the fruit of those lessons.
Irene might also be pleased to know she has two …step-nieces? Is that the correct term? On the other hand, Hennessy and Elouise might not be so pleased to know their extended family includes DiL.
On the other hand, I wonder if Aaron’s mother was the psychologist who tried to ‘cure’ the Dark back in the day. That’d make Aaron the child that mob lynched. Or perhaps there’s of the Dark’s children around… whether or not they might be six feet under.
Now, I’m curious what the whole deal with the second generation on Basil and Amy is. There are multiple theories I can come up with on the matter. I momentarily theorised about Macian being their father, but it doesn’t work, considering Ember’s age. Though there are potential workarounds, but I can’t chase red herrings all day… I do wonder if there’s some other confusion there.
It’s also worth noting that their parents ‘died’ around the same time Amy would have manifested. Food for thought, hmm?
Well to be honest it’s been in my mind for a while, but it was brought back to the front by this chapter, and that new bit of information. Still, not enough pieces to make a whole yet…
It’s also worth noting that Basil/Amy remeber Amy manifesting/debuting long before the official records set Mindstar’s appearance.
she had her debut about a year before she was inducted into the dark five, which was the point where she really became famous – which might explain the discrepancy
Hmmm, well in the Prolouge (which I take as Early July-ish 2012 – 2 months before school starts) Basil specifically calls mindstar “A young supervillain who debuted two years ago” as well as remebering how “two years ago, she had acted quite strange for a while, being irritable, daydreaming and often gone for hours at a time. That had been about a month before Mindstar’s debut. Later he had noticed how she had been able to afford new clothing and other things better than they were used to, explaining it and her regular disappearances with a new and often changing job.”
This would put Mindstar’s debut mid 2010-ish.
In the Vraa arc (8.4) the information about Mindstar reads:
“Debut: March 4th, 2011 in New Lennston
Joined: September 2011”
Then in >Old Coils Strong Coils< Mindstar is shown around the D5 base/meets Wyrm on 5th Oct 2011
Other dates mentioned in the prolouge include the Amazon incident "a bit more than a year ago". As well as their parents death "last year" followed 2 moths later by moving into their new house "about a year ago". This all lines up more or less with the recorded debut.
Unless I'm being horribly silly Basil is getting dates wrong. The other alternative is that terry's magazine is just wrong/marks her debut at a point where she became famous, and Basil just knows better.
no, this is a case of me messing up the dates. thanks for pointing it out
Mindstar debuted March 4th, 2010, joined the Five in september 2011
Oh. Oooh. That makes things interesting. And also kinda horribly confusing for the half-baked theory I had going on. If Basil’s memories from 2 years ago are (at minimum) somewhat accurate, then it stands to reason that his memories from a year ago -specifically his memories of his parents – are also reasonably accurate. Which definitely changes things. Like why Basil’s reaction to being orphaned seems a little off…
Speaking of the dark five i was wondering, (has little to do with this chapter i think) when Terry was reading the leaflet about the dark five. She was suprised by Kraquok and knew nothing about him. How is that possible, he has bin active for nearly a century and is the right-hand man of the worlds biggest villain. If you add that to his looks and power the whole world should know him. He also doesnt strike me as the type who keeps a low profile.
she grew up in a gated community that vehemently tries to cut itself off from metahumans in any way possible. she barely learned the basics about metas growing up.
Kraquok doesn’t exactly keep a deliberately low profile, but… people know who he is. what he can do. at least those he deals with directly. he rarely has to fight nowadays, and can mostly skate by on his reputation alone.
also, that leaflet actually got his power wrong. it works quite a bit differently from how it was presented. that’s how rarely he uses it lately.
Wouldn’t it serve better propaganda wise to expose you to the dark side of Metahumanity. I mean I would focus on teaching them about the monsters, freaks, deep end villains, and mass murderers. He’s a massive beast why not use it?
they hear the scare stories, of course, but not the details. they might find the powers “cool” after all, and his power, in itself, is not inherently disgusting or evil
Like the MCO in Whateley Academy? You’re right, it would be more effective, but it might risk some to look further and develop a different opinion, that’s probably the reason they don’t.
they’re not a quasi-governmental institution (honestly, I never really understood how the MCO could possibly work), they’re more like a civilised version of the KKK with *lots* of funding and at least a *few* reasonable arguments (as opposed to being just raging cockmongers)
Uneducated masses after all, are just so much easier to mold
So your “bomb dropping” was that the father was actually who everyone expected, you just made it seem like it was someone else right before actually revealing it was who we expected all along. I’m not sure that really counts as a twist.
it was supposed to be an anti-twist
Not really, you’re rather unobservant if you still thought that he was the Dad…. Nobody expected that who paid attention considering they talked about the Dark in third person in a negative aspect as if he was trying to rebel against the dark.
Not really, you’re rather unobservant if you still thought that he was Aap’s Father. It didn’t seem like his father considering they spoke about the Dark in third person in a negative aspect as if he was trying to rebel against the dark.* Does anyone ever feel like you’re tired when you type and immediately after you remember your massive mistakes. I’m feeling so low class in grammar choice.
But the twist was kind of minor
who said this was the only twist this arc?
Tieshaunn, on the wiki I perfected the character template: Do you approve? http://the-blazing-stars.wikia.com/wiki/Character_Page_Template.
hm, shouldn’t there be an “Appearance” section? perhaps before personality
How do you make a wiki account?
Go to the website there is probably a signup bar, it’s pretty self explanatory after that.
I believe it’s in the top right corner.
The way people in the comments have been acting I assume this must be a twist but I thought the dark being his father was stated in his first chapter.
it wasn’t. it was “stated” in the comments of his first chapter, and everyone ran with it
Ah, I get it now thanks
(Insert line here about expecting the Dark)
Actually, what stood out the most to me about this chapter was Aap’s plan to just have everyone meet. I’d been thinking for a while that he was going to have to tell Eloise and Hennessy about each other. His manner of doing so may have been a bit graceless… but he certainly had the right idea.
I remember when I was first reading the Wheel of Time series years ago, and how frustrated I felt because most of the early plot could be resolved if the characters just talked to each other.
Fantastic chapter. I went in thinking grandpa was The Dark, but then you made it seem like it wasn’t him through Aap’s memories. Then it turns out it is him. Nice fake out 😊 Well done.
also, Pucelle’s armor is not “hard” or even that tough. it’s toughness is predicated on the same effect she used to cut through the Blackguard’s limb.
she’s a highly specialised gadgeteer. she has *one* gimmick – well, one gimmick with two sides to it – and everything she makes is based on that one concept. she can make stuff that makes some contrivers look normal, but on the other hand, she can’t work outside her speciality *at all* (unlike, say, Brennus, who can meddle most everywhere)
Oh god damnit. You magnificent bastard. You made the answer so vary obvious and then made me absolutely sure that it was false the moment before it was revealed.