Sunday, July 18, 2021

1.3 Family Confessions

Miss Susan Kirkland was 35 years old when she first met Mister James Veder at the National Furniture and Accessories Expo in Edison, New Jersey. She recognized him immediately. He was THE name in containerized cargo systems, as well as a big name in shipping and warehousing. What she hadn't known was that he was tall, trim and wore an easy smile above a dashing cleft chin. James Veder, for his part, had no idea who the petite blonde with the piercing blue eyes that seemed to miss nothing was, but a few inquiries soon told him. A corporate vice president already, and for such a wide-spread, hard charging company as Star-Ways.

Thus began a torrid two year affair born of mutual admiration and lust, but finally cemented in love and at the end of those two years, marriage. Three years into the marriage, with both of them securely atop their respective career paths, Susan announced she was going off her birth control and hoped to give him a son. It was only four months later that she announced their success.

Gregory Nathaniel Veder was born nine months later, a healthy young lad of ten pounds four ounces. He was named after James' grandfather Gregory, and Susan's grandfather Nathaniel. Susan immediately arranged her retirement from Star-Ways and took a very generous 'golden parachute' settlement for her years of outstanding leadership.

Young Greg was a happy, outgoing child for the first six years of his life, seemingly possessing the keen eyes of his mother; always looking everywhere, seldom missing anything, as well as his father's easy smile and friendly face. But a few months after his 6th birthday, his father died suddenly and cruelly, leaving Greg and his mother alone for the first time in his life. From that point on Greg was quieter, incurious and strangely disassociated from life around him. Mr. Hamada, his 1st grade activities teacher described it “as if he was in one of those old so-bad -they're-good Kung Fu movies, where everyone speaks out of sync with their actions. Greg seems to always be out of sync with everything around him, including himself.”

So it remained until that fateful day ten years later, when Greg Veder had the second worst day of his life and he triggered.

The 20 questions started then. “Did you have an accident on your bike? Are you okay? Where have you been? Are you okay? What happened.”

“Mom, hang up the phone and come home. We'll talk about it when you get here.” I interrupted. She paused. I waited the half second to make sure she wasn't just drawing a breath. “Okay, bye!” and hung up.

Thirty minutes later we sat facing each other in front of the fireplace. The TV was on, showing the local news channel's coverage of the efforts to put out the fire at Winslow, and show the damage caused by the explosion. The volume was down to a murmur. I explained about the explosion, about Sophia Hess, about the terrible trio and their crusade against Taylor Hebert. I explained my suspicions about Sophia and Shadow Stalker. I told her everything.

“So, you are now a parahuman,” mom said with a sigh. “Does that mean you're going to be a cape?”

“I was assuming, I certainly can't go back to school with these.” I answered, waving my tendrils.

“You're a Junior this year. We'll just have to home school you the rest of the way. You've always been bright enough, just... unfocused. You might even be able to pass the GED exam now.”

“Home school does sound right. We can do that anywhere, and it keeps me under the radar for two years. I have these tendrils, but they don't limit me physically, and I'm a tinker. Right now I'm resisting the urge to rush out to the garage and tinker with my bike.”

“I've always heard that tinkers have a hard time starting out, because they can't afford the materials they need to begin building their tinker stuff, and because they are actively pursued by the various parahuman groups, who always need tinkers. You're the one who has followed the cape stuff, not me, so tell me what you know.”

“Okay mom,” I nodded. “According to everything I have access to, including the PHO boards...”

“Excuse me what is Pho?” she asked.

“It's an acronym for the ParaHumans Online forums on the internet, and they agree with how you just described the tinker situation. Even confirmed capes have cited the same thing, so it seems solid.”

“All right then, you need a source of materials and the money to buy them, and a place where you can build your tinkertech and train to use your tendrils. You also need to be away from Brockton Bay while you do. It's not safe for you here, and won't be for some time I imagine.”

“Okay, what did you have in mind?”

“Well, Brockton Bay was my place. This was where I grew up. Your father's roots were in a much different place...”

Leaving Brockton Bay was not a-few-days-and-gone experience. There were utilities to shut off, newspaper deliveries to stop. The house would be 'shuttered' professionally by a company hired for the purpose. Susan was on the phone almost all day long and some of the phone calls were lengthy, some involving loud laughter, some loud yelling and swearing. It seemed equally distributed. While she did that I spent my time filling up a brand new laptop with plans, designs and ideas. I felt the luxury of having the funds to build almost anything I wanted but at the same time was worried about burning through those funds too quickly.

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