Scene 32 – October 26th
Interior MLED Compound, Morning
Dad and I had been rather surprised when the MLED called and asked the two of us to come in – we couldn’t think of any reason they’d specifically want to talk to us. After all, it had been less than two weeks since my powers manifested, so I still had most of my one-month grace period before registration was mandatory. And while I had had contact with Legion, I had told Canaveral all about it – there was nothing that I knew that the MLED didn’t, at this point.
Still, we couldn’t exactly decline the invitation, so he called off work and I called off my two classes for the day, and we dressed in nice clothes before heading into the Compound.
The receptionist smiled at me as we approached. “Hello again, Mr. Kaufman. And is this your father?”
“Mx. Kaufman,” he corrected. “And yes, I’m their father.” I grinned up at him, pleased to have his support.
The receptionist seemed confused by the correction, but rolled with it. “Are you hear to visit the Journeymen again, Mr – Mx. Kaufman?”
I shook my head. “No, we received an invitation from the director.” I showed him the letter that had arrived by express mail yesterday. “I don’t suppose you have any idea why?”
He examined it with surprise. “None, sorry. But it appears to be in order, so… you’ll be following the green line today, not the orange.” He tapped a few buttons on his keyboard, then continued, “Director Shepard will meet you there.”
Scene 33 – October 26th
Interior Cell Block, Continuous
“Director Shepard,” my father said as he shook the woman’s hand, only an inch or two taller than me but probably twice my weight in solid muscle. “A pleasure to meet you.”
“And you as well, Professor Kaufman.” She turned to me and offered a hand as well. “And Mx. Kaufman too. I’m sorry we haven’t had the chance to meet yet, but as I’m sure you understand I’m unspeakably busy.”
I shook her hand despite the distinct possibility that she might accidentally break me in two – or deliberately. Regardless of what she said, her face and voice were stern, and she certainly didn’t seem happy to meet us. My anxious mind aside, what I said was, “Nice to meet you too.”
“So,” Dad said, “why did you call us here on such short notice? And to a cell block, no less?” The green line had led us to a metallic door where a uniformed MLED officer had scanned us and patted us down before allowing us in – the PA4 that I wore beneath my clothes most days had required him to consult with the Director, who had been waiting on the other side of the door. And now we were standing at the entrance to a long row of incredibly secure cells, most of which – but not all – were empty.
The director frowned. “Nothing good, I’m afraid.” She seemed to catch the look of fear in my eyes, because she added, “not something that either of you two have done, but… well, do either of you know much about the villain known as Legion?”
“I know a decent amount – I’m sure you know that, of course.”
“I know what’s in the papers,” Dad said. “Shapeshifter who can duplicate and heal people, or something along those lines.”
“Close enough,” the director agreed. “She’s agreed to resurrect a deceased hero, in return for a concession. A private conversation with the Kaufman family. First you,” she nodded to me, “and then your father.”
We absorbed this for a moment. “…why?”
“She has refused to say. We absolutely guarantee your safety, however. Her powers are being suppressed and there will be a force field in between you and her at all times. If you agree to speak with her, you will be saving a man’s life.”
“…I thought power suppression wasn’t real,” I said.
“Not as such,” Director Shepard admitted, “but many powers are inhibited in certain environments or by certain stimuli. Someone who can control water has little power in a desert, for instance. In Legion’s case, it appears that cold temperatures slow the speed of her shapeshifting, and her cell is therefore being kept at 20 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Dad sighed. “Quinn first?”
“She specifically requested your child first,” Shepard confirmed. “Whatever information has led her to seek this conversation did not include your transition, and she specified you using your deadname,” the director warned me, and I tensed, “but after being informed of your name and pronouns she immediately corrected herself and has not slipped up as far as I am aware. I wished to warn you that she knows it, however.”
“…thank you.” I managed after a moment. It wasn’t the director’s fault that Legion apparently knew my birth name – in fact, it seemed like the director had been the one to correct the villain.
My father was looking at the floor. “Lift your chin and set your shoulders, / Plant your feet and take a brace,” he murmured, then looked up at us. “I’m willing to do it if Quinn is.”
I shrugged. “Sure, why the hell not? It’s not the first time I’ve talked with her.” Inside my heart was pounding, because that conversation had been terrifying, but I recognized the lines Dad had just quoted – he always quoted them when he was trying to be brave. And if Dad was going to face down the dangerous supervillain without powers, how could I do less with them?
The director smiled thinly. “Thank you.”
Scene 34 – October 26th
Interior Cell Block, Continuous
I was directed to Legion’s cell, where I sat on one side of a table which seemed to pass through a forcefield, allowing her to sit on the other side. She was currently in the shape of the director, which I couldn’t help but comment on. “I thought you couldn’t copy people without absorbing them.”
She shrugged in slow-motion. “Perfectly? To the point of fooling DNA scans and fingerprinting? Yes, I need to absorb them. But I can fool the eye with just a visual reference. And as for vocal mannerisms and body language, that’s just practice.” Her body suddenly morphed and I was looking at Canaveral. “Would you prefer to speak to a hero? Whatever makes you comfortable, Quinn.”
I frowned at her. “I think I’d rather speak to you in your real form. If you even remember what it is.”
She chuckled – it was exactly the same as the chuckles I had heard from the actual Canaveral. “A brave one, aren’t you?”
“I try.” I try very, very hard.
“Well that’s not an option, I’m afraid. My real form is reserved for the original me. But if you’d rather, I can make something completely new for you.”
She changed again, returning to a suit much like the director’s but with a more curvaceous figure beneath it. Her face became sharp, her ears slightly pointed, and her hair curled up around her ears. Every part of her took on a purplish tint – so deep it was nearly black for the suit, so pale it was nearly white for the hair, and every shade in between. Even her skin had a lavender cast to it. “Better?”
“Good enough,” I said. “A fan of purple, I see.” She shrugged. “So why do you want to talk to me and dad?”
“I have a message for you.”
“Laura Kaufman – your mother.”
I glared. “Don’t talk about my mother, Legion.”
She held up her hands placating. “I don’t mean to poke at old wounds, but I must deliver this message. I promised her, and I owe her everything. I know it sounds hard to believe, but-”
“What the hell do you know about my mother?” I snapped. “How could you know anything! I barely know anything! She’s been gone for 15 years!”
“From you, perhaps,” she said quietly. “I only lost her two years ago.”
“…what are you saying.”
“Your mother didn’t die, 15 years ago.”
“You expect me to believe she just left?” I had to laugh at the very notion. “That’s ridiculous. She would never do that to me – to dad.”
Legion shook her head. “It wasn’t by her choice. Can I give the message?”
“I’m not sure I want to hear anything you have to say anymore,” I said, standing.
Then she opened her mouth and spoke in the voice of my mother – a voice that I could only barely remember hearing, outside of recordings. “Tell Quinn… tell them that I never wanted to leave them,” said my mother. “Tell them how sorry I am. How much I love them. Tell them… tell them that I’ll be watching over them.”
I didn’t respond. How could I?
“I paraphrased a little, I’m afraid,” Legion said, quietly. “She never had a chance to learn your real name, to see who you are. But I’m certain that Laura would have been proud of the person you’re becoming.”
Scene 35 – October 26th
Interior MLED Compound – Continuous
I left the cell in a bit of a daze. I found it hard to believe that Legion had known my mother, but the voice… how else would they have heard it? It wasn’t as though she was a public figure. And yet…
My father was ushered into the cell after me, giving me a concerned look as we passed. Legion probably had a similar message for him.
The director, waiting back at the entrance, blinked briefly when I returned. “You seem a little stunned,” she said. “Was it that bad?”
“It was… not bad, exactly,” I admitted. “Surprising, certainly.” I rubbed at my brow, still trying to wrap my head around what had just happened. “Were you listening?”
Shepard shook her head. “No. Legion asked for a private meeting, and so the mics were muted. We had visual, to make sure that you were in no danger, but…”
“She said that she had a message from my mom,” I said, the words spilling out without conscious thought. “She said that she knew my mom, that she hadn’t died all those years ago… she told me that mom loved me, and would have been proud of me.” I hugged myself as I continued, “Dad’s told me that before, of course, but… I’ve never heard it in her voice.” My own voice nearly broke, tears welling at the corners of my eyes. “And… and she was alive. For 13 years she was alive, when we thought she was dead. And… and she’s still dead. Only two years ago, she died…”
“Did Legion give any details?” Director Shepard asked.
I shook my head. “No… maybe I should have asked, but I just… I couldn’t stay in there. I don’t know why.”
“It’s hard, to face a revelation like that. To hear someone’s last words. Especially when you’re not expecting it.” She placed a hand on my shoulder, surprisingly gentle. “She may have been-” the director started, then stopped and shook her head. “Nevermind.”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“No, tell me.”
She sighed. “I was going to say that Legion may have been lying, to try to manipulate you.”
I laughed, my voice still raw. “What would be the point? I’m no one.”
“You are someone,” the director said. “You’re Quinn Kaufman.”
“And who the fuck is that, huh? I’ve got nothing to offer anyone.” I wiped away a tear. “Even my own mom didn’t want to stay. Shows how much she loved me.”
Again, Shepard seemed to want to say something but didn’t. She just shook her head again, then said. “Quinn, I can’t speak for your mother, and I’ve only met you today. But from everything I’ve seen and heard of you, you’re an exemplary young person – you’re kind, clever, and brave. Everything we look for in a hero. It’s your choice what you want to do with your powers – the MLED can’t force you to use them. But if you want to join the Journeymen, we would love to have you.”