Saturday, May 23, 2020

Firestorm: Alexi Lanka (Part IX)

My name is Alexi Lanka. I’m a runner, I have anger issues, and today is the day that everything about my life changes. I’ve always known that my mother keeps secrets, but she runs a bank, so I figured she was an embezzler, or whatever. The reality of her insane life never occurred to me, because how could it? Who could have known she would turn out to be a time traveler? Or that I would be too?
“So.” My father smiles at the two of us as we’re sitting at the table, eating what I hoped would be a casual meal. He speaks in a surprisingly poor Russian accent. He grew up around North Americans, so he spent most of his life without it. Even his parents apparently worked hard to shed their original accents, which makes it strange that he would try to adopt it in honor of them after they died two years ago.
“So, what?” He’s gonna say something embarrassing for me.
“So, are you two officially an item?” he goes on.
“Yes, sir.” Cambria Buchanan, a.k.a. Agent Nanny Cam and I have been friends for years now. She was a racer at one point as well, but now she’s a streaming drone operator. The woman actually paid a neurosurgeon to drill into her head and upgrade her brain with technology so she could be better at her job. I guess I’ve always loved her, even before we were together.
“You don’t have to call me that,” my father says to her. “We’re all friends here.”
“We are, aren’t we?” she asks rhetorically, with her own smile. It’s powerful enough to get me out of even the worst of my fits of rage. I better not do anything to screw this up. She’s gonna save me a lot of money in therapy expenses. “Then, can I call you dad?”
Mine is one of those cool fathers who never treats Gen Z-ers like us with disdain. He goes with the flow, and tries to understand people. I’ve never seen him angry my whole life. I don’t think he knows how. We couldn’t be more different. This comment from Cambria throws him off, which is unusual. “If you want. Are you getting married?”
“We’re thinking about it,” she answers. That’s misleading, though. She’s thinking about it, and I’m thinking about it, but we’re not thinking about it together, and we’re definitely not talking about it. I don’t know how long you have to wait before you propose, but I imagine the waiting period has to be measured in years, rather than months. That’s the kind of thing a real mother would be able to explain.
Dad smiles again, but my brain suddenly shifts. I’m thinking about something else, or trying to, at least. I can’t figure out what it is, but something is wrong. “Something is about to happen.”
“I’m sorry?” dad asks.
Cambria massages my arm. “What are you talking about?”
I can’t help but ignore them, even though I did register their responses. I stand up, and point into the living room. “There.”
They look over in plenty of time to witness three people magically appear on the other side of the sectional. One of them is my mother, and another is Slipstream of Tracer gang fame. I don’t know who the one in the middle is. My father stands up and takes one step forward. “Alexina,” he says. That may actually be anger. I know the two of them don’t get along, but he’s always been just as cool as ever when she’s around. He’s never uttered her name with such contempt.
“Rodion. This is your home,” mother says to him.
“Yes. And you promised never to do that in our son’s presence.”
“I didn’t mean to,” she says sincerely. It was an emergency. She got us out of a deadly situation, and I guess her...let’s them bosses decided she would bring us here.” She now turns to the third woman. “You need to go back for the others.”
“I can’t,” the woman replies. “If they don’t send me there, I can’t go.”
“It’s too late,” Slipstream chimes in. “Whatever that thing does, it did it to them. If we go back now, there’s no telling what we’ll find.”
“That agent had that thing just floating around in his closet,” mom began. “There’s no way it killed them. It would have killed him too, and he would have fought a hell of a lot harder to stop it.”
“What are we talking about?” Cambria, ever the curious one. She wasn’t going to let a little thing like the sudden realization that magic is real slow her down.
“It doesn’t matter,” dad says with his new tone that I’m not comfortable with. “You promised you would never do anything like this. You need to go.”
“Wait,” I argue. “The cat’s out of the bag. Now I know she’s a super...hmm. I feel like I can’t say hero, but does that mean you’re a villain?”
My mom looks at me with sadness. “There are no superheroes, or supervillains. That’s not what we use our powers for.”
“Speak for yourself,” Slipstream contends. She gestures towards the woman who was apparently responsible for bringing them here. “She’s a superhero. They literally call her the Savior of Earth.”
A savior,” the woman corrects. “It’s just a title.”
“Dad,” I say in the calming voice my therapist taught me to use on myself whenever I start getting upset. “I don’t know what kind of arrangement you and my mother had with each other, but it was broken, and it can’t be undone, so we just have to move forward from here. I can understand you believing it best to keep this stuff from me when I was younger, but whatever the whole truth is, I’m an adult now. You can’t really argue that anymore.”
“I must be going,” the Savior says, smacking her lips. “I don’t think they’re sending me back to that office, though. I’m goin’ somewhere else.”
“Thank you, Daria,” my mom says to her. “Stay safe.”
Daria disappears, and there’s a moment of tense silence.
“All right,” my father breaks the ice. “He was right about that cat. You might as well tell him the truth. You need to tell him everything, though. If you only go over the good parts, he’s gonna start thinking I was wrong to shut you out of our lives. I need him to know that you’re just as bad of a person as you always have been...except it’s for reasons he didn’t know until now.”
“Okay, Rodion,” she says dismissively. Again, they’ve definitely never been friendly since I can remember, but they’ve never talked to each other like this before.
And so my mother starts to tell me about what she is. She allows Cambria to listen in. Evidently, it’s against their internal policies to reveal themselves to the world, but not to individuals, so this is all okay. She tells us about choosing ones and salmon, and the powers that be, and this special quasi-omnipotent family called the Prestons. She says that she’s also in her own special class called the Springfield Nine, which were turned into people with time powers as kids, rather than being born this way. I asked if I could do what she does, but she doubts it. If I haven’t discovered my ability by now, I probably don’t have one. It would be like going through puberty in your forties. She also tells me the bad things, as she promised. My dad doesn’t hate her because of what she is, and didn’t shield me from her because of it. She used her power for her own gain, and that of her friends. She screwed people over, and ruined their lives. She took power where it didn’t belong to her, and she never once helped an innocent person.
She’s not a teleporter, like the woman who brought her and Slipstream here. She’s clairvoyant, which means she knows things about the past, present, and future. She doesn’t actually see what’s going to happen, but the feelings she gets can guide her to the right choices. Well, not necessarily the right choices, but the choices she wants. In the past, she has used her gifts for financial gain, and to maintain all that power. She’s reportedly trying to become a better person, but of course, it’s really easy for her to say that now that I know more about her life. In the end, I hug her, because my father was wrong. Getting to know my mother was all I ever wanted, and I have to assume she does truly want to change, because if no one believes in her—if I don’t believe in her—she’ll quickly lose faith in herself, and that will just prove everyone right about her. I know what it’s like to see almost everyone give up on you. I’m certainly not going to let anyone else feel like that if I can help it.
My father makes the gracious decision to let her stay the night with us. She says there are some dangerous people out there, and she wants to protect us. Cambria stays over too. After Slipstream goes out to look for their friends, she returns, and stays as well. Nothing against my mother, but Slip is the true protector here, and she doesn’t even need superpowers to do it.
I awaken to loud arguing in the morning, and rush downstairs to find out what’s going on.
“I know you have the Omega Gyroscope now, because I tracked it here!” a man is screaming at my mother. “Don’t make me go back and create a new timeline! I still got Ophir on speed dial. How’s your relationship with him these days?”
“What’s going on here!” I scream at him, defending my mother. “Who the hell are you?” I step in between the two of them.
The man who’s barged into our house regards me with such shock. “ Um. It’s a private conver—” His eyes start to droop, and his head gets real heavy. He tries desperately to remain in control.
“Get away from him, Alexi,” mom instructs.
“What’s happening to him?” I question.
“It’s a failsafe, in case you two ever met,” she answers cryptically.
“Who is he?” the man demands to know, indicating me. “I feel something here. He looks so familiar. Let me go so I can—I can figure this out.”
“No. I’ll die before I let you know one thing about him.”
“Why wouldn’t you want me to know him? Why do you care?” He’s about to keel over, but he protects himself by getting down on one knee.
“Volpsidia is one of the worst of us,” my mom begins, “but even she understands how dangerous you are. Your only hope now is to stop thinking about it. You understand? Psi put a bomb in your memory. If you don’t get the hell away from us right now, you’re literally gonna go insane. It’s the only way to stop you...unless you stop yourself. Get out now, and find someone who can erase your memory of today.”
“We have a pact,” the man argues. He slowly puts himself on the floor. “We can’t move against each other.”
“That pact was broken when Rothko showed back up,” she says to him. “Jesi broke it, and I’m glad she did, because her heroics have opened my eyes. I realized that I’m not much better than him...or you. The difference is I’m trying here. You can try as well, but you have to leave.”
Now on his back, he pulls his phone out of his pocket, and struggles to lift it up to his ear. He sounds like he’s approaching his last breath. “Ophir. Emergency exit. Get me to Tertius Valerius. Right now.” He disappears.
“Who was that?” I ask my mom.
She looks over to the kitchen, where Cambria and my father are. He’s somehow angrier than he was yesterday. Is this going to become a habit? “Don’t. When I said you needed to tell him everything, I didn’t mean that. We agreed to never talk about that.”
“Alexi’s in danger now. I stopped him this time, but if Jesi and I are the only ones who turned over a new leaf, that means he still has plenty of friends to help him. Alexi has to know what he’s up against.”
“What is it?” I ask. “Tell me.”
“I am your father!” my dad cries, as if I don’t already know that.
“He’s right,” mother says, turning to face me. She takes a deep breath. “He’s your real father. But he’s not your biological father.” I think I know what she’s gonna say, but then she adds a whole new level to this madness. “And I am not your biological mother. That man is named Jupiter Fury. He’s actually a Preston, but very few people know that. He and an...entity known as Effigy are your birth parents. I lied to you before. The chances of you not having some kind of temporal power...are negligible.”

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