Endless Possibilities


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Scene Title Endless Possibilities
Synopsis Richard Ray combats Jac Childs' world crushing problems with a couple of Slushos! and learned wisdom.
Date May 3, 2020

Eric Doyle Memorial Children's Library


It's a fine day to be outside. And enough people seem to agree. There's a light crowd, people walking from someplace to somewhere. Every now and then someone enters or leaves the library with or without books, alone or in small pairs.

Just aside of the entrance, Jac Childs sits alone on a retaining wall. Blue eyes that once would have watched the ebb and flow of traffic with keen and unashamed curiosity stare down at a small, rectangular device in her hands. It's been months since she'd had a cell phone, and while she didn't miss it, the device mostly holds her attention now.

Thumbs tap without haste to spell out words on the screen.

It takes about fifteen minutes before there’s a response.

It’s closer to forty minutes before he actually shows up, his Altum rolling nigh-silently up to the curb and parking there. The driver’s side door opens, and Richard steps out, moving to circle around and head for where the girl’s sitting on the wall.

There’s a slusho! in each hand, one blue, one red. An easy smile curves to his lips as he approaches, holding them up and raising both eyebrows over the edge of his shades.

“Pick one,” he offers amiably to Jac.

Feet touch the ground when Richard approaches, but Jac doesn't fully stand. She maintains a lean against the brick and mortar wall, allowing her to still half sit on it. She grins as he gets closer and holds up the treat. “Red.” The choice is made with a small amount of serious thought. It's an important choice, possibly even one of the most important ones she's likely to make today.

“Thanks,” she adds a beat after. At first it seems like a blanket response, as the teen takes the slusho. But her grin fades, and her shoulders slump with an unseen weight.

“I mean for everything.”

“Good choice,” Richard approves, passing the red over in a gloved hand before leaning against the wall next to her; bringing his own up to suck on the straw briefly, transparent plastic filling with blue. Releasing it, he looks down to her, a faint smile just-touching his lips.

“Least I can do,” he admits, “And I mean that. I could’ve done more, but I— let myself be sidelined. I won’t make that mistake again. Maybe all of this could have been prevented if I tried harder.”

“Maybe,” Jac says without commitment. She stares at the drink, fingers pinching the straw. There were too many unknown variables, and the wrong people seemed to know what those variables were. “I just… I didn't say it before. I was mad and hurt and…” Her shoulders rise and fall as words fail. Her teeth scrape along her lower lip and she looks aside for a moment.

“You did what you could.” The teen’s head turns toward Richard, but she stays looking down into her slusho. “It’s not…”

Jac takes a breath that should be steadying. It isn't. “It’s my fault what happened,” she continues, her voice thick with self directed anger. “Everything that happened. If I had listened to just about anyone… If I wasn't so stupid… Carolyn was right all this time, I am a gremlin.”

“How is it your fault?” Richard breathes out a rough snort, “Just because your old man turned out to have ‘bad decision making’ as a secret extra power that nobody knew about? Look, kiddo…”

He shakes his head slowly, “Monroe was outmaneuvered from the start. I wanted to warn him, but by the time I found out, it was too late— there was no way I could’ve gotten to him, gotten him to listen to me. Mazdak operates the way I used to, and it took me way too damn long to realize we were being outplayed by the Ray playbook.”

“But none of it was your fault.”

“Because if I hadn't gone there,” Jac starts to argue. Richard’s huff cuts off anything further she might have said on that, at least while he explains his point of view. She looks away as he finishes, the hand holding the straw moving to rub at her face.

“I never should've…” The teen turns a little further away to hide the tears stinging her eyes. “I believed him. That what I did would be the right thing. I didn't… I never knew about the rest.” That fact stings almost as much as recognizing she's the monster her former adoptive family had labeled her as. Fingers press hard against her forehead as she stares beyond the sidewalk.

“I messed up. And I'll never be able to fix it.”

“Hey.” Richard looks over to her with a sympathetic expression, “If you hadn’t gone, he would have… figured out some other way to do what he thought he needed to. And he wasn’t— look, he wasn’t wrong, the Entity was a threat, and needed to be taken care of.”

A heavy breath’s exhaled, his head shaking, “He just— wasn’t willing to trust the right people, and he did trust the wrong people.”

He takes a slurp of his slush, and then looks back, asking softly, “What do you think you need to ‘fix’, and for who?”

“I could have stopped him.” She never tried to stop him; her world had become reaching for the unattainable mark of Adam’s expectations. Jac rubs her sleeve across her eyes and finally looks up at Richard again. “I just… I wanted him to be proud. I wanted…” Everyone to be proud.

The girl shakes her head instead of finishing the thought out loud. Her knees bend, and she slides down the wall to sit on the pavement. “I messed up,” she repeats. “I lost almost everything because of it, probably won't have another chance ever.”

“No you couldn’t have,” says Richard firmly, “Monroe was determined to follow his path through to the end, Jac— hell, even if you’d killed him to try and stop him, there still would’ve been a dozen or two more of him out there. And he was your father, Jac…”

Softer, “We all want to make our fathers proud, even if we never knew them. You can’t blame yourself for that.”

Shlrrrup goes the slush, and then he looks down to her, “You still have the Lighthouse kids, right? And your aunt’s in jail but she should be getting out eventually. Barbara’s somewhere in the city, I think? You haven’t lost everything.”

“Great I have people to mooch off for the rest of my life.” Jac’s love and loyalty for her friends and family remains unquestionable, she's likely to do anything for any one of them without hesitation. But a bleakness exists. “Just what I want for them, being stuck with me without any prospects.”

A long drink is finally taken from the slush she'd asked for. But after the teen sets the cup in the ground beside her hip. Arms drape over her knees and she sighs.

“I didn't…” Her jaw works to find words and explain the miseries of her choices, why she's the worst person and at fault. A breath leaves her instead of words. Jac turns a sad and sorry look up to Richard. “You're better than he was.”

“Heh.” Richard’s head tilts back, looking up at the sky with a wistful expression, “I hope so. I’m not so sure about that, some days…”

He trails off, and then he looks down to her again, offering a faint smile, “And you’re not without any prospects. And you’re not going to be a mooch for all of your life either. What kind of terms did they let you go on?”

Problem solving. That he can do.

“I don't…” Jac begins, but then stops herself with a sigh. “They asked a lot of questions and…” She lifts a shoulder. Now she's home. “Not that it matters. I… I lost every opportunity I had before.” A sad resignation rises on her words this time, and she shrugs again as she says it. “Just because… how I was involved in things. Even though I didn't know anything. They won't ever trust me.”

“Who won’t? The government? I mean, shit, they don’t trust me either,” notes Richard, a single eyebrow raising as he looks down at her, motioning with his cup of slush through the air, “If you think they’re the only opportunities there are in the world, you’re not looking with a wide enough lens, kiddo.”

“But that’s where I wanted to be,” Jac sighs. It’s where she never expected to go. Her knees come up, arms folding on top to be sandwiched beneath her chin. Now that it might be gone forever, what else is there? The sidewalk holds few answers — although it conceals the simplest and most temporary solution, she knows running away would only make things worse — so eventually she looks up at Richard. “What else is there?”

“Please. The government’s response to all this was to start developing a bioweapon that they planned to release globally and that would ‘only’ target Adam’s genes… I don’t know if anyone thought about the fact that someone who’s a thousand fucking years old probably has family lines throughout the world,” Richard snorts sharply, “I don’t trust the government more than I can see them right now. You give anyone power over others and they abuse it, every single time..”

He brings his Slusho! back up to his lips to slurp from it again, then motions with his hand, “The private sector’s full of opportunities, kiddo. Just got to decide what you want to do with your life. I mean, with all the training you got, you’d be damn good in a security or bounty hunting line of work - you could even look at Wolfhound or somewhere similar when you’re a few years older. Your ability would make you an amazing fireman, too, for another example. There’s endless possibilities.”

A frown finds its way into Jac’s expression. Some small desire to defend the governmental agencies and the work they did remains, but something from what Richard says keeps her from speaking up. There's a lot more that she doesn't know and she should listen to those who seem to know more. It's the lesson she'd learned the hard way once already.

The girl sighs instead and wallows in the idea of the private sector. “Hours a day practicing swords. Could you really see me being a bounty hunter or security?” She raises her arms. She's developed muscular tone from all of her training, but she's still small and skinny.

Her arms drop, one curled over her knees, the other plays with her Slusho cup. What about, “Raytech?” It's hesitant with an assumption she'd ruined her chances there, too. “I mean just… just until I know what I want,” Jac adds in a rush, in case it matters.

“I seem to recall that our interning program is still open,” Richard observes, the hint of a smile tugging up at the corner of his lips as he looks down to her, “I could put in a good word… and as you recall, those can be voluntarily left if you find something more interesting.”

Then he chuckles, “And you’re young still. You have no idea what doors might open for you— hell, you should’ve seen Claire when she was just out of high school. You think she looked like a muscular badass back then? Nah. Li’l slip of a teenager…”

“As long as I stay out of more trouble,” Jac adds. A sad edge remains in her voice, but there's a wry lilt to her tone and she makes a small effort to grin. It works for a little bit, since she has no idea who Claire is. After a breath, she shakes her head then takes a drink of her slush.

After, the teen lowers the cup and lifts her eyes to Richard. “Thank you.”

“I don’t expect you to stay out of trouble forever,” notes Richard dryly, “Although maybe next time, pick some trouble a little smaller to get into than ‘attacking an American city with a fleet of combat vessels’. I mean, I know you’ve got ambition, but maybe wait until you’re older before you do that one again.” He winks.

He reaches over to ruffle her hair, smiling, “No problem at all, kiddo.”

“I didn't attack a whole city,” Jac says defensively. “It wasn't even part of a city, it was just…” She breaks off with a sigh. Not like it matters anyway what she was doing. She huffs and then changes the subject with a question. “What will I do at Raytech while I'm there?”

“I think the city might disagree,” Richard points out, and then he takes a slurp of the slush before motioning with it, “Same thing as before, really. Help out, observe, get some on the job training depending on what you’re interested in. We could probably get you a commercial license for your powers pretty quickly; as a mosaic, even an artificial one, you’d be in high demand.”

A pause, “Regardless what you do with your life, I’m going to want you in for occasional medical checks. I know you seem stable, but I want to make sure, okay?”

“What about your job?” Jac asks, after a pause long enough to give her expressed opinion on medical checks. It’s really just a shrug and shake of her head, but neither are an actual refusal of the request. She sips her slush, looking up at Richard from a mop of red hair, blue eyes giving the impression of raised brows to match. “Not your job-job, but what else you do.” You know, like the semi-secretive stuff that got them to Sunspot, and found more about Cindy.

The question brings a laugh, and Richard pushes off the low wall. “I’m pretty sure you and the rest of Gillian’s kids are already in that line of work,” he notes with a hint of amusement, “But I can give you some pointers if you’d like - although it turns out I’m rusty.”

He jerks his head a bit to the car, “C’mon. Let’s go grab some lunch or something, eh?”

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