(576 years after the Great Plague)
She stared at the page, expecting the words to drink up their coffee, put on their best clothes and then show up on the page. But they didn’t. With a sigh that carried all kinds of stories of its own within it, Katherine pushed herself away from the typewriter, away from the desk and began pacing around the room.
She hated the moments like this, when the words were wrapped up inside their cosy little blankets and refusing to emerge from their bedrooms. An eye of hers drifted lazily to the bin inside which several crumpled drafts were already settling down and considering how best to spend the rest of the day.
She walked over to the window and looked outside. It sometimes worked for her; a non-committal gaze upon the bustle in the street outside her apartment occasionally had the effect of kick-starting her temporarily stemmed writing juices. Or, even if that didn’t eventually happen, some incident would occasionally take place outside and she would jump in and lend a helping hand.
“Come on, Katherine, think, think!” she muttered to herself.
Not all Supers grew up with good intentions or altruistic ambitions. And the ones who did were often called upon to help save the city from the ones who didn’t. Katherine was one of those who readily answered the call.
And then, just like that, a sentence popped into her head. She silently whooped for joy before running back to the typewriter and continuing where she’d left off.
“The only aspect of Freddy Fantom’s performance that was not as flat as a washing board was perhaps his expertly coiffed hair, which somehow managed to out-express him in almost every scene he appeared in…”
Katherine had been a journalist for a couple of years now. She currently wrote articles in the Entertainment section of the Weekly Nex, one of the top two magazines distributed across the city. The articles covered a surprisingly large scope, from reviews of stage plays to interviews with novelists to even the occasional coverage of Super-on-Super battles that sometimes took place in the city, depending on the circumstances.
She liked the articles like this one the most; the ones that she could write at home, in her most comfortable environs, with a cup of coffee and a sofa always within reach for those moments that anxiously called for them. Plus, it meant that she could be dressed down, which was always infinitely preferable to the work outfits she was expected to wear while at the publishing house. Not that they were unbearable, not for someone like her for whom clothes were rarely an issue to fit into, but nothing quite beat a loose fitting shirt and pants that wore her more than she wore them.
“The prop work was, as expected of a master of Henri Holloway’s calibre, absolutely breathtaking. A notable highlight was a scene that took place on a ship during a storm. The thunder was so tremendous and booming that I almost expected the roof of the building to crumble from its sheer force…”
And then she heard the tell-tale whiff of air, the slamming of the front door to the little apartment, the whir of the curtains as the other current occupant of the apartment came home.
Before she could so much as get out of her chair though, Kenneth had opened the door to her room and was standing in front of her with an almost blinding smile on his face.
“Kenneth, I might have been indecent!” chided Katherine gently, “How many times have I told you to knock – “
“I did it, Katherine! I did it!” said Kenneth, clearly unable to contain himself. Or, apparently, to listen to her.
“Did what?” Katherine’s slightly thick eyebrows narrowed suspiciously.
“I signed up for the Crusades! Officially and everything!”
Katherine’s mouth was slightly open. Not entirely sure of how she really wanted to react to the news, she settled for hugging Kenneth.
“That’s… wow, you did it!”
“Yes! It was… I don’t know how to describe it, but I felt so great afterwards!”
“Well, this calls for some coffee and a long conversation, I think,” said Katherine, heading over to the coffee pot, “and I want to hear every detail of what you did. Everything, you hear me?”
Kenneth didn’t actually drink coffee though; he was a tea person by necessity. His ability, when he had finally developed it, was super speed. If he had tried to, he could have run the whole perimeter of Nexus City, probably the largest city in all of Entropea, in a matter of minutes. The version of him that was still in his teens certainly would have tried. But after entering his twenties, Kenneth had managed to shed himself of his more egotistical impulses.
Needless to say though, coffee had some unwanted side-effects on his ability-enhanced motor functions.
After finishing his account of his day’s events, Kenneth sat back in his chair before adding, “I thought you’d be happier,” a little petulantly.
“I thought I would be too, little brother,” said Katherine, looking at the bottom of her empty coffee cup, “I guess it’s a lot to process all at once. And you said training starts next week?”
“General training, yes,” said Kenneth, taking another sip of tea, “The stuff with weapons training and survival and things. Apparently they’ll also set up a training regimen built around my speed abilities, Katherine! The anticipation is driving me crazy!”
“I imagine it would,” agreed Katherine, “The parents won’t be too thrilled about this though. Well, Konrad might appreciate it a bit, but Helena certainly won’t!”
“Yes, I don’t look forward to telling them the news,” said Kenneth, looking at a painting on the wall with an expression that clearly showed his mind wasn’t processing the painting at all whatsoever.
“It’s crazy though, isn’t it?” said Katherine, bizarrely chuckling to herself, “Not everyone holds on to the dreams they had growing up. Some people choose not to, and others don’t have a choice. And here you are! It’s just…”
She squeezed Kenneth’s hand warmly.
“…I expected your dreams to change too, I guess. And now that they haven’t, I don’t really know what to feel. I am happy for you though, Kenneth. Believe me, I am. This is a big moment for you!”
“Are you upset that you won’t be able to babysit me while I’m all the way in Mortanny?” asked Kenneth in a half-joking tone of voice, the kind of voice that was pretty sure that what it was saying was funny and absurd but couldn’t nudge away the uncomfortable feeling that it also might be true.
“Please!” snorted Katherine, refilling her coffee, “Although, now that you mention it…”
Kenneth immediately stood up in his chair.
“No, no, NO!” he almost yelled, “I am a fully grown man with abilities, Katherine; you don’t have to keep mothering me! I can look after myself perfectly well!”
“You’ve been able to look after yourself for years now, Kenneth, relax!” said Katherine, still in her chair, “I know this, Konrad knows this and even Helena will grudgingly admit it if you press her. I’m not entertaining the idea because of you!”
Kenneth’s outrage was temporarily confused, like a chicken on the verge of crossing the road but suddenly forgetting the reason why.
“You know I’ve always had your back since we were children and, well, I like being there if you need me, you know?” began Katherine, “I’d be worried and anxious and not able to do any proper work if I only had the occasional letter from you to know how you’re doing. If I was out there in Mortanny with you, though, I’d feel a lot better knowing I could be there a lot faster if you needed me.”
“I won’t need you, Katherine, I’ll be with a whole platoon of other Supers, trained Supers!” said Kenneth, sitting down again with a huff, “I’m pretty sure that if there’s something I can’t handle, if there is, somebody else there will know how to take care of it.”
“But they don’t know you like I do though,” pointed out Katherine, “Besides, wouldn’t you like a friendly face out there while you’re fighting against Zombies and who knows what else?”
“I’m capable of making new friends, Katherine,” said Kenneth almost bitingly, “I already made two at the recruitment centre today, don’t you remember? Anthony and Oliver? The energy beam guy and the Dudder?”
“Yeah, doesn’t he worry you though, the Dudder?” asked Katherine, “He almost sounds suicidal, going up against the Zombie hordes without any abilities.”
“Oliver doesn’t need abilities, he looks like a pretty smart guy – you should have heard him talking about tactics,” said Kenneth, “Plus, he’s already a better fighter than me, he showed me some really cool close-combat moves – anyway, never mind him! The point is, I’ve already got friends, and I’ll be trained to handle myself out there, so I don’t need you hovering around me like some overprotective babysitter!”
“I won’t be hovering around you, Kenneth,” said Katherine, trying to placate him, “I’m pretty sure they’ll give me enough to do so I won’t even have the time to – “
“No, you’ll find a way, I just know it, I know you!” said Kenneth, now back on his feet again, “For once in your life, I wish you’d just let me do things by myself and deal with the consequences instead of always swooping in to save me. Even when I don’t need saving!”
Katherine began to object again but Kenneth held up his hands.
“I can’t take any more of this, I’m going to my room to prepare myself and I want you to leave me alone while I do this.”
And he zipped out of there in a whirl before Katherine could say another word, a door in the distance slamming shut almost instantaneously.
She knew better than to follow, so she simply walked back to her room, sat down in her chair and began to more seriously contemplate the idea of joining the Crusades along with Kenneth. There was no question as to whether her abilities would be useful in a fight; she’d been in enough of them just on the street outside to know the military would gladly appreciate her polymorphing powers and the slight regenerative abilities that came with it. With more training, that is.
The issue wasn’t really if the Crusades needed her, it was more if she needed the Crusades.
She looked at the typewriter on her desk, the paper she had just starting typing on gently flapping out of its head. She had a good thing going with the Weekly Nex, and the people there liked working with her just as much as she liked working with them. Sure, there were some dull days, and the entertainment in the city wasn’t always at its most exciting peak, but what job didn’t have its dull moments? Even the Crusades probably had days where the soldiers weren’t constantly out fighting or defending their posts from the Zombies. Right?
Her eyes drifted from the typewriter to the framed picture of her parents that stood proudly beside it. Even now, she thought she could see the disapproval and concern in their eyes. No parent in their right state of mind would ever assent to their children going off to fight a war that had been raging for centuries with no glimpses of victory in sight and barely enough progress to justify its continued existence.
She wondered if Kenneth would tell them. She actually wondered more about the how of it than the if. Would he simply send them a letter, so that he wouldn’t have to confront their saddened faces? Or would he actually meet them face to face, zipping away as he was wont to do if the situation became too much for him to handle? Or would he simply go off without telling them, and she would have to be the bearer of the bad news?
Then again, as Kenneth loved to remind her, they were adults now, more than responsible for their own lives and their own choices. It had been a long time since Konrad and Helena Kenway had been a necessary consultation for life-changing decisions. It had been an even longer time since she had wanted them to be one. More so for Kenneth.
The sun was beginning to droop back into the horizon outside. The light was slowly changing into that cheddar-coloured tone that was so emblematic of the evenings at this time of the year. Not that the people in the streets cared; life in the city continued to hustle and bustle regardless of whether it was day or night.
When about five minutes’ worth of self-reflection in the couch had produced nothing but a series of questions and doubts, she decided that maybe she should get back to the article for the Weekly Nex; as was so often the case with the creative sparks that struck her while writing, maybe the decision she wanted to make would just strike her out of the blue while she was doing something completely unrelated.