I gave a half-smile, “Sorry. There’s too much going on right now. In some ways, it’s mostly in my head because none of it’s hit the point where people are trying to kill me. I’m just worried it might hit that point sooner rather than later.”
He frowned, looking down and drawing a breath, “I never wanted this life for you, and if it weren’t your best chance to survive, I doubt Joe would have wanted it for you either. If you think about how our society’s decided to handle superheroes, it’s not the best thing we could have done. I understand why we’ve done it, but I don’t think it’s good either for the people doing it or for society as a whole.
“You’ve got a whole class of people encouraged to think of themselves as above the law and a society willing to ignore it until someone decides that they’ve gone too far. Then all of their friends are expected to help the government hunt them down. If they never go too far, they have to live a life where they hide the real purpose of their life from almost everyone around them. If they chose to live honestly, they risk either having their friends or loved ones get targeted by criminals or setting themselves apart from society by living in a compound.
“In a better world teenagers with powers wouldn’t be pressured to become part of paramilitary forces and you’d be creating the first generation of starships that the Alliance can’t find a way to forbid from leaving our solar system.”
He let out a long breath, “I know that’s not the question you asked, but I’ve always thought the system we now have is madness. I talked it over with Joe dozens of times over the years, and I think we agreed even if he had a more practical attitude than I do. From his point of view, it was a bad system, but it was the one we had and we had to live with it until we managed to turn it into something better.”
He stopped talking and turned to look at me, “I spent enough time teaching and doing anthropology to know that societies don’t automatically move to something better. They move to something that seems to fit that society’s needs—at least for a little while. If you want something better, you have to work to change it, and even then, there are no guarantees.”
Giving me a grin, he said, “But that still doesn’t answer your question—directly. It’s something we talked about, though. We really did go fishing when he said we went fishing, but that’s not all we did. He told me about his life and I listened, acting as an outside second opinion, sometimes a counselor, and sometimes a consultant. As a cultural anthropologist, I like to think I helped the League understand the Abominators and their servants.”
Letting him stop, I asked, “How did that happen? The League blocked my parents from noticing or even being able to think about the League.”
Grandpa’s face tightened and he stared out toward the lake before continuing, “I didn’t like that. It made no sense to me at first, but then I found out about everything the Mentalist saw in the future for the group and their grandchildren. Based on what he saw, they did what brought about the best chance for you all to survive. For reasons I don’t know, that meant that I needed to understand everything and have a minimal block, the kind that pushes me to avoid talking about what I know in public. Beyond that, I’m free.
“As to how it happened? It’s easy to explain. I happened to be studying Bedouin culture in the summer of 1971, trying to understand the effect of the end of their traditional, nomadic lifestyle on their culture. Because of that, I happened to be in Jordan when an archaeologist I knew uncovered Abominator artifacts and along with them a few Abominators in stasis. When they woke, I interviewed them and when they brought their human servants out of stasis, I was one of those that escaped and told the League.”
I stared at him. That story I’d heard, but not from him. Grandpa Vander Sloot told me about it as one of the events that lead up to fighting the Abominators, events that gave them a hint of what the Abominators were about before everything went crazy.
“I had no idea,” I said.
He nodded, “I hope you weren’t expecting any sort of major revelations when you came here. Everything I know is out of date and I’d like to keep it that way. I think that answers all of your questions.”
“Not the one about the guy that kidnapped my parents. Do you know anything about him?” I watched Grandpa’s face as he nodded and held up his index finger.
“One thing, and it’s something neither your mother and father registered even though the Mentalist saw it at once. When they kidnapped your parents, it wasn’t only by violence. They had someone with them that could command them not to escape or where to walk and they would simply listen. There was a human servant like that with the Abominators when I met them.”
“Dominators,” I said.
“Exactly,” Grandpa let out a long sigh. “The Mentalist looked and he couldn’t find evidence of tampering, but it did lead them to take special precautions with your parents.”