As I felt it, my mom opened her mouth to reply to my dad, hesitating, but then finally speaking, “We were kidnapped.”
Her words came quietly and slowly at first but then seeing that my dad was still listening, she talked more quickly, “We were leaving my office when three huge men in suits grabbed us and pushed us into a car. You tried to fight them, but you couldn’t hurt them and they were so strong that they had to be supers. They brought us to an old warehouse and kept us there for two days. On the second day, another man came to see. He was older and talked with a strange accent, but like the others, he was also a big man.”
Dad nodded, “I do remember that now. He started by saying nothing, just staring at both of us. When he did talk he started asking us questions about our ancestry. What countries were our ancestors from? What were their names? Did we ever dream of being… I think it was, ‘luminous beings in a great darkness?’ It didn’t make any sense to me at all.”
Letting out a breath, Mom said, “Yes. That’s exactly what he said and you asked him what kind of luminous being? An angel?”
Leaning in to look at Mom, he said, “Right. I was trying to keep him talking. The rest were supers and he was their boss. He had to be too and for all I knew he was going to try to turn us into them or sacrifice us to become one himself. I don’t know. But then he just said, ‘I don’t know,’ and he walked away.”
The two of them looked into each other’s eyes, my dad taking deep breaths, “I hadn’t thought about it in years, but it changed everything. We’d been dating on and off since my previous book, but after that, you wanted to move back to Grand Lake.”
Looking from one of them to the other, Haley asked, “How did you get away? Did they just let you go?”
My dad smiled, “No. They tied us up and shoved us into a big closet, but minutes later, maybe half an hour at most, the Rocket showed up and not just the Rocket. The Rhino, Mindstryke, the Mentalist, Ghostwoman, and Gunther. I think he was some kind of German super soldier who fought against the Nazis? All of those guys. It was around when the Rocket and Mentalist retired. I never understood why they were in New York or why they showed up for us, but I was grateful.”
I had an excellent idea of why they might have shown up. I didn’t have kids, but I felt sure I’d show up for them even if I were retired. What bothered me was the guy who’d shown up to ask questions. The three guys with him didn’t bother me so much.
Big guys weren’t rare in the superhuman community, but three big guys together? It sounded like the Cabal. Many of the Cabal’s main soldiers dated back to the Roman Empire or even earlier, so strange accents weren’t rare among them either, but I could think of one guy who looked older and used to work with the Cabal.
Unsure of how long it would be before Dad’s block kicked in, I considered asking Mom, but found myself looking Dad in the eye, “Did they catch the older guy? And what happened to the people that kidnapped you?”
Shaking his head, Dad said, “I don’t know. They ran away. The Rhino said it was a hard fight and I believe him. The building shook while they fought and when they brought us out, there were holes in the concrete floor and the roof, shattered walls, and it looked like someone threw a forklift. I can’t even guess what happened to the older man. I’ve never seen him again.”
I pulled out my phone, connected to a government database through the League’s connection, and downloaded a picture, expanding it to fill the screen. It showed a man with white and grey hair in a blue suit. The broad shoulders and thick arms hinted at strength. A bushy mustache covered most of his upper lip.
Holding the picture up, I asked, “Could this be the same man?”
Dad frowned, “It could be, but it’s been over twenty years.”
“Closer to twenty-five,” Mom stared at my phone and then over at my dad. “I don’t know. Who is that?”
Putting my phone back in my pocket, I said, “Martin Magnus. He was connected to the Cabal. The guys that kidnapped you sound kind of like Cabal soldiers.”
Smiling for the first time since this topic came up, Dad said, “You can see your grandfather in you there. He knew obscure facts about all of those people. Don’t worry about it. Whoever they were, I’ve never seen them since.” Then he stopped, “Well, except that Accelerando fought two Cabal members near my office the day they were all over the city, the same day the Executioner kidnapped your mom.”
He shook his head, “It doesn’t seem possible that the two events could be connected, but it’s a strange coincidence…”
Turning away from me to look at Mom, he said, “Do you remember when they found us? Gunther stared at us. I don’t know what he was looking for, but something about it felt strange. I don’t know why.”
We kept on talking after that, but my mind wasn’t on it. It kept on jumping back to advice I’d gotten separately from both Lee and Kee at different times. They’d told me that if I felt any hint that Artificers might be around, I shouldn’t do anything to attract their attention. On the most human and relatable end, that meant not acting scared. On the least human end, I needed to avoid using abilities that showed that I was connected to them.
At the same time, sometimes you had to take a chance. These were my parents. I knew we had a connection to the Cosmic Ghosts through Grandma Vander Sloot and that Lee had been watching my Grandpa Vander Sloot’s family for years before he appeared. If that weren’t enough, the Cosmic Ghosts were related to the Artificers. Knowing that, it wasn’t a surprise that the Cosmic Ghosts’ abilities were strong enough in Rachel that they’d asked her to come with them to be trained.
That strength had to come from somewhere, and knowing the basics of genetics, it might be both my parents.
Making use of the training Kee gave me, I opened up my mind to other energies, ones I didn’t yet have a name for and not for lack of asking. Kee wouldn’t say. Letting them in to me in a controlled trickle, I looked around the table.
Starting first with Haley, I saw nothing more than herself, glancing in my direction, guessing that I was doing something, but not knowing what. Across from Haley on the other side of the table, Mom poked her fork into her salad. Within her, I could see wispy lines that could have been a loose drawing of the human nervous system. It wasn’t much different from what I saw when I looked at myself in whatever space Kee and I used to communicate, but I was both bigger and brighter.
Dad, though? If I didn’t think much about it, I could have dismissed the shape I saw within him as being much like Mom except dimmer and smaller. When I looked closer, that wasn’t quite true. Though hard to see, all of the strands and tendrils within him had spots of brightness.
Closing my eyes for a moment, I could still see them all. Though it wasn’t visible when my eyes were open, even Haley had a small, dim, presence. Mom and Dad both stood out, being, despite their differences, luminous beings in the darkness.
I let the vision fade and opened my eyes, scooping more noodles and meatballs onto my plate.
Checking the windows behind him, Dad said, “Did anyone else feel that breeze? I think it might be cooling down outside.”