America climbed into the trunk of a car. Nothing strange about that! Well perhaps on the litmus test of weird and wild in the life of America Anders, climbing into the trunk of a car after a long day no longer stacked up.
The trunk leads home. Home, such as it was these days. With a sigh, America slips off her runners and quietly pads through the living space towards the kitchen. She withdraws a glass from the cupboard and conjures water via tap, guzzling it down hastily before refilling the glass. Turning and leaning against the counter, America runs her tongue across her lips and stares pensively at nothing.
The young woman had been through much the same roller coaster as any other member of this odd-ball cabal she’d found herself part of. Despite the shared experiences, America finds herself feeling lonely. She’d been seeking solace in the arms of an older woman, in whose trust she had placed something she had longed for her entire life – a Mother. America had just returned from delivering Sapphira to Eleanor. Sapphira was her Mother – but also she was most certainly not her Mother. Sapphira was supposed to be dead.
The strange alternate universe that had, it seems, been entirely generated and focused around America’s hopes and dreams, had resurrected the Nephandi nightmare who had tormented and poisoned America. Yet as true as it was that Sapphira was a monster and that she had died- as real as it was that America was adopted and had never known her Mother, it was irrefutably true that Sapphira was real, Sapphira was alive, Sapphira was America Anders’ Mother.
The confusion played across America’s face until the tornado of thought was stilled. There, within the eye of the storm, America was reminded of something. America Anders knew her Father.
Will has been reclusive since the chantry’s collision. More so than usual. With Jahan gone, most likely lost to them, the cabal’s only remaining Virtual Adept has spent most of his waking hours buried in his work. His sentient computer, Gabe, survived its tumble, and with its help, Will is gathering and collating as much information on the network as he possibly can. He’s been accessing his contacts within his own Tradition to discreetly get as much historical knowledge as he can — the Hermetics no doubt have huge libraries at their disposal, better-indexed, but he has all but refused to have anything further to do with Mountjoy and his chantry. And he’s been working well into the evenings, jacked into the Digital Web with his mentor in order to bounce theories and information off her and practice his own rotes in a largely Paradox-free environment.
So this makes it somewhat remarkable that he emerges during daylight hours, carrying an empty plate as he pads barefoot down the three stairs from the upper level into the kitchen. He hesitates just inside the room when he sees America already here, then proceeds to the dishwasher anyway. “I thought I heard someone come in.” His tone is civil, at least.
The young woman is lost in thought and doesn’t notice Will Harrison enter the room at first. She was putting the pieces together; it all made sense! James McAvoy had saved America, given her a new heart when Sapphira had burned her old heart away with poison from a nipple. America shivered at the thought of that. That’s some family drama. But that wasn’t her Mother, that was someone else. Why did James spare her, if that wasn’t her Father? Were these people always her birth parents? Maybe they didn’t know! Maybe James didn’t know Sapphira had a daughter and Sapphira just wasn’t ready to be responsible? She had such a tortured life! Maybe if James only knew that he had a daughter he’d be looking for her!
America’s head was spinning when Will spoke. She looked up, lips pursed, eyes watery from the emotions of her internal discussion.
“W-what?” she stammered in beginning. After a moment, her defensiveness kicked in. She fixed her posture and began pouring more water. “Uh, yeah. Yes. I mean yeah I just came in. What time is it? I thought you only came out at night, Harrison?” America said.
He stares at America for a minute, perceptive enough to catch the look on her face before she can smooth it away and attempt to return to the usual chill between them. “Some of us have shit to do,” Will replies blandly, closing his dirty dishes inside the dishwasher and turning to face her again.
This is likely the first time she’s properly seen him by light of day in weeks, and he looks profoundly exhausted. Then again, he’s been in a near-perpetual state of unhealthiness of one kind or another since she joined the cabal, so maybe that’s unremarkable. Maybe it’s his sheer bone-tiredness that stops him before he just stalks back out of the room, or makes some scathing comment about the face she was making when he came in. Maybe it’s just the thought that losing one member of their cabal in the past month was enough. “Is something up?”
The glass clinks on the counter as it is put down. America sighs. Will Harrison is hardly the person she’d normally confide in. Often she’d not confide in anyone. America is often the strong silent type.
With all that’s being going on in their lives, she questions whether her problems are important. Heck, America is questioning the reality of her problems altogether!
“I was adopted,” she confesses. She gives Will a sour look. She had been teased so often about it that she just grew up with that knee-jerk reaction.
“I never knew my Mother, my Father. But – Well – I-.” she takes a breath. “I know, now. I-I want to find my Father!”
Will has a profound non-reaction at the news she was adopted. Internally, he’s like, what, is she standing here almost crying as she reflects on that fact? Is she not over it yet? But he keeps all that inside.
He blinks, though, when she moves to her main point. Curiosity gets the better of him. “You found out who they were- are? How?”
America crosses her arms and leans back against the counter. She’s actually talking to Will Harrison. Huh.
“I don’t know how much you heard about- well I really got no idea how to explain it. Have you read Crisis on Infinite Earths?” she asks, straight-faced.
In return, Will just gives her this incredulous look. “You’ve read Crisis on Infinite Earths?” That’s probably a yes.
Not surprisingly, America retorts, “Whatever, Harrison! You think all I can do is run around, throw good, catch a ball, and look pretty?”
She straightens up against the counter, but then shrugs and looks to the fridge, fidgeting with the magnets. “I like comics, yeah. The pictures make it simple for my bimbo brain,” she jokes, sticking her tongue out at Will.
“So. Ya. Infinite Earths. Alternate universes. Well I’ve been to one. I’m – from one? I’m not really sure. I’ve been in two places at once, two realities. I never knew my birth parents, but in this other reality. I – We were together.”
America sighs and wipes away watering eyes. “We were so happy. I had parents. I have parents. I don’t know how, or why, but they weren’t at all what I expected. You uh, you’ve met them.”
Maybe he should have known, when America brought up the comic book, that this was where this was going. It’s been quite some time since Davey, America, and Sonia came back from that alternate universe, and since Will was blatantly dismissive of the thought that a Nephandus and a Technocrat might be America’s ‘real’ parents. The two of them don’t talk often — he’d kind of hoped that she was over it.
“This again?” Will rubs his face, sounding exasperated. “You’re talking about a Technocrat and an allegedly ex-Nephandus.” The sheer ludicrousness of all this has successfully distracted him from her attempts to bait him into their usual sniping back and forth, although if he carries on in this tone of voice that may not last.
“I know!” America cries out, joining Will’s growing unrest. “Don’t you think I know how it all sounds, Will!?”
America turns away from him and takes a deep breath. She does a few shoulder exercises, shakes out her arms, and moves her head about her neck to unwind. The girl turns to face the cabal member (not leader!) that she’s found her life strapped to. “Look – you’re a genius or something, you get the concept of alternate realities: one single decision, one choice made, and bam! Alternate dimension. Free will, baby.”
She steps closer to Will and puts her hand against the fridge, looming. Her free hand runs through her dark hair. “One choice led me to the Cauls, it could have led Mom- Sapphira there. We don’t know when she became a Nephandus and she found me before I met any of you and she – okay! Okay! After she got to me and whatever happened, James saved me! James built me a heart and he didn’t hand me over to those suits. He protected me. Sapphira sought me out. Maybe the decision to give me up for adoption here wasn’t the choice that was made there?”
Will’s still a bit edgy about his personal space, although he really always was around America. Although he doesn’t backpedal as dramatically as he used to, tension flickers through him when she moves nearer. “I’m actually just literally a genius,” he mutters, but otherwise he’s silent for a minute, turning her hypothesis over in his mind.
“Jahan met McAvoy.” There’s a tightness in his throat at just the memory of his best friend-turned-Marauder. “I have too. You can’t trust Technocrats, Anders. They play the long game — especially with technomancers like us. They reel us in by showing us how much we’ve got in common, or by reminding us we were part of the Union once. They want to convert us because they know we’re their number one competition for control over the Consensus. I mean, Xifeng Lin literally helped ”/characters/matt-coronas" class=“wiki-content-link”>Matt save me from- .. from that church, but I’m not reading all kinds of crazy shit into it. She doesn’t want to be my friend, let alone my family."
The young woman’s mouth opens to protest, but she pauses and settles back against the counter again, crossing her arms beneath her bust to hug herself about the waist. “Maybe,” she admits, “I don’t know if he’s always been my Dad or if that was just the universe playing tricks on me. I don’t know what to believe.” Her voice cracks as her mood shifts from the optimism of how things were in the superstar universe to one more appropriate for this reality. “I never got to know my parents. If I can just – if he can just explain why. If he’s really my Dad, he can tell me why he didn’t want me,” America says, looking back at Will.
“I’ve been visiting Sapphira, but she’s not really able to explain things. I don’t understand what’s going on but there’s a real chance these are my parents. I just want to know them. I just want to talk to my parents. I- I guess that sounds ridiculous,” she trails off.
“If he’s not really your dad, then all you’ve done is given a Technocrat an angle on you, to manipulate you.” There was a time, a little under a year ago, when Will didn’t feel it was necessary to think this way. “They can hide mind rotes in text, or even hook you over the phone with frequencies we can’t hear or subliminal messaging. There isn’t really any safe way to speak to him alone.” But America would know that Will intervened in someone else’s attempts to speak to a Technocrat; ‘sanitized’ the conversations somehow…
Will gets quiet, though, a pensive frown tugging at his lips. He feels weird. After a second or two, he realizes it’s because it’s a profoundly unfamiliar sensation to feel empathy for America Anders of all people. Softly, flatly, he replies, “That’s the only part that isn’t ridiculous.”
America nods and looks Will Harrison in the eye. “Yeah. I know you’ve been learning about your Mom. I- I just want to know about my parents. It makes sense that if these are my parents in the alternate universe, they really could be my parents in this one. Things just went wrong, maybe. It seems like the whole world is more wrong than right,” she reasons.
America’s eyes narrow and she purses her lips, contemplating. “Listen, I’m not gonna let this go. I-I can’t. Don’t ask me to and- and don’t tell anyone else. Please.” she pleads. “I know you hate me and I’m not Jahan,” she pauses, her face turning even more towards a frown, “I’m so sorry about Jahan. I just- I mean I know I’m nobody around here. I’m not really part of the crew. I’m not really part of anything. But you stopped the Technocratic white noise going on when Jahan needed you to, and it can be done again!”
There are so many times now when Will could have learned about his mother and the opportunity was snatched away from him. Wrong place at the wrong time. Spirits possessing his cabalmates. Masters of Time who can’t even adequately communicate with him. He thinks about these things as he looks at America, his arms folding tightly across his chest, but he doesn’t say a thing about Gabrielle.
“You’re part of the cabal.” It sounds like it pains him to admit it, but it’s likely one of the first times he’s done so out loud. “I don’t like you, but you’ve kept everyone else safe a bunch of times, so…” Will shrugs. That’s about as close to an olive branch as the Virtual Adept gets, apparently. “Look, what are you hoping- I mean, how do you think you’ll get a hold of him? You want to what, e-mail him? Call him up on the phone?” For once, there’s no trace of sarcasm in his tone. “What exactly are you asking for?”
America straightens up and shifts her weight from one hip the other and back again, suddenly feeling the haze of depression wearing off and productive urges flaring. “I only just started thinking about Dad as I visiting Mom this morning,” she says, slipping into referring to James and Sapphira like their AU counterparts. “I really don’t know. I mean I know how dangerous they can be. They came looking for real trouble on a Tuesday and I’m not into bringing any more trouble to the cabal.” America emphasizes cabal as acceptance of what Harrison had said.
“I figure if I send him an email, he could just as likely get the suit parade ready with their frowning faces and huge murder lasers as he is to just reply to me. I don’t even really know if he remembers anything that happened!” America exclaims and spreads her arms out. Then she brings them together with a clap of her hands. “I want to see him,” she states. “I- I mean maybe the phone is safest, I don’t know if they watch his house or anything, but – but if we could figure out where he lives, away from the Technocrats, that might work. Maybe if he just sees me. If he sees that I’m – I dunno, if he sees me he might remember,” she concludes and bites her lower lip, scanning the Virtual Adept’s face for feedback.
Will looks down at his feet with a dubious frown. “Face to face. That’s not really my area of expertise. The phone would be a lot safer. I’d be able to make it untraceable, fritz any effects he tries to send over the line, and we could just hang up if it started to seem like we were in trouble…” Sure, he can just teleport away to safety these days if he’s willing to risk the Debugging that follows, but he can’t take anyone with him yet. “Look, I can only assume that if I don’t help you with this, you’re just gonna stick your nose in it anyway…” Lifting his pale eyes to her face, he lets out a sigh. “I’ll see what I can do. Maybe not his house — I know he’s got a wife, and that could get really messy. But somewhere public? What if I was able to find out where he stops for coffee every morning or whatever?”
America’s brown eyes light up and she smiles wide. “Oh that’d be great! Yes!” she beams in earnest. It is not a look she’s worn much, most certainly not around Will Harrison of all people. “Yes! He – he could see me in the morning and maybe he’d want to talk. Oh please I hope he wants to talk to me!” she gabs on without a filter.
After a moment, the young woman blushes bright and straightens herself out. “So uh, how are we gonna track him down, anyway?”
Honestly, Will isn’t so sure anything will come of this at all. “If – and I mean if – I can find him, you shouldn’t go alone. Just in case it doesn’t go the way you’re hoping.” He hesitates, clearly reluctant, and then adds, “Since you don’t want anyone else to know, I could tag along but stay out of the way, unless there’s trouble. If you want.” He unfolds his arms and winds his fingers together, cracking his knuckles. “Anyway. Don’t worry. Getting his contact info is way below my pay grade. Tracking his movements will be more of a challenge, but he’s a doctor. I bet he carries a pager. I can work with that. Gimme some time.”
Well this is certainly not what America expected. What had initially began as a complete feeling of isolation has turned into hope, a plan of action, and an adventure with the most unlikely of people. “Heh,” she snorts with a lop sided grin, “Brave and the Bold.”
“Yeah, alright, I’ve had enough weirdness happen lately that working with you on this doesn’t phase me,” America says. It isn’t like they haven’t fought together, but that was a lot more like ’We’re in the same place surviving together’ and a lot less like, ‘We are actually plotting to stalk alternate universe Daddy while he gets his morning coffee’ together. America squeaks and her eyes dart back and forth. So. Many. Questions. What will she ask him?! She scans her thoughts for the litany of answers she’s wanted and then realizes she’s going to need a bigger boat.
“I really don’t know what he’s going to say or do. I’ll need to get him sitting at a table. I need him to talk to me,” she says, the tone in her voice quite serious. Not prone to violence, America decides not to contemplate deeply at the moment what she might do if James McAvoy doesn’t talk to her.
It’s going to take Will some time to fully get used to America making comic book jokes in his presence.
“That part of the plan is your job.” Will is starting to edge towards the stairs, where he no doubt left all manner of things unfinished — and now there’s another, urgent task on his plate. “Once I know where to find him, we’re not really on a timeline. I’ll find the place, then you pick the time, and in the meantime, I guess… try and decide what you’ll say to him.” There’s a funny look on his face at that. He can think of a ton of things he’d ask his mother if he suddenly had the opportunity to speak to her.