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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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---

Thank you to the folks who contributed to this week's ChipIn! Here is your bonus episode!


Truth Is Just Like Time

"Ira!" the Outsider called urgently as she knocked on his door. "Ira, you need to come look at the television!"

He'd been taking a nap, though he was grateful to be woken. He'd been having a lot of uncomfortable dreams. When he opened his door, the Outsider seized his wrist and dragged him bodily into the living room.

The television was on and a reporter was saying, "... To repeat, the Kosmic Klaxon has sounded, and teams are converging on the disturbance in the city. Evacuations have begun from surrounding blocks, spearheaded by Meteor and the Junior Guardians. We have this video of the threat engaging with the vanguard of the Gold Stars and the Guardians..."

Ira stared. Shaky as the footage was, as the view zoomed in on the light-emitting intruder, he could still recognize that man as his son.

The Outsider caught him as he staggered back a few steps and conveyed him to a chair before his knees buckled.

They watched together as Josh effortlessly flung a squadron of Guardians away, retaining only the Bronze Guardian in one hand. He scowled at the man for a moment. Then there was a brilliant flash of light, and Josh dropped now-empty armor. One of the gauntlets bounced against Suzanne -- Josh was holding her by the hair -- and she flinched away from it.

Ira put his face in his hands, feeling acid in the back of his throat and heat welling up in his eyes. "Turn it off," he croaked. "Oh, god, turn it off." The tears spilled over, pouring down his face and over his fingers.

The Outsider turned the television off and turned to look at him. "Let me get you some tea," she said, and went into the kitchen.

He sat there a second or two, then lurched to his feet and staggered into Josh's room.

Ira stared at the body of his son for a few moments, his hands moving over the table at his side without his conscious thought. He looked down when he found a piece of paper and read, again:
A telephone is a wondrous thing
A part that speaks and a part that rings
A part that listens and a part that hangs
No part that watches, no part with fangs.
It channels words across the miles
With vicious daring and sparkling guile
But the telephone has no voice of its own
It parrots only the words and tones.

All the best,
Carolus Lew, Master of Wonderland


Ira stared at the words for a long time. Then he crumpled the paper, scrubbed the tears off his face with his sleeve, and walked over to Josh's body. "Hey, you!" he said loudly. "It's over. You're not Josh. You're not my son."

Josh's body remained still and silent, though breathing.

He leaned close and shouted in Josh's ear, "HEY!"

Josh's body startled, evidenced only by a jerk of its chin and its eyes popping open.

"You lying sonuva..." Ira began, but his voice broke. He bit his lower lip to keep it from quaking.

Josh's eyes turned to him, wide and appalled. I'm sorry. I... didn't know.

"You knew you weren't him, you jackass," Ira spat. "Why?"

Josh's mouth worked for a moment, struggling, then, hoarsely, "I... I was sorry for you."

Ira reeled back a step. "You were sorry for me?"

Ira had the impression of the rush of information one gets when someone's small child trying to explain everything all at once. Only this was telepathic, and it jammed up his mind badly. He stared at his son's face, awash in that confusion. The impersonator withdrew, regrouped, and then said, I was doing research on Earth. For my... I guess you would call it a PhD. I stumbled across your son's empty body, and his brain had had experience with telepathy, so he was a perfect conduit for listening. So for a long time, I listened. You talked to him all the time about current events. His wife talked to him sometimes. I learned your language, about some of the things happening. But you were so sad, I just thought...

"Thought you'd give the old man some pity," Ira said bitterly, sitting down at the bedside. He heard the door open and knew the Outsider was standing there, watching. "Well, thank you for your pity, I suppose. But it's over now."

I know. My sensors are showing serious stresses on this body. Is there...?

"Something's going on, yes," Ira said. "My real son is out there, smashing up my city, and I'm too old and useless to do anything about it."

I'm so sorry, Ira.

Ira pulled a handkerchief out of his trousers and blew his nose noisily. "I bet you are. Well, no more research. You'll have to write your damned paper on someone else."

I've been done with that for a while, Ira. Josh's face frowned. Ira, please, I need to tell you, I haven't been continuing out of pity...

"No," Ira said. "No, dammit. You aren't my son. My son is a supervillain -- out there, killing people -- and you're a liar."

But there's something... there's someone who has been... for whom I've been lis--

"No," Ira said again, voice cracking. "Just shut up. And go away. Leave."

Josh's body sighed audibly. The body is weakening badly, Ira. I won't be able to talk to you again.

"Good," Ira said, then choked on a sob. "Just go. But... I... could you..."

Anything, Ira.

Ira couldn't catch the sob this time. "Could you call me 'Dad' one more time?"



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Date: 2012-05-09 10:10 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
*weeps for Ira and the alien person*

I wanna know more about this alien person.

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