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[personal profile] wonder_city
This episode was hard to write to start with, and given recent events it became exponentially harder to write (something you will likely understand as you read).

Best Intentions Going Down for the Third Time

"Sophie," Ruth said at the door of Sophie's apartment in the Young Cosmics Building, "we need to have a talk."

Sophie held the door and mutely gestured her mother inside.

Nereid wanted to stand up and go, but Sophie pinned her in her seat with a fleeting, desperate glance. She sat still. She could understand why anyone, even Sophie, would fear a confrontation with the Ultimate.

Ruth glanced at Nereid, then Sophie, and nodded.

Sophie cleared her throat and said, while heading for the kitchenette, "Would you like something to drink, Mom? Pacifica?"

Nereid shook her head, and Ruth said, "I'll take another of whatever you're having."

Nereid could see Sophie pause to contemplate her liquor cabinet, then turn away to pour two glasses of iced tea.

After they were all sitting down, Ruth turned a look on Sophie. "So, Larentia Canis has been disassembling some things."

Sophie nodded, and sipped from her glass.

"She says that some of the technology uses components she knows you built."

Sophie nodded again, setting her glass aside.

Ruth's voice continued calm and measured. "Do you know how that technology came to be in the hands of the aliens?"

Sophie looked at her hands, spread on her knees, for a long moment, then swallowed, looked Ruth in the eye, and said, "I built it for them."

Ruth and Sophie remained locked in their poses, staring at each other. Nereid had a nearly uncontrollable urge to turn to water and sink through the floor just from the reflected pressure of those looks.

Ruth finally said, choking slightly over the word, "Why?"

Sophie's gaze dropped at last, and after fighting to get words out for a few seconds, she covered her face with her hands. She scrubbed her eyes hard for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, "Because they had you."

Nereid had a fleeting glimpse of something she never wanted to see again: unbridled rage in the Ultimate's eyes. Ruth clamped it down, looking away from both of them. After a moment, she said, "I can't say that I'm comfortable with being party—even passively—to that."

"There is nothing about what I chose to do that implicates you in the least," Sophie said through her teeth. "Don't you dare try to ladle on more guilt here. I know I made a wrong choice."

Ruth's head snapped back around to face Sophie. "You're damned right you did."

Nereid thought about speaking up, about what she saw as ameliorating circumstances—that the empath, or even a telepath, was probably fucking with Sophie during that entire conversation she was having with the aliens, that there was no way Sophie could have known that the equipment would be used to broadcast the empathic powers of someone with abhorrent political views, that Sophie had helped save the world... yeah, she kept her mouth shut.

"What you did was beyond irresponsible," Ruth said, her voice clipped and hard. "It was selfish, and it was stupid, and both are high crimes for someone who has an unclassifiably high-Class para brain."

"I know, already," Sophie said, control slipping off like a leash ducked by a terrier next to a busy street. "I'm selfish for putting family first over the rest of the fucking world, I'm stupid for not miraculously foreseeing who they were going to put behind that, and that I was so irresponsible by actually doing shit to stop it…"

"You close your mouth for just a moment," Ruth snapped. "First, you're famous for thinking ahead for consequences. You're going to tell me that you didn't even suspect how this was going to go wrong?"

Sophie's shoulders sagged. "Of course I did," she said, but there was almost no attitude to it.

Ruth rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. "Also, do not give me the line about putting family first. I invented that line. For para shit, anyway."

"Oh, bullshit," Sophie said.

"What did you just say?" Ruth turned a slow stare on Sophie.

Nereid didn't think they'd notice if she just seeped really slowly through the floor. Except she knew she couldn't seep through these floors, because Ultimate Construction built superhero bases too well. Every suite was a separate, contained entity with layers of armor around it.

Sophie lifted her chin. "Bull. Shit. I don't think I've ever seen you put family first. How many goddamn times did you leave me with Gloria, or Olivia, or with some other babysitter, while you kited off-planet to fight an alien menace? Or the way you stuffed Renata into a bunker and left her there alone? Or the way you've never said what happened to any of your own actual family? And then there was Fort Starr, Colorado."

"You do not know shit about that," Ruth said, "and I am not here to listen to you talk shit about..."

"Fort Starr was hit by a fucking tac nuke," Sophie said, back straightening. "A few thousand people died. Where the fuck were you at the time?"

Ruth looked away again, but Nereid saw her lips and jaw tighten. Nereid wished she'd gotten up and walked out despite Sophie's appealing look.

"All the history books, even the private Gold Star records, claim there was warning from Techmeister, the supervillain behind it," Sophie said, throwing herself headlong into what Nereid could already see was a defensive attack going horribly awry. "So where were you when your sister was killed?"

Ruth sat back in her chair and folded her hands across her belly with a snort of laughter. "How long have you been holding onto that? Damn, girl, you work for your derailing arguments, don't you?"

Sophie opened her mouth to continue, but Ruth leaned forward suddenly, one hand spread on the coffee table, and said, "Let's get this all out on the table, shall we?" Sophie's mouth shut with a snap.

"I started avoiding my family after I met Sister Power," Ruth said in a low, even voice. "Who warned me that just by being a para woman, I was putting them in danger. A year in, my parents, sister, and brothers were all in the witness protection program, moved far from anyone they knew or loved, because some supervillain had tried to kill them. I stayed away from them to keep their covers, I offered, and they asked me to. My sister was para too, only a little, really, and she kept that under wraps as much as possible, but whereas I kept refusing the draft, she joined up. The government did not love the fact that I wouldn't let them draft me into the Gold Stars, but what were they gonna do?"

Nereid knew her own eyes had gone wide with all this, and was so focused on Ruth that she didn't think to look at Sophie.

"I'll tell you what they did," Ruth said. She paused, swallowed, continued: "They finally warned me that there would be 'consequences' if I didn't join up, if I didn't stop my 'activities' — which consisted of little things like stopping wars, interfering in police actions, taking medical supplies and food directly to refugees. I was young and stupid and surprisingly idealistic for a black girl, and didn't think they could do anything to me. Except they had a para on tap whose codename, amusingly enough, was Tac Nuke."

Nereid covered her mouth reflexively.

"They took out one of their own facilities to punish me. Six thousand seven hundred and seventy-three souls killed by a para whose only power was making big atomic explosions with himself at ground zero. When I blew into that general's office, he said, 'We know where your parents and brothers live too.' And that's when I joined the Gold Stars." Ruth leaned across the table until her face was within inches of Sophie's blankly horrified face. "Never, ever tell me I don't put family first, Sophia Jean. Never pull Fort Starr, my sister, my parents, or my brothers on me. Never tell me I didn't put you, or Renata, or any of the rest of my people before myself, before everything else. You used to ask me when you were little why I didn't just take over the world. The answer is: because I'm just one woman, and they would kill everyone I held dear while I slept."

Ruth held Sophie's gaze for a few more seconds, until Sophie said, in the tiniest, hoarsest voice Nereid had ever heard, "I'm sorry."

Ruth nodded once, and stood up. Despite Ruth being such a short woman, it felt to Nereid like she was towering over them both. "You're right, you made your own choices, and you know they were wrong. And I'm disappointed that you made them. You're trying to do whatever it takes to make it right. I'm proud of the fact that you're trying your best, because if I didn't teach you anything else, at least I taught you to clean up after yourself." She walked to the door. "I'd better see both of you Sunday night for dinner." She opened the door and went out.

Nereid and Sophie sat in stunned silence in the aftermath.

Finally, Sophie said, "You'd think that after all these years, I'd know better than to try to pull that kind of shit on her."

Nereid nearly laughed at the rueful tone, and said, "Sweetie, I've only known her for two or three years, and I know better than that."

Sophie quirked the corner of her mouth. "Yeah, but you're the one with common sense in this relationship."

Nereid reached out and touched her cheek. "Yeah. Don't hold that against me though."

10 Ways to Help the People of Ferguson, Missouri

Date: 2014-08-23 05:21 pm (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
And thus we see that the distinction between hero and villain is as often political as anything else.

I'd have shared the conversation with the planet, and probably had my family killed on me anyway... but whose fault is that? If mass murder for the sake of control is the start of this story, where does it end?

Date: 2014-08-24 12:53 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
And thus we see that the distinction between hero and villain is as often political as anything else.

Oh that is so good! I just went "AUGH" but that is just what I was thinking. That's just one reason why this series is so great.

Date: 2014-08-24 12:53 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
AUGH, forced collaboration. Oh Ruth. Oh Sophie.

(awww, Pacifica)

Date: 2014-08-24 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
.... Ouch.

- Kriz


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