It is a quiet day in Jamaica Estates. Birds are singing song, trying to enjoy the waning season. They are mournful of days weaving themselves into the past. I can tell fall threatens again; the leaves touch each other and create waves of sound not unlike the ocean’s froth.
A number of situations threaten to disturb a tenuous peace. The one on my mind right now is the young MARSCAPONE’s forced adoption of a young woman who calls herself “Avaelle Easton”.
I tire of hearing this name.
It has been nearly two hundred years since I first met a young woman going by this name. My sleep since this chance meeting has been troubled; it was soon after this parting that I realized that my old friend TRELAINE was here in the country I’d taken as my own. The humans have a saying: “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked”.
I knew TRELAINE, long ago. I knew he was tireless in his loyalty to the old crown. I knew that I would get little peace until I could see him dead.
I contacted old friends. I made new friends. Seasons grew and subsided, cycling over and over again, lost to memory. We tried to burn TRELAINE alive for his crimes. He escaped. We kept fighting.
Today, I have only recently risen from meditation. The bird-song navigates the morning; My butler will be descending to hide in the catacomb. His canine will keep me company.
Here. Drinking coffee. How are you?
I have a bit of a problem though.
The mage Tzu Prano would like to make an appearance in the city. She wants to pay her respects to my Mother.
It's been some time since she's been here.
I intend to honor her request. But with my current house-guest...
I've been mulling over this predicament.
I think we should return the woman to her family.
We don't have the resources to be caring for lost sheep.
Please understand that's not what I was requesting; I apologize if that's what it sounded like I was implying.
It's not that. I understand you issued no such complaint.
I have been trying to solve this problem for some time.
I do not prefer such issues to be outstanding.
The Doctor continues to be a thorn in our side whether or not he's acting directly toward us.
Without sounding overly callous, we do not need this woman. She has kept you housebound for the entire summer.
I intend to show my old friend the meaning of generosity.
Do you truly think it wise to return the neutered sorceress to your old friend, even in her current state?
With some luck, perhaps we can turn the situation to our favor.
Everyone deserves a chance at happiness.
Her brainscans have been inconclusive. My suspicion is that she may never be able to effectively incorporate all that she's seen.
Let me be the judge of that.
Take her on a car-ride.
Let us go see what her mother has to say.
It'll take me a few hours.
See you soon.
I enter the basement apartment. I lament what I’m about to do but know it’s for the best. Children always long to be included in important decisions. Despite what one might feel about their tiny voices, they remember the respect they are given long after the adults have moved on to other trivialities.
I REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT I NEED TO LEAVE THE HOUSE TODAY.
I’D LIKE YOU TO ACCOMPANY ME.
My butler comes to the door of his private room dressed in a garish t-shirt. I’ve gleaned that it’s one of his favorites. He seems drowsy.
I REALIZE YOU WOULD PREFER TO REST OVER THE SUNPASS BUT I OFFER YOU A CHANCE TO ATTEND AN IMPORTANT MEETING.
I REQUEST YOUR SERVICES AS DRIVER.
His expression is blank in fear.
MASTER, I HAVEN’T DRIVEN SINCE…
SINCE WE WERE IN SAINT LOUIE. I REALIZE THAT.
THIS IS IMPORTANT.
HOW WOULD YOU GET THERE –
OTHERWISE: IF YOU ARE UNWILLING TO TAKE THE ROLE OF PILOT, I WILL GO WITH THE DOG.
BUT PEOPLE DON’T TAKE SO KINDLY TO THAT IN THIS COUNTRY.
IT IS UNFORTUNATE.
MANDARC is frustrated but tries to hide his emotion. He pauses, trying to stitch together the proper words.
I’LL GET DRESSED.
When MANDARC finally arrives upstairs, he’s in his characteristic fur-lined jacket. He’s combed his hair. His dog bounces around in his usual fashion, sensing the impending voyage.
I have regained my nobleman’s disguise: A neat cut of silver hair.
THE DOG WILL STAY HERE.
YOU THINK HE’S READY?
HE’S STRONG. I WILL HEAR HIM IF HE CRIES OUT.
I’LL BE WORRIED ABOUT HIM.
MANDARC kneels down to pet his dog and then looks up at me.
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
I WILL EXPLAIN TO YOU IN THE CAR. LET’S WASTE NO TIME.
In the car, I explain to him my intention to return the young foundling to TRELAINE. I instruct him to drive to the MARSCAPONE APARTMENT in which sit CEDRIC and the bionic vampress AVAEL.
His response to my commentary is stilted; his attention split between our conversation and the road.
YOU REALLY WANT TO RETURN AVAELLE TO TRELAINE?
WOULD YOU HAVE HER HABITATE WITH US?
SHE OFFERS NOTHING WE DON’T ALREADY HAVE.
AND WHAT IF HE FIGURES OUT HOW TO EXTRACT HER TALENT?
AND WHAT IF HE DOES?
I BELIEVE THE SAYING GOES:
“AND AS YE WOULD THAT MEN SHOULD DO TO YOU, DO YE ALSO TO THEM LIKEWISE.”
“DO TO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU.”
HOW IS THIS RELEVANT?
THE DOCTOR HAS LOST HIS FAVORITE TOY.
“FINDERS KEEPERS; LOSERS WEEPERS.”
AND WHAT NEED HAVE WE OF HER?
I WORKED HARD ENOUGH TO EARN THE LOYALTY OF THE ELDER.
I DON’T INTEND TO SPEND TWO HUNDRED YEARS ON THE CHILD AS WELL.
BESIDES ALL OF THOSE CONCERNS, I SUSPECT SUCH A CAMPAIGN WOULD EARN THE IRE OF THE ELDER.
YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT AS WELL, HAVING MADE SUCH FAST FRIENDS WITH HER.
HAVE THE TWO OF YOU DISCUSSED THE MATTER OF HER DAUGHTER?
AVOIDED THE TOPIC.
I DIDN’T THINK SHE’D WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.
YOU didn’t want to talk about it.
I JUST THINK IT’S A BAD IDEA, AND WE’LL REGRET IT IF SHE COMES TO EXPRESS TALENT.
WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET.
I STILL HAVE FAITH THAT MY OLD FRIEND WILL SEE THE LIGHT BEFORE THE END OF DAYS.
MANDARC is silent. I know that he doesn’t share my viewpoint.
WHAT CAUSE DO YOU HAVE TO BE SUCH A PESSIMIST?
I’m goading him and I know it.
He remains silent, feigning total attention upon the wheel.
When we arrive at the MARSCAPONE apartments, it doesn’t appear that KEVIN has yet arrived. He typically drove a classic car in teal that once belonged to his father. It always makes me remember times long past.
MANDARC rushes up to the porch and I hear him knock on the door. He’s hoping to escape the outside as soon as possible; though I’ve recently given him the secret of the sunscreen, he still runs from SOL. Old habits die hard.
I am walking up the stairs when I hear the voice of my young acolyte. He was originally taken in by the Elder MARSCAPONE, but fell to me after his Master’s death at the hands of my enemy.
HELLO MANDARC, VLAD.
CEDRIC steps to the side to allow entrance to MANDARC and myself.
MANDARC takes a seat in the small sitting area. AVAEL has a cat in her lap and is using her mechanical hands to stroke its shoulders.
I’ve found it strange that the cats have taken to her as they have. I am unsure the cats can smell her flesh through her metallic trappings; I have settled on the assumption that they recognize the form we’ve given her as platonically human.
The cat’s purring can be heard through the empty space.
IT DOES NOT SEEM THAT KEVIN WILL MAKE HIS DESIRED ARRIVAL TIME.
THE PAIR HAS ENCOUNTERED A FAIR AMOUNT OF TRAFFIC DUE TO AN ACCIDENT ON THE EXPRESSWAY.
I, AND I ASSUME CEDRIC, ARE HAPPY TO GRANT YOU HOSPITALITY.
I remove my shoes and place them near the entrance.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ALL THIS, AVAEL?
‘HOW DO I FEEL’, MANDARC?
I ASSUME YOU MEAN THIS TO REFER TO TODAY’S MEETING WITH THE YOUNG AVAELLE EASTON.
YOU SAW WHAT THE MASTER WROTE ON THE BOARDS.
HE INTENDS TO RETURN THE GIRL TO TRELAINE.
AND… YOU ARE IN OPPOSITION TO THIS PLAN?
I DON’T… I DON’T KNOW.
I DON’T STAND ANYWHERE.
I’M A LITTLE HESITANT, I GUESS.
THE GIRL CANNOT CAST SPELLS.
IS THAT NOT TRUE?
THAT’S WHAT KEVIN SAYS.
HAS SHE BEEN CONVERTED TO THE WAY OF THE OLD ONES?
NO, SHE HAS NOT.
SO SHE’S COMPLETELY MUNDANE.
I HAVE MY HANDS FULL AT THE MOMENT.
I AM NOT CURRENTLY INCORPORATING CHILD-REARING SUB-ROUTINES, BUT I AM ABLE TO CHANGE THE FOCUS OF MY DEVELOPMENT.
SHE’S NOT A CHILD. SHE’S JUST AN AMNESIAC.
AM I CORRECT IN STATING THAT YOU WISH TO RETURN HER TO MY FORMER EMPLOYER?
NOT AS SHE IS TODAY.
The cat refuses to leave AVAEL’s lap.
IF I MAY PERSUADE YOU, AVAEL, I INTEND TO TAKE A LOOK AT HER MEMORIES.
I, WITH RESERVATIONS, DEFER TO YOUR POSITION AS MASTER.
THE PROBING OF MEMORIES HAS SEEMED TO ME, HISTORICALLY, AS THEFT.
I AM AWARE OF YOUR FEELINGS ON THE MATTER.
WHICH IS WHY I SEEK YOUR APPROVAL.
I POSSESS NO PARENTAGE OVER MY CLONES DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE GENETIC MATERIAL IS SOURCED FROM MY PERSON.
I CAN GRANT NO SUCH APPROVAL NOR REVOKE SUCH PRIVILEGE.
BUT… IF YOU DID –
PLEASE DO NOT PLACE THIS IMPOSITION UPON MY BRITTLE FORM, MY DEAR FRIEND.
CEDRIC walks forward and waves the cat from her lap.
ALRIGHT CAT – SCAT.
I’D LIKE TO TRY TO SEND HER BACK IN A BETTER CONDITION THAN WE RECEIVED HER.
TO TRY TO DEFRAGMENT HER MEMORIES.
“LEAVE IT BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT”, AND:
“ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES”.
CEDRIC rolls his eyes and gives a long-suffering sigh. He buries his forehead in his palm.
- SMOKEY BEAR.
HOW LONG IS IT UNTIL KEV GETS HERE?
HIS E.T.A. IS FORTY-FIVE MINUTES.
MANDARC, I SAW THAT YOU DROVE THE MASTER HERE TODAY.
I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO CONGRATULATE YOU.
CAN I OFFER THE PARTY SOME ENTERTAINMENT?
I WOULD LIKE TO DEMONSTRATE MY PROGRESS ON MY TRANSLATION OF THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES.
It has been nearly an hour when the young MARSCAPONE finally arrives.
The four of us are upstairs seated around the piano, listening to AVAEL’s rendition of the opera. She begs for applause and the music is over all too soon.
CEDRIC goes down to answer the door. MANDARC follows after him. AVAEL remains seated in the silence, looking toward the piano. I remain with her, listening to the sounds of the entrants.
SOUNDS LIKE TRAFFIC WAS BAD?
TRAFFIC WAS AWFUL. SORRY IT TOOK ME SO LONG.
NO WORRIES. IT HAPPENS.
The two greet each other as near strangers, despite spring’s road-trip. I imagine they are shaking hands. It’s strange, but unsurprising, that MANDARC regards KEVIN so formally. He is intimidated by his relation to the PRINCE.
The four shuffle places.
THIS IS… AVAELLE EASTON.
AVAELLE. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS.
THIS IS CEDRIC AND MANDARC.
HI. I’M AVAELLE.
COME IN, AVAELLE.
The door shuts behind her.
CEDRIC’s cat must be making an appearance because she erupts excitedly with:
OH MY GOODNESS! WHAT A CUTE CAT!
KEVIN! YOU DIDN’T TELL ME YOUR FRIEND KEPT CATS!
She must be bending down to embrace the animal; she mutters a few sweet-nothings.
THAT ONE IS NAMED TOONCES.
DIDN’T GIVE ‘ER THE NAME, SHE JUST SORT OF CAME WITH IT.
WHAT A CUTIE!
CAN I OFFER YOU SOME REFRESHMENT? YOU TWO WERE ON THE ROAD A LONG TIME.
THAT SOUNDS GREAT BUT FIRST I REALLY NEED TO TAKE A PISS.
I allow some time for AVAELLE to settle in to the house. I stay on the upper floor and allow the young men to offer her lemonade and a sandwich. She eats eagerly.
AVAELLE. NOW, I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT SOMETHING.
IT’S BEEN A GOOD FEW MONTHS AND I WOULD LIKE TO THINK THAT YOU’VE RECOVERED BACK NEARLY TO FULL HEALTH.
I’D LIKE YOU TO RETURN TO WHERE YOU WERE AND CONTINUE THE WORK YOU WERE DOING.
AT THE WAREHOUSE WITH MY ROOMMATE VANESSA?
WE KNOW HER AS MEIFENG TANG, BUT YOU’RE RIGHT, VANESSA IS PROBABLY THE NAME SHE’LL ANSWER TO.
YOUR DOCTOR WAS TRYING TO TRAIN HER TO BE A VAMPIRE.
YOU TOLD ME THAT. I HAD NO IDEA.
YOU HAVE MEMORIES IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU CAN’T ACCESS.
REMEMBER I TOLD YOU THAT MY ASSISTANT CAN HELP YOU?
YEAH. I DO.
HE’S HERE TODAY AND IF YOU’RE WILLING…
HE CAN HELP YOU ACCESS THESE MEMORIES.
AVAELLE is quiet a moment. She’s finished her glass of sweet-drink and puts it down on the counter.
WILL… IT HURT?
IT MAY BE DIFFICULT TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW…
BUT IT WON’T PHYSICALLY HURT YOU OR CAUSE YOU PHYSICAL PAIN.
WE WANT TO HELP YOU, AVAELLE.
I NEED HELP.
I NEED HELP, DON’T I?
At this point, I’ve decided to descend the stairs and make my appearance.
NONE OF THIS IS YOUR FAULT.
AVAEL follows, her mechanical limbs cycling through gears to monitor her progression down the stairs.
YOU’VE MET MY FRIEND, VLADISLAUS STRAUD.
THERE IS ONE OTHER PERSON I’D LIKE YOU TO MEET. SHE’S A ROBOTIC ASSISTANT OF OURS.
IS IT OKAY IF SHE SITS IN ON OUR MEETING?
THAT’S FINE WITH ME.
WE WANT TO HELP YOU, AVAELLE.
AND I THINK YOU WANT TO HELP VANESSA.
YOU CAN’T STAY WITH KEVIN FOREVER.
She hangs her head in shame.
NO… I REALIZE THAT.
KEVIN steps over toward her and lifts her chin gingerly, coaxing her to look him in the eyes.
AVAELLE, YOU’VE MADE GREAT PROGRESS.
I THINK IT’S TIME YOU GO BACK HOME.
HOME? THAT PLACE ISN’T MY HOME ANYMORE.
BUT IT IS, AVAELLE.
YOU HAVE PEOPLE THAT LOVE YOU THERE.
AND YOU LOVE THEM.
THEN WHY AM I HERE?
YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE SICK.
BUT YOU’RE MORE HEALTHY THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, AVAELLE.
YOU CAN SAVE THIS WORLD.
KEVIN’s hands lower to his sides.
CEDRIC makes a silent motion with his head to MANDARC and they make an exit.
SAVE THIS WORLD?
I CAN’T EVEN SAVE MY CAT.
YES, YOU CAN.
BUT YOU CAN’T DO IT FROM HERE.
I’M NOT READY TO GO HOME!
YES YOU ARE, AVAELLE.
YOU KNOW MORE NOW THAN YOU DID BEFORE.
WILL YOU LET US HELP YOU ONE LAST TIME BEFORE WE TAKE YOU BACK HOME?
DO YOU TRUST US?
AVAELLE’s face has begun to well up with tears.
IT’S… IT’S MYSELF I DON’T TRUST.
YOU CAN DO IT, AVAELLE.
YOU CAN DO IT.
The tears fall from her eyes and she sniffles, trying to contain her snot.
LET US GIVE YOU ONE LAST GIFT AND YOU WILL RETURN HOME AND MAKE THINGS RIGHT AGAIN.
ONE LAST THING.
She looks around at each of us and wipes her nose on her sleeve.
I… I GUESS.
I’LL SET THINGS RIGHT.
KEVIN blinks and nods toward me.
PLEASE LET MY ASSISTANT READ YOUR PALM AND I’LL DRIVE YOU BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE.
YOU’RE MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE, AVAELLE. I’M PROUD OF YOU.
She didn't have the memories I thought she would have had.
Your memories of your time with TRELAINE. I thought he would have kept them, but no. I think he was intending to start afresh with her.
I gave her the scaffolding for uncovering them. The time... I didn't look into them, I tried not to invade your privacy, but I can't help but sense their crucial role in making you who you are.
If my old friend dares call her by your name, should he not have to interface with what that means?
I'm almost ready to forget.
I know you are. I want to help you.
If I do choose to forget, will you hold on to them for me?
Whenever you are ready.