OwlrageousJones t1_j7ohhc3 wrote

There are many questions circling around my mind at this moment. There are usually questions. One did not rise to my position without a healthy element of... wary curiousity. Or paranoia, if you wanted to be blunt about it.

They say it's not paranoia if they're out to get you though, and there are no shortage of enemies when you list your occupation as 'Supervillain' on your tax forms - and when you've lasted as long as I have, it doesn't get any shorter.

So questions such as 'How did you get this number?' and 'Why in the Nine Hells are you calling me?' are perfectly reasonable. Some might question why I even have a phone, but it's the twenty first century. Get with the times or get gone.

I can't say this isn't the first phone call I've answered where the other person is an inconsolable mess of tears though, which at least helped me figure out what was going on.

"Stop," I commanded, using my 'I Am A Very Dangerous Person And You Should Listen To Me' voice. I don't have a gentler setting - it's not something I've looked into. "Breathe. From the beginning. I know you are capable of that much."

The voice on the other end lets out a ragged, hiccuping sob. "They killed Ace-"

"Which one? Ace of Spades, Ace Hart, the Amazing Ace-"

"No! My dog!"

I blinked. "And 'they' are...?"

"My... folks. They... I forgot to-to load the dishwasher and they just-they said if I couldn't be responsible for that then clearly I couldn't take care of him so they just-"

I pinched the bridge of my nose, silently glad I wasn't wearing my mask. I rarely did when I was in my lair. Not that I had much of a secret identity to preserve - the mask was part of the costume. The persona. It's harder to be taken seriously without it.

"-then they found my-some stuff and said if I was going to be a f-that they couldn't raise someone like me and-"

Silently, I gestured for a familiar to fetch me a drink, and after a small bow, she moved along.

"-just didn't know who else to turn to and I know it's ridiculous and stupid and insane but... can I... stay... at your lair?"

Silently, calmly, I hit the 'Mute' button my mobile so I could let out a long, frustrated noise without him hearing me. Satisfied I'd expressed myself, I took a moment to compose myself once again, and unmuted. "You. Want to stay at my lair. My hidden lair. My hidden lair of villainy. You. My lair."

"... Is that a no? Do I-I need to make a contract? I... can..."

"What? No! For the love of-I do not make contracts with children."

"... I'm fifteen."

"I know how old you are!" Were it not for the enchantments I'd placed on the phone, it would probably be shattered in my grip right now. "The human brain doesn't finish developing until your twenties, at the earliest and that is hardly the point of contention here!" I took a slow, calming breath. "I categorically refuse to believe I am your only option. Frankly, I refuse to believe you're even considering this as an option."

"... I tried everyone else. The Federation just said I should talk to my parents that I should work things out but they don't want to work things out! They won't even talk to me now, and if I try to go back, they just shout at me!"

"You have your meddlesome little friends."

"None of them can help even if they wanted to. Kiraz doesn't even have a home - she just... floats in space."

Right. Her. Frustrating little alien thing but fascinating powers... not the point. "Shelters."

"I... don't really feel comfortable there. What if I get harassed? I don't want to use my powers or anything against normal people and-"

I'm not considering it. I'm not. We're on opposite sides. We're enemies. I've half killed him, and he's done the same to me. But a little part of me will never forget being cold, hungry and alone. Well. A large part of me, really.

"... I'm going to send you an address. There will be rules. We are not 'friends'. We are not 'roommates'. And when we meet in the field, we will be enemies. Do you understand?"


I hit the End Call button. Honestly. What has the world come to, that the Tyrant Devil is playing babysitter to the incarnation of Barachiel?


OwlrageousJones t1_j22qbdn wrote

Statement of Nora Waltz, regarding the impostor in her family.

My brother - Ethan - and I never got along. We loved each other, but we didn't get along. He was always so prim and proper, obsessed with rules and neatness. He'd chide me for not being lady like, and I'd flip him the finger, and we'd argue about it for hours.

When I told him I wanted to be a doctor, he asked me if that meant I'd finally stop dying my hair. It didn't, for the record.

Naturally, we stopped seeing each other as much as we grew older, went to college - Ethan went to law school, because of course he did. I ended up shifting gears a little into becoming a therapist. We only saw each other on Christmas, although we occasionally called for each other's birthdays. It was the usual each time - he'd ask me when I was going to settle down, and I told him I got enough of that from our mother.

Then, last year, he left a voicemail - saying he was worried about something, how he might've gotten some bad attention. It's a bit strange, you see, my brother isn't a criminal lawyer of any kind. He specializes in elder law. It's not a line of work you expect to make enemies in.

I called him back, naturally, and I thought he sounded a little different at the time, but I figured he might've been under some stress. He said it was all fine, nothing to worry about, and he was looking forward to seeing me again on Christmas and I didn't think much of it.

Not until I saw him - him. It. The thing that called itself Ethan Waltz.

My brother was always taller than me - we had the same dark curly hair, although he always kept his shaved close to his head where I just... kind of went wild with it. Ethan used to play basketball, and he looked like it. But the man - the thing - that greeted me and called me 'sis', something Ethan never did, couldn't have been more different from him if it tried.

Shorter, doughy. Freckled, with an unruly blonde mop. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt of all things. I was so confused, I thought this was some weird joke. I looked at my mother to ask her who the hell this was, and she told me to stop being silly.

"Just hug your brother already, Nora," she said, looking at me like I was crazy.

"This isn't Ethan, Mom. For God's sake, he's white."

'Ethan' just laughed, said it was a funny joke 'sis', and did I come up with it on the flight over?

I kept asking where Ethan was, and my parents just got more and more frustrated. Even my Auntie chimed in, asking if I'd spent so long on the West Coast that I couldn't recognise my own brother anymore.

I felt like I was going insane. I started questioning whether they were right. I felt sick. I would like to say I excused myself to the bathroom, but I just kind of pushed past everyone.

I remember splashing some water in my face and thinking very hard about what the hell was happening. My parents weren't the kind of people to pull jokes like this, and my Auntie sure as hell wasn't. She was almost more uptight than Ethan is. Was. I don't know anymore.

"Are you feeling alright, sis?" 'Ethan' said from behind me, and almost making me scream. He was the only person who hadn't gotten frustrated earlier. The more I said he wasn't my brother, the more he smiled and laughed - and he was still smiling now.

It didn't feel like a kind smile. And I told him that. Demanded to know what sick game he was playing. What he'd done to my brother because I knew - I knew damn well he wasn't Ethan.

But it just smiled and laughed. "I really was looking forward to seeing you, Nora. I can't wait until next Christmas."

And then it left me. Just rejoined everyone else like it belonged, and I just... didn't know what to do or say. I couldn't get over any of it. I could tell I was bringing the mood down, but what was I supposed to do? That wasn't my brother but nobody believed me. I was starting not to believe me. Even the family photos Mom had on the mantel all showed him. I just... I thought I was going crazy.

It was only when I got home that I realised I wasn't crazy. I definitely wasn't. Our family went to Disneyland, when I was younger - I was twelve, Ethan was fourteen I think. He hated it, I loved it. We took some of those little polaroid photos - I still had some pinned to my corkboard. And the Ethan there is the Ethan I remember. Tall. Not smiling. Already wearing a tie everywhere at fourteen.

I don't know if I'm going to go to the next Christmas. But what choice do I have, if I want to find out what that thing did to my brother?