Henry must face the evil that lives in-between
"There might be more dark years ahead concerning the ends of the earth and the death of the gods. But listen, I will not allow this day to be our Ragnarök."
-Valkyrie Eloise Parker
Well, I can say that I didn't expect this, nor did the irony escape me as I was in a similar situation, not an hour before. Since my mother burst into the examining room, she hasn't stopped sobbing into my chest. She did have to ask Aunt Audrey where I was at first, when I raised my hand, that's when the tears began.
"It's all my fault," she began to wail.
At least I come by the blubbering honestly.
"Mom." I tried to peel her off, but she refused to let go. "Mom!"
Thankfully Audrey returned then with a sigh said, "Sarah, can you let go of your…" She then made an apologetic face. "Can you please let Kára go?"
With a sniffle, my mom leaned back. "I'm so sorry, Henry."
"You keep saying that mom, but I don’t understand what you mean. How can this." I waved my hand over my body. "Be your fault."
"It's…I don’t know where to begin," she said, glancing over at my Aunt.
"Audrey, do you know what she's talking about?" I asked.
My Aunt shrugged. "Sort of but not here. Come on, Sarah, let take this to my office."
Stepping outside, I noticed that the MPs were still hanging around.
"We're going to the fourth floor, Sergeant."
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded then motioned for the two other MPs to follow.
My mom hadn’t let go of my hand as we made our way to the elevators, which I will admit was kind of nice.
"So, you hitched a ride on a Venom?"
"Well, more like I forced myself on one." She chuckled and then squeezed my hand. "I was worried. When the alerts came in, well, I panicked since you told me you were going to spend the day downtown."
"Sorry for making you worry."
Mom shook her head. "Don’t be. I'm proud of you. From what I hear, you did well."
I shrugged. Sure, I was happy to help, and it was almost like a dream come true, but I didn’t understand how or why. Hopefully, the two of them had some answers.
We were now sitting in a much more comfortable location. Medical books were stacked on a shelf, pictures of Audrey's family adorned the desk, one photograph of Maggie and I hung on one wall, and another of my mom when they were Valkyries on another.
"Do you remember that your father and I were stationed in San Diego before you were born?" My mother began.
"Sure, you were still a Valkyrie at the time."
Not that I had been told a lot, but the little I did know was that my grandparents weren't particularly happy with how young they were when they got married.
"That’s right; what you might not have known was that, well not that it really matters, but we weren’t married yet."
My eyes opened wide that must have gone over like a lead balloon with my mom's side of the family. "Oh my God, Grandma Lea must have lost her mind. You two living in sin how scandalous."
"Yes, although we didn’t move in together until he proposed." She shrugged. "By then, we were tired of both of our families, so we decided to elope."
"That’s right; you said you had a Las Vegas wedding." I turned to Audrey. "So you and Uncle Dave went with them, right?"
I sort of remember wedding photos, but I was pretty sure that Audrey and Dave were there. Mom, however, never really spoke about her wedding.
"Oh sure, we all climbed into my then boyfriend's car and made the five-hour trip. Stephen and Zoie managed to catch a flight from Pensacola too. It was quite the party." She laughed.
"That's awesome, and all guys. Mom, you rebel you, but what does that have to do with me?"
"I'm getting to that, sweetie." She grabbed my hand. "So we were married and had our honeymoon in Las Vegas. The second day in the middle of the night, I manifested."
I scrunched my face that sounded familiar. "The Bellagio Incursion."
A Class 3 portal had opened up in the center of the casino of the resort hotel. Casualties were horrific, and if I remember correctly that part of downtown had been totally destroyed.
My mom nodded sadly. "We were staying just on the other side of the strip but fairly close to the epicenter."
"Shit." I leaned back on the couch. "Our family has the worst luck."
"We didn’t know until then that your father was a Spartan. So we spent our honeymoon fighting Wraiths." She wiped a tear from her eye.
I grabbed a box of tissues from the coffee table and handed it to her.
"Audrey and I were hailed as heroes afterward, two senior Valkyries already on site, but." She looked at me sadly." I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time. Before, during, afterward, we weren’t sure."
I knew it was much more than that. She had just gotten married, and somewhere in the near future, she would be burying her husband.
Wait, "During." I squeaked.
"Oh, hush you." She grumbled. "I had just gotten married; you can't fault me for wanting to spend some quality time with my new husband."
"In the middle of an Incursion," Audrey giggled.
I waved my hands. "TMI, OK, I still don’t understand."
"Oh, be aware that most oral contraceptives don’t work on Valkyries."
I looked at my Aunt, horrified, "Why would I need to know that."
"Leave him alone, Audrey." My mom smiled. "A pregnant Valkyrie was not unheard of Henry but one that was married to a Spartan. Suffice to say I had one of the most-watched pregnancies. Thankfully other than the doctors weren’t sure about your gender at first, you were just as normal as any baby."
"Apparently, I wasn’t normal." I couldn’t help but sigh, "But as much as it was nice to hear about dad, it still doesn’t explain why."
"No, I you're right, it doesn’t, not totally. But I still feel that somehow it's my fault." She reached up and brushed my green hair out of my face. "You're so beautiful. I can see a bit of your grandmother around the eyes."
"I look like an elf," I whined a little, not at all happy about being called beautiful.
And, as much the two of them kept saying, I looked like my mom or grandmother. I'm not sure I was even human anymore.
My mom laughed. "I guess you do."
"Actually I look more like the blue lady," I said thoughtfully.
My mom looked confused. "What blue lady?"
I wasn’t surprised that her reaction to my day pretty much resembled Audrey's even going as far as falling off the couch when I manifested my weapon.
As much as I liked the Makt bars, I was ready for some real food. Thankfully between the phone calls my mom made to the base commander, my dad's best friend in Boston, and whomever else she decided to call, I no longer needed to be escorted by a squad of MPs.
However, there was food, and there was food. Outside the main gates were a ton of restaurants, yet even with my change of status, the military was insistent I remained on base. Our first stop had been to pick up my visitor badge, and I knew unless things suddenly changed, I would end up with a military CAC card like every other Valkyrie.
"I think that's one of the nicer birthdays gifts you've gotten me." I smiled at my mom as we got in line.
The big surprise for me was that she would now be working closer to home. I knew that her research team had been slated to be transferred out of Boston. I wasn't looking forward to moving, but somehow the powers that be decided to move her team to Fort Roosevelt.
"I thought you would be excited about not having to move." She said, passing me a tray.
Now as much as people complain about the food on base, it's pretty good. I picked the hamburger and fries, well three burgers actually. My mom selected something a little more healthy and in less quantity.
After I placed two slices of apple pie on my tray, she sighed, "I fear for my food bill."
"What's interesting," I said as I picked through the silverware and waited in line to fill my plastic cup with some soda. "I wasn’t starving after the portal closed, but I'm hungry now."
"No surprise. Valkyries, even when not manifested, need to eat more. You remember how excited your cousin was at the thought of eating an entire box of donuts from Delicious and not gaining weight."
"Then proceeded to be sick as a dog," I laughed.
"Kára!" Someone called out from the other side of the dining hall.
Looking around, I found Emma waving from the back of the room.
"Shall we join her, dear?" My mom asked.
I barely got my tray down on the table before I was glomped. Pretty sure that’s the word I was looking for when a redheaded missile jumped out of her seat to give me a bone-crushing hug.
Oh, I will admit girl on girl hugs are nice though.
"Hi, Emma," I laughed, returning the embrace.
With a grin but not letting me go, she turned around and spoke to the woman she had been sitting next to. "Mom, this is senior Valkyrie Kára, the one who saved all of our lives today."
Much like her daughter, she got out of her chair and glomped me. It must be a family thing. My dear mother just stood there amused.
"Thank you so much for saving my daughter. I don’t know what I would have done," she sniffed. "Thank you."
"Sure, I mean, I didn’t really. Emma's really good herself, and I think we made a great team." Embarrassed, I pointed to the grinning woman standing next to me. "Also, this is my mom Sarah Squire."
As the two adults greeted one another, Emma just stood there stunned. "Wow you're Archangel."
My mom laughed, always amused when someone recognized her from way back when.
"Who's Archangel?" Emma's mom asked, then said, "Oh my, you are. I remember seeing you on the television a few times. But please sit down I know you must be hungry."
"So it's not just Emma whose appetite's increased." Heather looked on as I quickly finished one burger before proceeding to the next one.
"Most of the girls tend to be big eaters," my mom said, "Thankfully, once Emma graduates, her metabolism will return to normal."
"For the most part," I added.
"Are you always hungry?" Emma asked. "I mean, I'm not all the time, but I find myself snacking a lot. Which is really hard to do when I am at school."
"Don’t you carry Makt bars with you?"
Emma and her mom looked surprised. Heather then said, "I didn’t know you can get them. I mean, they sell them at the market, but from what I have been told, they aren’t the same as the ones you girls eat."
"You can actually buy the real ones at the PX, but don’t they're really expensive," I explained. "Emma can pick them up for free from the base hospital. I have several boxes of the chocolate chip ones underneath my desk at home."
Not including the case of the peanut butter bars hidden in my closet.
My mom raised an eyebrow at my confession. "Mom, it's not like you don’t keep the pistachio bars in your office."
She shrugged, "They're good. I'll show you where you can get them for your daughter after lunch, Heather. Plus, talk to her school. She might just need a note from you, but if not, you can get something official to allow her to eat them in class if necessary."
"I wish they told us that before." Emma's mom frowned. "She only manifested six months ago, so I am afraid I am missing a lot more."
My mother nodded, "I'd be happy to help, and you're right. There are a lot of little things that they don’t tell you, so it's good to speak to other parents."
"Thank you." Heather looked grateful, then said. "I guess that since you were a Valkyrie yourself that none of this is new to you."
My mom looked at me then gave a small laugh. "Well, there were still a few surprises."
I held back a snort as I finished off another burger.
"I can see that. I was told that the girl's only outward change was mostly…" Emma's mom caught herself, looking embarrassed, then said, "Sorry."
I shrugged and kept eating, yes, I know that I look like an elf.
My mom came to my rescue. "Yes, well, Kára's a little special in that regard."
This time I wasn’t able to hold back that snort. "Thanks, mom. I do like the little feather markings on the side of your eyes, Emma."
"I know, aren’t they cool," she gushed. "My mom doesn’t like tattoos, but now I have these."
"I would have allowed them if it would have meant you didn’t manifest," Heather whispered.
The conversation around the table stopped until Emma blurted out, "Kára, which high school are you going to? I mean, are you being transferred here?"
High School crap. I looked at my mom, stunned, "Ahh, mom."
"Yes, we just received news that my team will be moving here from Boston. Although I haven’t decided upon which high school she will be attending."
Heather looked happy at that news. "Oh, that would be nice if Emma knew someone at her new school. The two younger girls go to the middle school up the road."
"Were you able to speak to Sally and Kim?" I asked, trying to ignore the thoughts of high school and the rest of my now screwed up life.
"You mean Kimberly," Emma chuckled. "Briefly, they were waiting to hear from Sally's parents. Thank God Kim's arm healed."
I grimaced. "It was a mess; I heard that her other injuries healed as well."
"We will go check on them after lunch, Kára," my mom said. "You still have some tests Audrey needs to run, but I'll have her push them back."
"Is everything OK?" Heather asked.
"Oh, it's just a physical and the like." I smiled then turned to my mom. "I'd like that."
The doctors already did a blood test; well, they tried as the poor nurse kept breaking needles, which mom found fascinating. Audrey decided afterward that I could just pee in a cup which totally sucked. I mean, what fifteen-year-old needs help from their mom to use the bathroom. Anyway, I think the doctors still wanted to do an MRI and some other tests.
"Since your senior Kára, you'll have to sign off on their reports too," Emma stated while stealing one of my French fries.
"Oh no, you're not getting out of writing those dastardly things," I objected.
It wasn’t just because I had just become a Valkyrie today. I can still remember Maggie's constant complaints about debriefings, AARs, both formal and informal, and so on. Right, I might no longer have a choice, but I still didn’t want to be in charge of the bloody paperwork.
"Plus, you're stationed here, Emma, so you are automatically senior," I insisted.
Surprisingly she reached over and grabbed my hand. She looked at her mother then back at me and said, "No, Kára, I wasn’t."
The hospital staff was busy, so we tried to keep out of the way. Actually, I was surprised they had the time to run tests on me, considering that an Incursion occurred only a few hours earlier.
"Emma!" Sally called out as we entered the hospital room. "Oh and Kára, too!" she squealed.
"Hey," Kimberly smiled briefly.
Introductions were made. Sally's parents had been brought to the hospital from the shelter they were staying at.
"So, we have like homework?" Kimberly looked disgusted.
The adults laughed as Emma explained, "You've both spoken to Lieutenant Dryer correct?"
The two girls nodded.
"You'll probably have to help your cousin Sally, but there's a form you need to fill out. Just do the best you can, then Kára will look it over before turning it in."
"Nope." I popped my P. "As I said before, you're stationed here, and until I'm told otherwise, you're senior."
Emma pouted. "You just don’t want to have to fill out the reports."
I grinned then shrugged. "I imagine I'll have to fill out my own. I still haven’t had a debriefing."
"Won't you get into trouble?" Sally asked.
My mom laughed, "No, they are bringing someone in from Boston in the morning to speak with her."
Sally's father looked at me. "You really weren’t supposed to be here, were you?"
I looked at my mother, who replied, "She had my permission to shop here in Wells. The rest, it's a bit complicated."
"Even so, my husband and I are both thankful that you were there, Kára" Sally's mom, who had been sitting next to Kimberly stated, before reaching over to hold her daughter tight.
"Mom!" She complained then sighed, leaning into her mother's side.
As the adults talked, the girls were excited to learn that my mom was being transferred here. They also spoke a little about having to stand in front of their entire school at some general assembly. Emma said she was glad that the DPA didn’t make her do that. She just snuck in one day as a transfer student, although it didn’t take long for her classmates to realize who she was.
"I don’t think you're going to have that as a problem, Kára." Emma laughed.
I rolled my eyes. "Assuming they let me off base."
Yes, I was still annoyed that I couldn’t eat at a decent restaurant.
"Are you sure you aren’t in trouble for being in Wells?" Kimberly asked, obviously concerned.
"Oh, its fine, you know the government. As my Aunt told me, they get annoyed if I don’t dot the i's and cross the t's correctly."
Sally's father laughing at my comment, made the girls' smile.
Emma exclaiming "Holy Shit" made us all turn and look at her. Her phone had made a beep, notifying her to something.
Rushing by her disapproving mother, she looked for a television remote. "Turn it on."
She then said to me, "I get alerts from the web when stuff is going on with us."
I nodded then looked up as she surfed through the channels until she found the one she wanted some twenty-four-hour news station.
"Oh, that’s me."
Someone had been busy with their phone obviously, as I watched myself fight the Brute right after I manifested. My little parkour stunt was interesting to see. I tried not to wince at some of my narrow escapes from the beast's wrath, which I knew because of my pre-cog they actually weren’t.
My mom suddenly slipped her arm around me as we watched.
"So cool," Sally murmured.
"That was the unknown Valkyrie who encountered what the DPA calls a Brute or commonly known as a troll." A reporter suddenly came on-screen, standing on top of one of the downtown office buildings. You could still see the smoke from the fires around the river billowing behind him.
"We have another clip of the same Valkyrie fighting a pack of Fenrir; once again, viewer discretion is advised."
The room was silent as they watched me rescue the two girls from the car. My sudden appearance as I fell from the sky caused everyone in the room to jump. Kimberly and Sally cheered as I finished off the Alpha.
"Who were the two you rescued?" Emma whispered.
"Amy and Carole, but I don’t know their last names," I whispered back as the reporter continued to comment on my fight. "Do you know them?"
"Yea, I think they go to my school. Huh, one of them uploaded the whole thing to AllTube if you want to see it." She pointed to her phone.
"I'm surprised the DPA hasn't had it removed," I said to her, which she nodded.
"We did confirm that Kimberly Dunning was injured in this morning's Incursion; however, the DPA has reported that her injuries were superficial and she will be making a full recovery. All the other Valkyries, including the unknown green Valkyrie, were reported as uninjured."
"Superficial," Kimberly's Aunt growled, "I'll give him superficial."
"I'm OK, Aunt Amber, really," she assured her. "I got hurt worst last year playing field hockey."
I severely doubted it, but it wasn’t my place to say.
"Tom, what about the ongoing rumors that the green Valkyrie was still manifested after the portal had closed?" A voice asked off-camera.
The reporter who had been holding his ear nodded. "Not a lot, Kevin. But we do have a short clip of what started the rumor. Unfortunately, we cannot confirm the time when this was taken."
Once again, although the image wasn’t as good, I was on the television flying through the air. Well, more like aggressive parkour.
"Oh, you have butterfly wings," Sally said in wonder.
"You are so filling out the senior leader paperwork," Emma said firmly.
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