1.10. Runs in the Family
Clover Byrd is cautiously optimistic. It hadn’t been that hard to lure her prey to her. She could probably do this for a living, actually, because so far, her plan was going off without a hitch.
Well, she had to modify her plan just a bit. But discounting that, it was absolutely definitely positively going off without a hitch.
Oh, and her good-for-nothing brother wasn’t answering his goddamn phone, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. She has another---she looks at her phone--another six hours before anyone is likely to even begin suspecting anything. It shouldn’t take that long, right?
There were only two of them. She was really hoping Luna would have a large wedding, complete with an entire swarm of Bees. She could have just torched the place, and been done with them in one fell swoop. But she’ll have to settle for this.
Her dad probably thought she could never do this. He’d always preferred Crimson, his precious son who would carry on his legacy. What was it he always told Crimson? That’s right: “Above all else you serve the Hegemony.” Meanwhile, all he told her was, “One day you will make an exceptional consort.”
Crimson got all the attention, all of the training, everything. What would her parents think know if they could see this? She was the one who put this together. She was the one who worked so hard, while Crimson pined away over some stupid girl. Worse: he pined away over the enemy.
The phone rings in the middle of the night, My father yells what you gonna do with your life. Oh daddy dear you know you're still number one but girls they want to have fun. Clover’s ringtone disrupts her thoughts.
She looks at her phone with annoyance. She’s been calling her brother all night, and he’s finally deigned to return her calls.
“Hello, little brother!” Clover puts on a chipper voice.
‘What do you want?” Crimson sounds groggy, like he’s just woken up.
“So I’m at the HORR Bar with Elysia and your girlfriend, and you have to get over here.”
“How much have you been drinking? You can just call a cab.”
“I haven’t had much to drink, actually. I wanted to be sober for this.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Our mission, dummy. Oh, hurry up! Elysia just woke up,” Clover says, “it’s going to be a blast, little brother.”
“Clover, what’s--” Clover hangs up before he finishes.
“Sorry about that. I didn’t realize you were awake,” she gives an unnerving smile to Elysia, who is struggling feebly against her restraints, “I promise you have my undivided attention now.”
Elysia wishes she could think of something pithy or threatening to say. Instead, she can only manage a “what the fuck is going on?”
“Just taking care of some unfinished family business.”
“Way to be vague,” Elysia rolls her eyes. She would normally follow up by repeating Clover’s plan verbatim, but she can’t--as much as she tries, she can’t read Clover’s mind. Well, this is embarrassing. Elysia swears this never happens.
“You know, you’ve been such a pain in my side. Most people just accept that I’m a drunken idiot, but you--I had to make sure I was always thinking like a drunken idiot. Do you know how hard that is?”
“For some reason I don’t think it’s that hard for you to pretend to be an idiot.”
Clover laughs, “you always have to get the last word, don’t you? Well, this idiot got the drop on you, so…” she trails off, watching her prey with amusement. Elysia--assuming that Clover is indeed an idiot since she didn’t restrain her legs--tries to stand and immediately crumples to the floor, knocking her chair over in the process.
“You’ll find it kinda hard to move for awhile,” Clover kneels down, “it’s one of the side effects of the drugs I gave you.”
“What, you too afraid that you couldn’t take Luna and I in a fair fight?”
Clover is nonplussed, “well, duh. This isn’t about honor, stupid. It’s straight-up revenge.”
“So is this like the part where you reveal your nefarious plan,” Elysia sneers. She holds out a distant hope that if she can keep Clover talking, she’ll have enough time to figure out how to get out of her restraints.
“No, not yet. I don’t want to repeat myself, so we’ll just have to wait for Luna and Crimson.”
“I should have known your fucked up brother was a part of this,” Elysia scoffs.
With serpentine speed, Clover seizes Elysia by the throat. This is a sensation Elysia has never experienced before: it’s a crushing pain at first, but soon her lungs begin to feel like they’re on fire. She instinctively tries to snatch at Clover’s hands, to fight against her, but the rope is tied too tight.
“You’re kind of a bitch, you know,” Clover hisses in her ear, “and I don’t like the way you treat my brother. What did he ever do to you? Hurt your delicate little feelings? Are you really that shallow?”
Elysia gags in response.
“You know, I wasn’t even gonna kill you at first. The original plan was just Luna, even after I found out you moved here. I figured Luna’s death would be enough to get your mother and maybe even her husband and some of her friends to come here. Then I could take care of them,” Clover shakes Elysia, “but you’re just so godawful I had to do something about it.”
As Clover’s hands wrap tighter around her neck, a flood of grief washes over Elysia accompanied by an image of teenage Clover, sobbing while embraced by her brother. “We have to do something,” she cries.
It’s weird when people remember events in third person perspective.
Just when Elysia thinks she’s going to black out, Clover releases her and laughs, “sorry, I probably seem pretty crazy right now.”
“Only a little,” Elysia coughs.
Clover rolls her eyes, “you really don’t know how to take a hint, do you? I’ll spell it out: I want you to shut the fuck up.” In a smooth action, she grabs Elysia by the left side of her head and slams her face first into the hard stage floor. Clover doesn’t know her own strength: Elysia is out cold again.
“Well shit,” Clover mumbles. Maybe she isn’t so good at this.
Luna’s eyes flutter open, and her head rolls around as she regains her consciousness. She moans softly--her head is pounding.
“Oh, Lulu, you’re awake! Well we’re in a bit of a pickle,” Clover laughs as she gestures to Elysia, “I wanted both of you to be awake for this, but I just knocked out Elly again.”
It takes a moment for the scene to come together for Luna. The stage lights are bright, too bright, making her vision blurry. She stares at Clover, who grins maniacally, and then she shifts her gaze to to her sister’s unconscious body.
Not again. This can’t be happening again.
Tears would be appropriate right now. Maybe even some panicked bargaining for her life and for her sister’s. Really, it’s understandable if Luna cycles through all of the emotions of grief. It does seem inevitable. Her phone seems to be missing--Clover wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave it anywhere in reach--and she told Quentin not to wait up for her. He knows where she is, sure, but why would he come looking for her? Nothing could possibly be wrong, right?
It would make perfect sense to for Luna to break down, begging and crying for her life.
“What are you doing,” Luna asks with a steely voice.
“Hmm,” Clover frowns, “I expected more waterworks from you.”
Luna doesn’t respond, in case she starts crying.
“Well, I’m going to have to repeat myself when darling Elly wakes up, but I might as well let you know since waiting didn’t exactly work out last time,” Clover stands up and paces back and forth, “you and I--our fates are intertwined. I mean, I knew about you before I even met you. And then when I finally met you, wow, it was like an immediate connection. I just knew it: I am supposed to kill this woman.”
“Oh?” Luna decides it’s wise to keep her responses short, until she can compose herself.
“Don’t I remind you of someone? Think hard, Luna,” Clover’s voice does sound familiar.
Hello little Polaris. Hello little Polaris. Hello little Polaris.
That night was burned into Luna’s mind.
Luna was a pawn in a game between her mother, Polaris, and agents of the Hegemony. At least that’s how she remembered it. Her mom told her about her life before Simnation, of course--that’s how Luna was able to pick up material for her books--but some of the intricacies and faults were left out. Her mom deserted the Hegemony. Her mom didn’t take precautions to keep herself or her children safe. Her mom had enemies.
And so years ago, across the world in Lucky Palms, teenage Luna had been kidnapped by a couple of larger-than-life sociopaths. She doesn’t remember their real names, just the convenient nicknames given to them. But she does recall the terror she felt, the impending sense of doom, and the strange cadence of the conversation between her two captors: a magenta haired woman, and her slimy boss.
“She’s real cute,” the woman had said, “like a miniature version of Polaris. Hello little Polaris! Don’t worry, I’m not going to shoot you like I did the bad man.” Her voice sounded so much like Clover’s.
“Your mother was the Sexicutioner,” Luna winces at the ridiculous nickname her mother had given Clover’s mother. She doesn’t know her real name. For years, she’s lived in family mythos as The Sexicutioner, insane agent of Alcyone, kidnapper of Luna, slayer of Crux, all around crazy bitch.
Luna isn’t surprised to see that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, though the apple’s existence itself is a bit of a shocker.
“That was not my mother’s name. Her name was Andromeda and Polaris,” Clover spits, “fucking killed her.”
It takes her a moment to remember all the details from that night. It was her mother who killed Andromeda, wasn’t it? Andromeda tried to shoot Luke, Luna’s father, but Crux jumped in the way, sacrificing himself. Polaris killed her in revenge. Luke tried to shield Luna from the bloodshed, but she saw Andromeda’s corpse, her blood pooling around her.
It’s weird to think that her mother had killed someone.
“She tried to shoot my dad--” Luna’s explanation is cut short.
“Who the fuck cares about your dad? Seriously, Luna, do you think you’re the heroine in some bullshit story? No, you’re just an unlucky little girl who was born on the wrong side.”
“How do you even know it was my mom who killed her? It could have been Lyra. Or the Commander,” Luna is grasping at straws.
“The Commander? That’s Commander Eridanus, and my father would not have killed my mother.”
Well, duh, Luna. She had seen the two together--they were a strange couple, but a couple indeed.
“And my father, he was so excited when my ESP tests came back and I was positive. But I couldn’t do it on command. I guess that would be disappointing, right? If your kid had some great gift but it was no fucking use? But that night, it worked and I felt it. I felt what it was like to have a bullet rip through your fucking chest, and I saw Polaris do it. I saw her kill my mom.”
“I’m sorry your parents died,” Luna tries a different tactic, “that’s not fair.”
“You’re not sorry,” Clover snorts, “if they hadn’t died, you’d be dead. You’re just sorry you’re in this situation. Do you even know what I went through because of you and your precious mommy? When the revolution on Alcyone happened--a revolution started by people like your fucking mother--my father lost his position, and we lost our home. We had to flee or they would have killed me and Crimson just for being his children. Meanwhile, you had a normal life with a normal family and now you’re getting fucking married. You got everything, Luna,” Clover stops and considers it for a moment, “how sad do you think Quentin will be when you don’t show up for the wedding tomorrow?”
“Clover,” Luna continues to try to reason with her, “this is not you. You’re not like this.”
“And how do you know that,” Clover snarls as she pulls a knife from the back loop of her jeans.
“You’re our friend. We care about you."
Clover sneers as she press the knife against Luna’s throat. She can’t bring herself to move the blade any further. Just do it, she tells herself, just fucking do it. She stares into Luna’s tear filled eyes. Finally, she screams in frustration and hits Luna in nose with the handle of the knife.
The HORR Bar is eerily quiet when Crimson finally arrives. The first floor is completely empty.
“Hello,” he cautiously calls out. He walks lightly around the bar, but his shoes squeak no matter how slowly he steps.
He stops dead in his track when he happens on Rex. His body is propped against the wall, a stab wound in the center of his chest. He slowly approaches it, watching Rex’s chest: it doesn’t move.
A scream breaks the silence--it sounds like Luna. He turns around and bounds up the stairs towards the sound of her voice.
He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this: Clover, knife in hand; Luna whimpering, seated in a chair with her hands tied behind her back; and Elysia curled up on the floor, seemingly dead to the world.
“Clover,” Crimson puts his hands up as he slowly approaches his sister, “what are you doing?
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here,” Clover’s demeanor immediately becomes bubbly again.
“What are you doing,” Crimson repeats himself. He can tell his sister isn’t drunk, but she isn’t exactly in her right mind, either.
“Something we should have done when she,” she gestures to Luna, “first showed up. And, look, your little blonde friend is here, too. Though she’s not being any fun right now.”
Luna's mouth is forming words, but they're too soft--he can't understand what she's saying.
Crimson pushes past his sister and kneels down. He gently touches Elysia’s wrist and feels for a pulse. It’s there, strong and steady, but he cringes when he sees her quickly swelling face and the red marks around her neck.
“She needs medical treatment,” Clover says, turning to Clover, “we need to call an ambulance.”
Clover laughs nervously, “that is not what I expected from you at all. You can’t tell me it’s not a little nice to see her like this.”
Crimson looks at his sister in horror. Despite all the horrible things he may have thought and done in the past, he would never consider this to be something to gloat about. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I thought you would be happy,” Clover frowns, “I wasn’t even going to take Elysia. I did it for you. I know how much she upset you.”
“I don’t understand this,” Crimson shakes his head in disbelief, “I don’t get it. Clover, what have you done?”
This is so disappointing. Clover has put more thought into this than anything else in her life, and it’s not going the way she expected. For a moment, she doubts herself, “Polaris killed mom. Her friend killed father. This is what I’m supposed to do.”
“They made stupid choices. They didn’t have to follow Polaris. They didn’t have to kidnap Luna, but they did. They dug their own graves,” Crimson stands back up and begins to walk towards his sister, who is standing frozen, her face crestfallen.
“I know this is going to upset you a little,” Clover does look apologetic, “but she has to die. She just has to. What did dad always tell you? Above all else--”
“I’m not repeating that,” Crimson says, but he internally finishes the command: you serve the Hegemony.
“This is our duty. To the Hegemony.”
“The Hegemony is gone, Clover. It’s long gone. We have a life here. Please, don’t make the same mistakes that our parents made,” Crimson pleads.
“This is what mother and father would have wanted,” Clover’s voice wavers.
“Well, yes. This is exactly what they would have wanted. But I don’t think we should make life decisions based on our fucked up dead parents,” Crimson slowly approaches his sister. With each step he takes, she looks a little more defeated.
“That’s all I wanted to know. I wanted to know that they would be proud.”
Crimson pulls his sister in for a hug, “Clover, it’s over. I won’t let you do this.”
Clover sobs as she returns his hug.
It doesn’t hurt at first. It’s just an intense pressure, and then a he feels like a hole is being burned in his stomach. As quickly as the heat comes, it leaves, and then a deep, bitter cold engulfs him.
“I’m so sorry little brother. But if you’re not going to help me with this, you’re in the way,” Clover breathes in her brother’s ear. With a jerk, she shoves the knife a little deeper into his gut.
There’s shuffling, screaming, a crash. Then, silence.
Elysia gains consciousness just in time to feel what it is like to die.
"Runs in the Family" -- Amanda Palmer
I swear good things are coming Luna's way. And this will definitely be the last time she's kidnapped. I'm honestly beginning to feel a little guilty, so...