1.17. Inherited Sin
The last time Polaris Bee had seen her daughter, Luna had been in tears. She had just informed her mother that she was moving across the globe with her boyfriend, a man who--while she liked well enough--Polaris hardly knew.
Like any mother, Polaris’ first instinct was to protect her daughter. She asked all the questions that Luna should have asked and answered herself before she decided on this move: “Are you sure he’s the one? Do you think you should consider options closer to home in case it doesn’t work out with him? Will Aurora Skies be accepting to someone who looks like you (or Quentin for that matter)?”
Luna responded with a single sentence that has stuck with Polaris for all these years: “How could you possibly even think you know what’s right for me when all you’ve done is endanger me?” She followed up by letting loose years of grievances on her mother, accusing Polaris of a number of misdeeds: jeopardizing the lives of her children with her indecisions and lackadaisical approach to the looming threat of the Hegemony; her kidnapping; Elysia’s kidnapping; her younger sister’s brush with danger; Crux’s death-then-resurrection. The conversation ended only after Polaris snapped back accusing her daughter of being too sensitive and too shortsighted. Luna burst into tears, slammed the door behind her, and left for Aurora Skies with Quentin the next day.
Polaris has spent a lot of time since then stewing in anger and hurt--she may not have been the best mother, but considering the circumstances she thinks she raised five exceptional children. It just happens that one is an ingrate.
But when she sees Luna, all that pain melts away. She pulls her daughter into a tight hug, so tight that Luna’s back pops.
“Mom, please,” Luna grunts, “you’re hurting me.”
“Whoops,” Polaris loosens her grip on Luna, “sorry, Lulu. I just really missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” Luna smiles sadly. She spends a lot of time regretting how she treated her mother, worrying if their relationship had been irrevocably damaged. Maybe that’s why it had taken so much time for her to invite Polaris to visit.
Quentin, however, was relieved that Luna hadn’t invited her family for so long. If it were up to him, they would never visit. It’s not that he doesn’t like her family. They’re very nice people. Much nicer than his family, in fact. But he can’t stand to look at Luna’s stepfather.
Quentin was raised in a household that prided itself on the principles of Simnation: freedom, justice, and a framework of documents that ensures the maker-given rights of every person. To learn that his father was involved in a shadow organization that illegally detained supernatural and extraterrestrial individuals with no formal criminal charges-- a direct violation of habeas corpus, a founding principle of any just society--shook Quentin to his core. How could his father speak about freedom and justice for all out of one side of his mouth, and then condemn an entire population of people out of the other? And here was a walking reminder of his father’s hypocrisy: Crux Court, his wife’s stepfather.
Crux had been detained for almost thirteen years, some of which under the watch of Lawrence Parker, Quentin’s father. Luna and her family suffered greatly during this time--her mother and Luna were despondent at the loss of Crux, who had seemingly died. In fact, Luna has never recovered fully from the shock of seeing him shot. She still wakes up at night sometimes from nightmares of that night, nightmares that intensified after the incident with Clover. On nights like that, Quentin has to hold her until she falls back asleep. Maybe she wouldn’t be so traumatized if she had known that Crux had lived. It took too long for his discovery, which allowed her fear to fester.
And so Quentin feels the invisible weight of inherited sin on his shoulders. It feels heavier if he looks Crux in the eyes.
“It is a pleasure to see you again, Quentin. It has been far too long since I have been able to converse with you,” Crux gives him a warm handshake.
“Nice to see you too,” his voice is low and his words rushed as he concocts plans on how to avoid Crux for the next few days.
"How is your father?"
"Dead," Quentin responds without missing a beat.
"I am very sorry to hear that."
Quentin scoffs, "no you're not. But thanks for the lie."
Crux frowns, "your father may not have been a virtuous or kind man, Quentin, but death is never something to be celebrated."
Quentin stares at Crux for a moment, searching his face for any signs of subterfuge. "You're a better man than I am, then," he finally shrugs.
Luna watches the exchange between her husband and her stepfather with concern. She's unused to seeing such a prickly side of Quentin. Elysia, meanwhile, frowns. Why had her mother gone to Luna first? And her father ignored her, too, making a beeline instead for her boyfriend. She stands awkwardly as she holds Liev, waiting for someone to acknowledge her, but she might as well be invisible.
"You must be Crimson,” Luke’s voice is cold and his handshake aggresively tight.
“Yes,” Crimson grumbles,” Crimson Byrd.”
“And what kind of name is that?” Luke raises an eyebrow.
“It’s the name my parents gave me,” he lies. Elysia’s ears perk up--she can always tell when he’s lying. She focuses on Crimson, trying her hardest to dig into his steely mind, but she can only capture a wisp of a thought: Orion. She’s so distracted by her telepathic mining that she misses part of the conversation.
“Well why haven’t you? You can knock up my daughter, but you can’t marry her?” Luke raises his voice in irritation.
“Oh, you’re going to lecture me about this? Didn’t you abandon Elysia and Luna when they were like three?” Crimson retorts.
“What did you say, you--”
“Stop,” Polaris interrupts, “just stop right there. There’s no reason to be mouthy, Red. And Luke, the dork is right: you were kind of a shitty father for awhile.”
Luke stares at her in disbelief.
“You got better,” Polaris shrugs.
“You must be tired from your flight,” Luna interrupts before her father can speak, “come on and have a seat.”
Polaris surveys Luna’s spacious home. By the looks of the cheerful family portraits on the wall and the way her son-in-law looks at Luna, it would seem that Polaris didn’t know best. She was wrong about how risky the move was on her Luna and Quentin’s relationship, and by all accounts the strange little family fit in perfectly in Aurora Skies, despite the monochromatic population. But Polaris is happy that she was wrong, because being right would have meant heartbreak for her most sensitive child. Furthermore, she’s thankful that Quentin is her son-in-law. He’s hardworking, kind, and calm. Nothing like that asshole Mercury, who broke her youngest daughter’s heart, or January, the cougar who preyed on her oldest son. And Polaris doesn’t like the looks of Crimson. He looks so familiar, but she can’t figure out why.
“So Crimson,” Polaris breaks the silence, “are you full-blooded or half?"
“Mom,” Elysia gasps, and Quentin’s eyes widen in shock.
“I was thinking of making stu surprise for dinner tonight. Does that sound good?” Luna tries to change the subject, “or I can make mac and cheese. I think the kids would like that.”
“I too am curious about Crimson’s heritage” Crux adds, “though Polaris, you did phrase your question in a rather insensitive manner.”
“Well,” Crimson speaks slowly, “my father was full Alcyonian, but my mother was half. So, I suppose I’m mostly-blooded.”
Polaris snorts, “do you think you’re clever or something?”
“A little, yes.”
“Luna’s newest book was just published,” Quentin interjects, “it’s already getting some good reviews. Honey, what did you say it was about?”
Luna hesitates, “um, it was a sequel to my first two novels. The ones about--”
“Me,” Polaris says.
“It’s not about you. My protagonist’s name is Cynosura Tyr.”
“The name is different, Lulu, but the story’s the same. When do I get my first royalty check?”
“Quentin, tell my dad about your new composing gig. I’m sure he’d be interested,” Luna ignores her mother.
“Hmm?” Luke eyes refocus--he’d already tuned out of the conversation.
“Seriously, were you ever going to tell me that you pilfered my life for your novel? I had to find out from Solaris what you’d written.”
Luna deflates, “you didn’t read my novel? Have you read any of my work?”
“So,” it’s Polaris’ turn to change the subject, “Magenta--”
“Whatever. Was your family part of the Mass or the Inertia?”
“Uh,” Crimson looks to Elysia for help.
“Which were you in, mom?” Luna comes to his rescue instead.
Polaris blinks, “the Mass, obviously. Members of the Inertia were never agents. They were always in cushy command or bureaucratic positions. The kind of work this nerdhole over here seems suited for,” she shoots a dirty look at Crimson.
“Our contacts tell us that the Inertia is no more, so the question hardly seems relevant,” Crux gives a thoughtful look, “still, it was often possible to discern one’s social class based on diction and accent. Your accent is very faint, Crimson…”
Elysia watches the conversation with annoyance. She might have left Sunset Valley after Luna but it’s also been a long time since she’s seen her parents. She doesn’t have a distinguished career like Luna or Quentin, and she may not have a beautiful house, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t accomplished. She’s worth attention and affection. She deserves more than this.
And so Elysia finds herself slipping back into old habits, habits she’s been trying so hard to fight. Her mother isn’t terribly hard to read--she never has been--so Elysia has no problem finding a damning thought floating at the surface of her mother’s mind.
“Does Crux know you still fantasize about dad,” Elysia blurts out.
The reaction isn’t what she expected. Luke perks up, “me? Really? Wow, Polly. I mean, I’m flattered but you’re married and I’m married and I just don’t see it working out.”
Polaris laughs and slaps at the air, “shut the fuck up, Luke. As if I would ever give you the time of day again.”
Crux purses his lips in mild annoyance, but he doesn’t explode like Elysia had hoped. “I appreciate your concern, Elysia, but I understand that your mother is a person with her own past and history. And your father had quite the impact on her, so I accept that she may occasionally have carnal thoughts about him.”
“‘Carnal thoughts,’’” Polaris snickers, “Oh maker, you’re too chaste, Cruxie. That reminds me--Luke, do you remember that time we--”
“I think Sheba needs to go outside,” Quentin stands up suddenly, “No, don’t get up, honey--I’ll get her.”
“And I, um, need to go to the restroom,” Crimson jumps up, “excuse me.”
As her parents giggle and whisper, Elysia regrets ever bringing up this topic of conversation.
In the bathroom, Crimson washes his hands and then studies himself in the mirror. He can see a definite family resemblance between himself and his father.
How had Elysia talked him into this? He never wanted to meet her family. He knows what his father and mother had done. He wouldn’t blame Polaris and Crux for hating him if they found out. After all, evil is in his blood--sins of the father and all that.
He can’t stand to go back to the dining room, where the interrogation will no doubt continue. Instead he pushes open the door to the master bedroom in search of safe haven. He finds a kindred refugee: Quentin is sitting on a loveseat, reading. He looks up from the book and grins at Crimson.
“Didn’t want to go back out there?”
“Maker, of course not. It’s a fucking crucible out there,” Crimson sits down next to Quentin, “I take it your charming mother-in-law is why you and Luna fled to Aurora Skies?”
Quentin laughs, “kind of. I mean, she’s not all bad. She gave me a hard time the first time we met but that’s just because she cares about her children. It’s just...complicated.”
Quentin sighs, “I don’t know how much Luna told you, but my dad was part of the reason her stepfather went missing so long. After I found out, I felt so freaking guilty. I wanted out from under his thumb--he controlled just about every part of my life--and Luna wanted to start fresh. So here we are. And that guilt went away for awhile, until this.”
Crimson pauses, “well my parents kidnapped Luna and my mother shot Crux, so if it makes you feel better, I’m infinitely worse on the awful family scale.”
“Okay,” Quentin chuckles, “you win.”
Crimson’s heart stops “What? Why would you bring that up?”
Despite the pregnant silence that follows, the two men don’t notice Luke enter the room. “Hey, is this the official Polly-free zone?”
“Semi-official,” Quentin says, “though you didn’t seem to be suffering too badly back there.”
“It was just a really long flight, you know? And sitting right next to Polly,” Luke shudders, “that woman has no filter. No. Filter.”
“You don’t seem to have one either,” Crimson points out.
“Not really, but I’m not as--what’s the word Crux uses?--crass. I’m not as much of that.”
“No, just confrontational,” Crimson responds, “and far too masculine.”
“Dude,” Quentin’s tone is warning, the single word carrying more weight than seems possible.
But Luke doesn’t take offense, “I know I was being a dick. But I worry about Elly. Lulu and Solaris--my son with Polly--are doing just fine. But Elly’s having a hard time. I just don’t want her to go through the kind of shit I put Polly and the kids through.”
“You’re surprisingly self-aware,” Crimson rolls his eyes.
Luke blinks, “he’s insulting me, right?” He asks Quentin.
Quentin hesitates, “no. It’s a compliment.”
Crux clears his throat. He’s standing at the door of the bedroom, with a sheepish look on his face, “Polaris noticed your absence. She requested that you return to the dining room, though I will not repeat her colorful language.”
The men sigh and grumble as the trudge to the dining room.
“Wait, Crimson,” Crux holds up his hand and smiles kindly, “May I speak to you?”
Crimson’s body stiffens, and he searches for a way to say no. But nothing comes to him, so he nods.
“Your family was part of the Inertia,” it’s a statement, not a question, made in Crux’s native language, Alcyonese.
“Yes,” Crimson responds in Simlish, “that obvious, eh?”
“Mildly obvious, yes. Do you speak Alcyonese, or just understand it?”
“No, I don’t speak it very well. I haven’t really spoken it since I was a teen.”
“A shame,” Crux switches back to Simlish, “Polaris refuses to speak Alcyonese, and although it’s a harsh language, I miss its unique cadence.”
“Sorry,” Crimson pauses for a moment, waiting for a response, but Crux doesn’t oblige. So Crimson continues rambling, “Did you just want someone to talk to in Alcyonese? My sister could speak it really well, but she’s, um, she passed away a few years ago.” Crimson winces. He can tell he’s said too much.
“Ursa,” Crux looks Crimson in the eye, “was that your sister’s name?”
Crimson begins to shake his head but he realizes the futility and sighs, “she went by Clover.”
“So you must be Orion. Eridanus’ son. Lyra--a friend of mine who still has contacts on Alcyone--informed me a few years ago that Eridanus had a pair of twins.”
“My father always told us our existence was a state secret.”
“I apologize. I am prying, and that is obviously alarming you. You have an obvious reason to go by a different name. There are ex-patriots in Simnation who could possibly recognize the name Orion, especially considering your resemblance to your parents. And your parents were rather unpopular with members of the Mass. Again, apologies--I am not trying to sound threatening, or to upset you.”
“Then why the hell would you bring it up?”
“I wanted you to know that I do not hold any ill will against you,” Crux smiles, “I may have never known my genetic donors, but I understand that children often feel as if they are responsible for the actions of their predecessors. Everything I went through--the horrors I endured--are not a reflection of you as a person simply because of your parents’ involvement.”
“I know that that what my parents did isn’t my fault,” Crimson snorts.
“Knowing something and feeling something are two different things.”
“This is lovely but I think that Elly is probably pissed that I’m still abandoning my boyfriend duties.”
“Crimson,” Crux puts up his hand, “I believe you are a good person. After all, Elysia would not have selected you as a mate if you were not. She is more discerning and intuitive than anyone I know. Take her companionship as a testament to your character.”
Crimson is taken aback. Normally he would say something snotty at this point, but he can’t manage sarcasm. “Thank you, Crux. You’re too kind.”
“There is no such thing as too much kindness,” Crux’s smile grows wider, “but let us keep this a secret from Polaris, yes? She is very passionate, sometimes to a fault. It is fortunate that she is not as observant as I am or you would be--um, never mind.”
“Uh...okay,” Crimson gets up to leave, but Crux remains seated.
“Could you please send Quentin in here,” he asks, “I believe based on my cold reception this morning that I may need to ease his guilt as well.”
“Sure,” Crimson says. The skeptical part of him wonders if this is all a ruse, a method of catching him off guard before enacting some devious plan. It’s something his father would have encouraged, and Crux had worked for his father. But what would the devious plan even be? And besides, Luna and Elysia have only ever said good things about their stepfather. It’s their mother he worries about, even if it’s only on a social anxiety level as opposed to a life-or-death level.
In the dining room, Polaris is offering unsolicited advice.
“I’m sorry, mom,” Elysia says, “I know you want to spend time with us, but Liev needs his nap and he won’t go down without his blankie, which is at home.”
“Elly, you can’t let him have sleep props like that. He’ll never be able to sleep on his own if he indulge him.”
“It’s not that big of a deal. I sleep with a white noise app, so what’s the big deal if he needs a blankie?”
“Blanket, honey. Don’t babytalk your children. They won’t give a shit about being articulate if you do.”
“Dad,” Elysia look pleadingly at Luke, “can you help me out?”
“Your mom probably knows best,” he shrugs.
“Please, Elly,” Polaris begs, “I just want to spend time with you.”
“Oh, already tired of your favorite daughter?”
Polaris’ face falls, “What?”
“Nothing,” Elysia sighs, “I really do have to go. We’ll see you tomorrow, right?’
“Yes, we’re going to spend the night here and then Quen is going to drop us off at your place on the way to…”
Polaris trails off as the front door swings open. The kids burst through the front door with the level of sound only children can seem to manage.
“Mom we went to the mausoleum,” Lydia shouts.
“I got a rock,” Luke Junior adds.
“I found this neat book about a mummy,” Lark yells over her brother and sister. She stops and smiles when she sees Polaris, “hi Grandma Polly!”
“Grandbabies,” Polaris whispers to herself. She has so much time to make up for.
Author’s Notes: I’m sorry if this chapter is a let down! It got so long and it felt really boring when I gave the final read over, but I really wanted Polly and Crux to visit because I’ve missed them. I’ve been meaning to do so for a while. I also wanted to drop some pieces of information that I could use in future stories if I wanted to (like that Crux knows there’s other aliens in Simnation). And I have fun writing dialogue. XD Polly and Crux will stick around for another chapter and then they’re heading back to SV.
By the way, there are sooo many references to other events in this chapter so if you have questions, please ask. The only difference between this legacy and my previous in terms of continuity is that Quentin and Luna had their first kid in AS, not SV. So this alternate universe isn’t that different from the original.