Mr. Pierce watched as Afterburner entered the car. Still walking with his back to Diana, he said softly, “So you finally broke through, then. He’d be so happy… he wanted that for you so much, you know.”
Diana scowled slightly. “I know. He put me through all the levels of Hell to get me here.”
“He went to a lot of trouble to make it happen. And he went through a lot more to try to keep you safe.” He seemed sad. “You have no idea how much he put aside for you.”
“I probably don’t. But you also don’t know what he tried to make me put aside for him. And where is he now, hmm?” Diana did her best to have the final end of her statement come off as nothing more than a petulant young adult who had a falling out with her father.
The response began with a sigh. “I don’t know. We kind of lost touch… no, that sounds like it was accidental. Your father broke contact. I saw him a few times after he left. Once or twice when you were young. Then… I wasn’t welcome anymore.”
“You weren’t welcome where? The cabin?”
“Your father’s life. I wasn’t welcome to be there for your father. I think because he wanted to be there for you.” He repeated, more slowly, “You have no idea how much he put aside for you.”
“So, will you tell me? My father talked quite a lot about his various sciences, but he didn’t talk much about himself as a person.”
“Well, I know he was brilliant, even for an Inspired. Tried a little of everything, back in the day. So did I, but most of it didn’t stick. Your father, though… everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. There were those who said whatever he did, it was going to change the world.” Another sigh. “Even when he mostly quit, he still did things that put the experts to shame. Did you know we’re still using some of the stuff he invented after you came around…”
“‘…after I came around?’ you make it sound like I destroyed his life.”
Pierce considered for a moment. “Well… maybe ‘changed’ would make you feel better? But he was like a different man after that. We were inseparable in uni, you know? Both climbing the ranks in the New Lemuria. And then suddenly, he wants nothing to do with us, nothing to do with me…” He smiled, without sincerity. “But whatever, you know? I’m just a washed up old fool who lost his best friend. And then his kid turns up out of the blue.”
Diana’s mind returned to the trophy case in the zotheca. Among various plaques and medallions, her father’s name had jumped out at her from a trophy. Apparently, a few years after she had showed up in his life, the zotheca had given “LJ MacKenzie” an award recognizing his achievements in “Beholden Studies”…
“The stuff you still use of his… some of it is about the Beholden Studies trophy that I saw in the lounge, right?”
Suddenly, Pierce checks his watch. “Ooh, wow… I really gotta get back. Sorry kid.” A rough pat on the back. “Umm… don’t be a stranger, OK?” He starts getting ready to leave.
“Wait!” Diana calls after him, stopping him in his tracks.“I’d like to hear more about him. Can I contact you somehow?”
He writes something on a slip of paper, then shoves it into her hand. It’s a nondescript university email address.