Nona snapped the last box shut, scribbling the contents on the top with a marker and kicking the box towards the huge pile in her living room. She really hated moving but this time at least it was for a joyous occasion. Kurt and Jordan were just months away from their wedding which meant they really didn’t need both her condo and his home.
With that in mind, Jordan had decided that Nona needed more space for her growing son and insisted she take the three-bedroom town home. She and Taylor had been practically living with Kurt during her recovery as in the beginning she had required nearly round the clock care. Taking all that into account, she saw no reason for Nona to wait to move in.
Speaking of her sister’s physical recovery, it had been going remarkably well. So much so that Jordan had returned to work, albeit in an administrative capacity and was close to being released from physical therapy. Nona had no doubts her sister would return to full-duty before the years end. She was itching to put her uniform back on. There was another uniform, however, it seemed she was content to leave in the closet. In the past six months since their encounter with CLU, Jordan had not once mentioned becoming the Firebird again. Nona knew she was still dealing with the emotional trauma of that day.
Kurt had informed her that every few nights Jordan would wake up screaming. He would hold her, ask her what happened but she never wanted to talk about it, instead curling her trembling frame into him with tears in her eyes before she would fall back asleep. Her physical therapist had noticed her fatigue one session, suggesting she see a different kind of therapist. Jordan’s confidence and sleeping habits had been steadily improving since beginning therapy but Nona feared she might never act as Firebird again. She still had her powers, using them on occasion but made no efforts to venture back into vigilantism.
None of the team had been particularly active for that matter, each preferring to work through the terror of their last team encounter out of the limelight. Nona had buried herself in her work and the complicated task of sorting through Julio’s belongings. She had enrolled Hendrix in preschool, thinking he needed more interaction with people his own age. Since the funeral, he had spoken of his father occasionally saying, “I miss Daddy” and “Daddy went bye-bye”. They had been to the gravesite a few times, each time Hendrix gave the headstone a kiss before they left. Nona, for her part, missed him everyday but tried to focus on raising their son to be the kind of man Julio would be proud of, sharing happy memories of him.
Rico had begun working with Nona at the shop since she could use the extra set of hands. Julio had been her silent partner, caring for the finances and other paperwork. Without him, she now had an entirely new side of her business to learn, leaving little time to be on the shop floor. No one had heard from Goliath, though Legend’s “associates” had assured them he was very much alive. Nona guessed he was aware his presence would not be well received and was keeping his distance.
Emiko had drifted back into stealth mode, occasionally popping up to visit Jordan but less frequently since her recovery had been going well. Only Jordan had any idea what she might be up to though she declined to comment. Rico seemed pretty torn up about the engagement and it seemed like Emiko was giving him his space. Nona thought he should give her a chance but she had learned to steer clear of her family members’ romantic lives. Taylor was living the life of a typical 16 year old with a few exceptions.
Nona picked up a picture lying on her kitchen counter and couldn’t help but smile. The photo was of Jordan, Kurt and Taylor in front of the Denver courthouse. Just a few weeks prior, Taylor had achieved a life-long ambition, that of finding a family. Jordan had finally been able to adopt her, making her name officially Taylor Redfeather. She had even begun to call Jordan “Mom” on occasion, though it got them some interesting looks at the grocery store.
Kurt hoped to add his name to the adoption once he wed Jordan, making them legally the family they always knew they were. The happy couple had thrown Taylor a large party at Kurt’s home that they all had attended, ending with Kurt giving the girl her adoption present: a 2005 Honda Civic, which Nona’s shop had completely restored free of charge. Kurt had purchased the car and asked Nona to fix it up, preferring not to spend too much on the girl’s first car expecting it to take its share of scrapes.
Jordan was none too pleased with the gift originally feeling Kurt was spoiling their daughter but had warmed to the idea, laying down a list of provisos before the younger girl could hit the road. Taylor had readily agreed, relieved Jordan was allowing her to keep the gift and Kurt was relieved he hadn’t over-stepped his bounds with his wife-to-be. She had given Nona a tongue lashing for keeping it a secret but thanked her sister for the gesture nonetheless. Just as she was adding the photo to another box, there was an impatient knock at the front door. She crossed the small living room to unlock it. She didn’t bother using the peephole, as only a trusted few knew how to reach the apartment from the shop floor. The door swung open to reveal a very worried looking Vasquez.
“Hey,” she greeted Nona noncommittally, entering the home without a proper invitation. Nona returned the greeting, closing the door behind her guest. “We need to talk…”
“Okay, I’m kinda busy right now. You couldn’t have called? What’s so important?”
Vasquez looked as if she might be sick. Whatever she was about to tell Nona must have been pretty bad if it made her physically uncomfortable. She stared at her feet for a moment then seemed to decide she had to get it off her chest as quickly as possible.
“CLU’s alive!” She blurted out, watching Nona’s face for a reaction. The one she got was to be expected.
“What the hell do you mean he’s alive?! He can’t be. I…” She stopped herself short of admitting something she had yet to say out loud. “He just can’t be!”
“I know, I know. But I’m pretty sure he IS. I don’t have all the details but chatter around the stations science offices is that there was a “nano-incident” similar to the one that happened six months ago here. Two weeks ago, a tech startup in Silicone Valley was burned to the ground killing both occupants, a startup working on nanite applications. The security camera took this.”
She handed Nona a grainy black and white photo. Even with the poor resolution, Nona could see it was the same jaw, the same handsome face that had morphed into a murderous monster. Nona could understand now why Vasquez had looked so green around the gills. If CLU truly was alive that meant that Nona had failed and their entire family could be in grave danger once more. Julio was gone but that monster survived? Her mind immediately went to Jordan. How could she tell her about this? She had made so much progress in her recovery; news like this could destroy it all. Nona also knew she couldn’t keep this from her. If she was in danger, Jordan deserved to know. Vasquez seemed to read Nona’s mind.
“Do you want me to tell her?” she asked tentatively. Nona seemed utterly offended by the suggestion.
“Oh, yeah, cuz you broke it to me so gently! No, I will find a way to tell her. In the meantime, you need to get me some solid information. I don’t wanna get everyone on the defense without something concrete to go on.”
She went to hand the photo back but Vasquez just nodded and headed out the door. As Nona watched her descend, taking the stairs two at a time she yelled after her “Thanks, and be careful”!
The other girl turned and waved, feeling no thanks was necessary. Ever since that night months ago, Vasquez had grown to think of the 11:59 as friends. As such, she would do everything in her power to protect them from potential threats; especially one as big as this.
Nona slammed the door shut out of frustration. She thought back to that moment in the cavern. Jordan was nearly dead having given her all to stop him and there he was taunting her, threatening them even as he bled into the dirt. She had been so blinded by rage, so overcome with grief over the suffering he had inflicted on her family, particularly Jordan. And in that moment she made a decision she couldn’t bear to share with anyone else. She did what she thought would guarantee their safety but if he had survived, all she had done was put a target on her chest bigger than the one on her sister’s.
Grabbing her car keys off the counter she snatched the door open, descending the stairs at breakneck speed. She needed to talk to Jordan now, before she lost her nerve. Her first instinct had been to shield her big sister from this ugly development, try to solve the problem quickly and quietly. That’s what Jordan would do for her. Unfortunately, when it was the other way around, her sister was usually displeased about secrets being kept from her.
Before she realized it, Jordan and Kurt’s home had come into view. She couldn’t remember the trip, so lost in thought she had been. Jordan’s red SUV was parked out front, signaling she was obviously home. Nona pulled into the driveway behind her sister, turned off the car and walked right into the front door Jordan had forgotten to lock. It was now or never. Nona tried to find the resolve she would need to walk up to her sister, grab her by the shoulders and with just a few words, ruin her happy ending.
Heaven help her.
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