Welcome, welcome, come one come all, because today… right now… is the last day of The Powers That Be.
Yeah, I know. I’m divided between feelings that this was a very long time in coming, and came very fast. XD
But. It’s happy. It’s good. I think you’ll all like.
Also, smaaaalll fact, that this is actually from the point of view of someone who’s made himself a stink in the nostrils of the characters and readers alike (but not his writer. he’s actually fun to write, even though he’s a total jerk.)
Welcome Franklin Tumbler to the stage as he performs our grand finale, everyone! -jazz hands-
If you’re new, WHAT A TIME TO SHOW UP, YOU’RE HERE JUST WHEN YOU HAVE A FULL BOOK TO READ, ALL RIGHT HERE. Enjoy, whichever camp you’re in. ❤
And the very. last. part. right here.
I never thought with all we’d built Silverwing up for . . . all the glory we thought it would bring us . . . that tearing it down would get me much more fame than ever.
Everyone loves a heartthrob singer type. But make them a public hero as well? Dang, just roll out the red carpets, man. All the admiration reduced the hassle of the SPI procedures I was going through down to a minor annoyance.
I loved it.
Definitely worth the craziness of shooting Maxine, jumping ship on Silverwing and all that. Now I just got to see them all get flushed down the drain one by one while I got preened by the public.
Since I didn’t have some Silverwing-rigged place to stay at anymore, I was mostly just bopping around to different hotels while I still had to stay in town. At least for a few more weeks. Which wasn’t much of a problem. I had plenty of money. And hey, hotels are cool. No complaints about hanging out with room service.
After one particularly long hard day at the SPI, I came back to a message being delivered to my room. A handwritten note. I’d recognize Charles Fernsby’s nice, neat handwriting as his even if it hadn’t been labeled as such.
To Franklin Tumbler
From the Fernsby family
Hmm. Wonder what he’d be sending me a letter about.
I undid the tie from around my neck and let it dangle as I flopped back against the freshly made hotel bed. I pushed my hair back out of my eyes with one hand, popping open the envelope flap with the other one.
The plain notecard slid out into my hand as I pulled it out. Words were printed out across it just as neatly as on the back of the envelope.
Just a short little note, inviting me to join the Fernsby family for dinner at a restaurant just outside of town. Some sort of . . . after-the-fact chat, now that the whole Silverwing thing was mostly behind us. Wanting to make up to an extent, it looked like.
I couldn’t help a smile.
Well, more friends never hurt. The Fernsbys seemed like a sweet bunch anyway. I checked the time they said on the note and pulled up my phone to check the time. Yeah, I could make that.
Free dinner with a nice little family. When was the last time that had happened?
I actually couldn’t remember. Maybe it was back home with my mom or something? Hmm.
I swung my legs off the bed and sat up again, pulling the tie off from around my neck and swooshing my hair back again. Not too fancy of a place, sounded like. And I’d be with kids, so probably no need for the fancy tie like usual.
Exotic new experiences. Cool.
My shoes clacked along the sidewalk as I walked up to the small, street-corner restaurant. Pizza and ice cream were advertised from blinking neon signs in the window, just starting to shed more light onto the sidewalk in the dusky light.
Man, good thing I didn’t put too much effort into my suit before heading over. Kids’d probably get pizza grease all over it.
I chuckled as I reached the door and pushed inside. A bell clanged above the door. The warm, familiar smell of pizza greeted me the second I stepped inside, along with the sounds of music, chatter and dishes clanking in the background.
The dim, yellow lighting and brick accents reminded me of a few pizza places back home. Pretty nice place, actually.
I nodded slowly, looking around for a second in approval before I started looking around for the Fernsby family.
A cute waitress passed by and I reached out, touching her elbow gently. “Hey, sweetheart. Could you maybe point me towards . . .?”
She turned and her eyes widened, looking even bigger with the thick makeup around them. “Oh my gosh are you . . . Franklin Tumbler?”
Ah, I’d been recognized again.
I gave her a smile and a wink. “That’d be me. Think you could direct me to the Fernsbys’ table?”
She just stared for another second with her lips parted before snapping out of it and stammering that of course she could. It was adorable, the whole new level of fluster I was able to get these days.
I followed her around tables and chairs, weaving our way towards the back of the restaurant.
A long stretch of three tables pushed together was up against the back brick wall, and seated at one end was the Fernsby family. The kids were having some sort of rock-paper-scissors championship amongst themselves. Charles and Angela sat next to each other, talking quietly as they kept an eye on the kids.
Charles looked up as I came closer and a pleasant smile broke across his face. “Franklin, it’s nice to see you could make it.”
The waitress stopped where she was (probably shellshocked from being in the presence of so many heroes) while I kept walking towards the table. I spread my hands out and returned the smile.
“Well, how could I not make it. Pizza and distinguished company? Too good of an offer to pass up.” I slid out a chair and took a seat across from Angela.
The kids stopped in their playing to stare at me.
I looked over at them, pushing my hair back and waving a little. “Hey, dudes.”
The girl and one of the boys just blinked at me.
The one that looked like a miniature Wolfgang . . . obviously Leif . . . narrowed his eyes at me. “Jilly isn’t a dude.” He sat back and crossed his arms.
I smiled, leaning back and crossing my arms in an imitation of his. “She’s a metaphorical dude. I can call her that.”
Leif shook his head.
Charles cleared his throat. “Leif, it’s okay. Be nice.”
The kids all busied themselves playing with the sugar packets sitting in the container on the table.
I chuckled to myself, shaking my head as I turned back to the Fernsby senior members. “Kids, huh? Can imagine why my mom didn’t want any more to deal with than just me.”
“They’re a handful for sure,” Charles answered, looking over to his little ones with a look that definitely indicated he didn’t wish they were any less there.
Angela shifted in her seat, giving me a tight-lipped smile. “But they’re certainly worth it.”
I nodded, letting out my breath. “Oh yes, definitely. Where’d we all be without kids, anyway? Somebody’s gotta raise ‘em up right.” I grinned, picking out one of the sugar packets in front of me and flicking it over to one of the kids.
They gave me weird looks for a few seconds before going back to whatever game they were playing now.
“So . . .” I picked one of the menus up from off the end of the table and glanced over it. “Are we ordering or what?”
“Yes. In a bit.” Charles cleared his throat and sat up straighter in his chair, leaning over to clasp his hands on the table. “See, we wanted to talk to you about . . . what you’re doing from this point?”
What I’m doing from this point? Why’d he be interested in . . .? Was this some extra SPI investigation here?
I frowned at him for a second, the menu still frozen in my hands. “Weeelll . . . I don’t know. Just do more singing gigs. Go back to Chicago or something.” I remembered to work the sympathy aspect at just the right moment. “Though . . . I mean . . . without Silverwing paving the way, things are gonna be a little rocky and all . . . but I’ll manage.” I kept just the right balance of despair and optimism in my voice.
I let out my breath and looked out the window to the sunset light over the city, running my fingers soulfully through my thick hair again.
That seemed to soften even Angela and Leif a little to my plight.
Charles nodded, his face wrought with intent. “See, that’s why I wanted to talk to you. Just . . .” he took a breath. “With this new path you’ve chosen . . . of doing the right thing and everything . . . it can be a bit tough right at the beginning especially. But it’s really important that you get this help when you’re starting out to keep things in the good spot where they are.” He looked over at Angela. “We helped Wolfgang out when he’d first made the decision to turn. Helped him stay on the straight and narrow and know what to do from that point of turning and we . . . well, we’d like to offer the same to you.”
I just stared at them, blinking once as I took in what it was he was saying.
Charles leaned in about an inch closer. “Franklin, we’d really like to help you get back on your feet after this much of an upheaval. If you need a place to stay, our house is always open. If you need someone to talk to, Angela and I are always here. You can come to us with any sort of questions or anything that you need help with and we’ll help as best we can, just as if you were family. That was a very brave thing you did and we want you to know we support that kind of thing. The right thing.”
I finally processed what he was saying and placed a hand on my chest. “So you want . . . to take me under your wing?”
Angela gave a sort of sideways nod, glancing over at Charles and not looking as deeply convicted as he did. “In a way.”
“If you want,” Charles added, rubbing a hand along his stubbly beard and still watching my face.
Me. Being taken in like an orphaned baby bird by this kind Christian family until I could get back on my feet . . .
Like I didn’t have better things to do. Like I was lost in this new world without Silverwing and Maxine.
Adorable. Somewhat naïve. But still really adorable.
I stifled the urge to laugh, a smile still coming to my lips as I nodded. “That’s . . . very kind of you. And I’ll certainly still consider you as friends. But I do think I’ll be alright on my own.”
Angela’s expression showed a tinge of relief and I guessed this hadn’t quite been her idea. Charles looked a little more disappointed, but nodded back. “Alright. Just remember that we’re here, okay?”
“Absolutely.” I saluted, leaning over and picking up the menu again. “So, now that we’ve covered that, I hope I can still have a nice dinner with you lovely people.” I grinned.
“Oh, yes, definitely.” Charles picked up another one of the menus. “Kids, what do you want?”
The kids immediately dropped their sugar packet game and swarmed to their dad. “Pizza! Cheese pizza!”
After Leif had voiced his opinion, he waved a hand. “Hey, when is Wolfgang coming?”
I looked up in surprise. “Dankworth?”
Not like there were many other Wolfgangs around, but . . .
Angela tucked her hair back behind one ear. “You were invited at an earlier time than everyone else because we wanted to talk, but . . . after everything and since Wolfgang’s out of the hospital now, we thought it would be nice for everyone to just sit down together for a little bit. Is that okay . . .?”
“Oh, it’s fine.” I waved a hand. “The more the merrier.”
Saving his life the way I did, I didn’t think terms with Wolfgang would be too bad.
Everyone being included, I’d assume I had more to deal with than just him. Probably that chick with the turquoise hair and the Knight kid. That wouldn’t be too bad.
I was just a little worried about Baden’s being here. After how our last meetings went. I pinned my hope on the rumors I’d heard about him having gone blind, plus the fact that this place had ice cream. Ice cream always placated News.
“Wolfgang’s going to be here in a little bit,” Charles answered Leif. “I think we’re going to just order the food first, alright? That way it’ll be here when the others arrive.”
“Okay.” Leif plopped down again and looked out the window.
The pizza poll was taken and a few pizzas were ordered. I won popularity with the kids by insisting we ordered some breadsticks too.
We were all munching on the breadsticks when I heard the bell clang over the door again. I craned my neck, even though the entrance wasn’t visible from where we were sitting. Couldn’t audibly hear the footsteps, so I took a guess that News wasn’t here yet. A few seconds later, Dallas and that tiny little blonde who’d been with him before . . . Kaity, if I remembered right . . . came around the corner into view.
Even if this was a plain old pizza place, they’d dressed just as nicely as if it were a fancy restaurant. Probably kept on their good clothes from working at the SPI. Kaity held on to Dallas’s elbow and Dallas kept his back straight, keeping a dignified posture.
Heck, the kids could be royalty, looking like that. I might not have even gone through with that kidnapping if I knew how cute they could be together before now.
“Hey, you made it.” Charles smiled and waved to them.
Dallas hesitated visibly upon seeing me at the table, but managed a smile back at Charles. “Thank you for inviting us, it’s nice to see everyone again.”
They took a seat across the table from me, even though it took a bit of extra moving around to get there.
Only a minute later, the bell clanked a couple more times. And right around the corner came the three musketeers. One with her turquoise hair and crutch, the next with his cowlick and leather jacket, and News with a smile on his face as always and a . . . guide dog?
Okay then, the rumors of blindness had been true, wow. Definitely true by the looks of that dog he’d chosen. Nobody with working eyesight would buy a dog that looked like that.
At least he couldn’t see me. I had the advantage of surprise if I even wanted to talk to him.
Dankworth actually looked to be in a good mood. Smiling and happy for the most part. Since he’d been hanging around Baden I couldn’t say I was surprised. He usually had that effect on people.
Charles called out a greeting and Angela waved.
Leif jumped up out of his seat and made a beeline straight for his brother. “Wolf!”
Wolfgang laughed and took his hands out of his jacket pockets, holding them out in front of him. “Whoa, whoa, ease up there. Still recovering from the busted rib. No human rockets today.”
Leif slowed up as he got closer, going in for a side hug instead of a full-on ram hug.
Jilly got out of her seat and scampered over to News’s dog, latching onto its neck. Baden almost tripped over her and pulled up short, making a show of looking around by his feet.
“Hey, who’s got my dog?” his voice boomed, but still held a smile.
Jilly squeaked and let go, backing up. “What’s his name?”
“Ah, a little Fernsby munchkin, I knew it.” News leaned down to scratch behind his dog’s ears, the shifting the wrinkles all over the dog’s head as he did. “His name’s Ugly. Think it’s a good name? I can’t see him so I wouldn’t know.”
Jilly just smiled shyly, edging a little closer to pat the dog’s head.
That was News for you. Always great with kids, even if he couldn’t see them.
I resisted making some remark about how his sunglasses finally had a purpose in favor of staying undiscovered
Liza took a seat first, understandably not wanting to stay on her feet more than necessary. Wolfgang waited to help News to a seat. And seemingly right on cue, the servers showed up with the pizzas, setting them right along the row of tables.
Everyone got their pizza and the conversation started up. Talking about what everyone had been doing . . . your typical catch-up.
Dallas and Kaity got promotions for their involvements, so they were moving up in the ranks and had a bit of different things to do nowadays. Liza’s leg was on the mend. Charles had apparently scared his kids and wife pretty bad . . . as had pretty much all the former-Heroes in the country, really . . . but they’d pulled back together and gotten over it pretty well. Just a few nightmares from the poor kids.
I wasn’t very invested in all that sort of stuff and just ate my pizza and listened. But I found it incredibly hard to keep quiet when News and Dankworth revealed that they were starting a sort of food truck thing together.
But I ditched the effort as Baden elbowed Fernsby and asked: “Hey, is Frank here yet? Seems a bit quiet for that.”
“Oh, I’m here,” I interjected before Charles could answer. If I was discovered, I could be discovered like a man and not revealed by someone else.
Charles’s confirmation trailed off and he just nodded. “We were just talking to him about maybe . . . being with our family until he could get back on his f- . . .”
I interrupted before he could go any further. “So, food truck, huh?” I took a bite of pizza. “Sounds like an interesting way of earning money. Kinda go around and build some hype . . . be the new guy in town everywhere?”
Baden turned towards me, pinpointing in on exactly where my voice was so well I could almost swear he could see me and had just been joking about the whole “going blind” thing.
But he smiled, just as pleasantly as he had at everyone else. “Yeah, I think it’ll take off really well. It’s like being an ice cream truck, but with the works, you know.”
“Literally,” Dankworth put in. “That’s seriously some jacked-up ice cream truck you bought.”
I nodded before realizing News couldn’t see it. “Yeah, it sounds cool.”
“Big things, too. Gotta be careful around those sort of trucks.” Baden rubbed his fingers along his knuckles, still keeping his tone genial. “Might not be someone to shove you out of the way of ‘em if you don’t . . .” he gestured around and I noticed how his index finger made a sweep of all his friends seated at the table, “ . . . y’know, watch out. Clear out of the area at the right time.”
No one else seemed to pick up on the subtext and kept talking, but Wolfgang and Liza both gave News a sideways glance.
Ah, back to that old incident. Back in the Mafia with that old truck that would have run me over if News hadn’t pulled me out of the way.
Even this many years out of the mob and he could still nonchalantly threaten with subtext like a boss.
I narrowed my eyes slightly at him, but smiled back. “Yeah, I get it.”
Not like I really needed anything from these people anyway. And not like Baden could do much damage blind.
Well . . .
The second thought was a little more hesitant than the first.
But whatever. I’d stay away from his dumb friends if that was what he wanted.
Baden clapped his hands together and grinned. “Good. Well, now that most everyone’s had their pizza, would anyone object if I got us all some milkshakes here? Cones for the kids if they’d rather. But this place actually has some pretty decent ice cream.”
As expected, no one had any objections to that plan and after a few minutes we were all settled with out choices of milkshakes. Conversations slowed to only occasional back-and-forths. The sun had long since disappeared and I watched out the window, to the streetlights and the cars that passed by.
Really, this was something a little weird for me. A group of people just talking and laughing and hanging out. No business ventures. Not even a particular common goal. Just being together for the plain and simple reason that they wanted to.
So this had been what the great Baden News had been doing all these years. Had given up all the riches of the Mafia for.
I took another thoughtful sip of my strawberry milkshake.
Well. No accounting for his tastes.
I tuned back in on the conversation being had just in time to hear some listing off of ice cream types Baden and Wolfgang planned on having in their food truck thing. Of course, it was a very important question and required a lot of thought.
There was a slight break after a discussion of the benefits of sundaes versus floats, so I interjected my own question.
“Are you guys planning on having anything other than ice cream, here?” I set my milkshake down and ran my hand through my hair as I leaned back in my chair.
Dankworth shrugged, leaning an arm against the table. “News was talking about doing some sort of . . . barbeque thing . . .”
“Providing people with a little actual protein.” Liza laughed. “What’s the world coming to?”
“Yeah, I know. Ludicrous.” Dankworth made a face at Liza, then continued. “But that was sort of going off the premise that I could have my powers somehow manually switched back on and I could make a big show of roasting hot dogs or something, so . . .” he shrugged. “That won’t really be happening. We’ll see how it ends out.”
I snapped my fingers and pointed at him, sitting up straighter in my seat again. “Hey, hey, it might not be as impossible as you think, man.”
Now everyone was looking at me.
Wolfgang frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve actually been doing a little research on that front myself,” I replied, resting my elbows on the table. “And actually it might not be too far fetched an idea to get your nanites working again without being remotely controlled by the switchboard. They’re still in your bloodstream and functional. Just a good ol’ shock in the right place . . . maybe even some variations of, say . . . a dialysis machine could hook you up, boot the nanites back up and boom, you’re in business. I was thinking of trying it, even . . .”
Wow, talk about the wrong thing to say. They’d looked a little uneasy while I was talking before, but the mention of me getting my powers back made them all but recoil back from me. Dallas went a shade paler and Wolfgang’s eyes narrowed.
I trailed off. “What?”
Charles let out a breath, exchanging looks with Dallas. “Maybe . . . some medical experiments are best left alone, Franklin.”
I raised my eyebrows back, but shrugged and nodded as I leaned back again. “Okay, whatever. Just thought I’d bring it up.”
Leif at least seemed to be on my side. He smacked his hand repeatedly on Wolfgang’s arm. “But your fire stuff! You should get it back!”
“Yeah well . . . everyday life is actually quite a lot easier to deal with without superpowers to worry about.” Wolfgang raised his eyebrows over at me. “They’re . . . well, nice for saving the day, but . . .”
“Not always the best to have around, in the long run,” Charles finished. He looked over at his two younger kids, who were leaning against the backs of their chairs and starting to space out a little. “And, on that note, I think it’s time we all head back home. Honey?” He looked down at Angela, who was leaned against his arm. She sat up straighter and nodded, stretching a little. She smiled.
“We should all get some rest. Especially with . . . new little Fernsby on the way, hmm?”
Wolfgang’s head snapped around and he stared. “ . . . holy smoke, you’re . . . seriously?”
Leif gave his older brother a knowing, smug grin.
Everyone else’s eyes widened as they stared at the Fernsbys. News’s jaw dropped for a second before he broke into a wide grin.
“Well, mazel tov. Another awesome addition to the family, and about time, huh?” he clapped and laughed. Ugly wagged his tail, sitting up straight at the noise.
All I could seem to think was: Oh sheesh, another one? As many as there were was already exhausting.
Definitely my cue to take off.
All the congratulations and happy chatter rose to a crescendo as everyone crowded around the Fernsbys and as I stood out of my seat, swinging my coat over my shoulder.
Yeah, not like anybody would see much of my exit, but I made the gesture anyway. Probably the last time I’d really see any of ‘em for a while, and it was a nice dinner anyway.
“Hey. Nice hangin’ with you all.” I clicked my tongue and casually saluted.
Sure enough, nobody saw me. Except News . . . the blind guy . . . looked up and gave a small wave that wasn’t quite aimed at me.
I gave him a smile he couldn’t see and headed for the door. The sounds of all their laughing and exclamations still followed me.
What a weird group, seriously. I shook my head, pulling open the door and stepping out into the cool night air outside. Colder than I expected. I shrugged back into my coat and started down the sidewalk to my car.
I mean, I’d seen a lot of myself in Dankworth when I’d hired him. Liza didn’t seem too bad herself. I kinda wished we’d talked more. And I knew News and I had a lot of common ground. We’d grown up together for goodness sake.
The lifestyle differences were so different though. I had so much money I could basically swim in it. Everybody loved me. I could travel anywhere I wanted. Buy anything. I was basically the poster boy for “rich and famous”.
They lived in a ratty, gutted out grocery store. Barely any money and their main source of it was just about to become a food truck. Their reputations were sketchy at best and they’d really just avoided going to jail. News was blind. Liza’d lost an arm. Wolfgang was obviously screwed up mentally from all he’d been through.
All they had was this weird, small group of friends, some decency and somehow the never ending ability to get ice cream. Somehow they always stuck together. And . . . actually made it by.
I stopped by my car just before unlocking it and squinted up at the dark sky, my hands jammed in my pockets. Something seemed to wriggle in my stomach and I almost felt like there was a hole there for a second. Like I hadn’t eaten enough. Or something else.
Like . . . like I was jealous of them.
I blinked and looked back down at the shiny gold surface of my Cadillac. Jealous?
I actually considered it for a second before shaking my head and laughing.
I unlocked my car and got in, still chuckling to myself.
Jealous. What a ridiculous idea.
Well, that’s all folks! Really hope you all enjoyed the story in all its long, incredibly dramatic glory. I’d love to hear any favorite characters, favorite scenes, short story suggestions, fan theories or screaming you’d like to throw at me in the comments.
you guys are awesome. Thanks for reading and I’ll see ya round next time. ❤