Please note, this interlude was originally written later, and has been moved back to this spot for chronological and pacing reasons. Hence the numbering. Thanks!
For what was the very first time in his life up to that point, Gordon Kuhn was no longer hiding the powers that he had been born with. His father’s heritage, the gift that he had spent every moment of his existence for as long as he could remember restraining and suppressing… was finally allowed to be unleashed.
“Gordon, four o’clock!”
The sound of Roxa’s blurted warning, as the two of them (along with Sands and Jazz) worked to stop the small army of Seosten reinforcements from chasing after Tristan, Vanessa, and Flick, made Gordon’s head snap around the way she had indicated. One of those burly frog-like Menmeran people was almost right on top of him, the massive, six-foot long polearm that he carried already swinging up toward his stomach.
His own weapon was still in its tommygun form, rather than its separated sword and shield. But Gordon didn’t need his shield. As the hooked blade polearm was driven at him, the boy’s hand snapped up. An immediate fog-like wave of intense cold radiated off of his palm. It washed over the incoming weapon, before solidifying at a thought into what looked essentially like a very large (and upside down) icicle, a frozen stalagmite rising from the ground with the shaft of the pike trapped within.
Unfortunately for the Menmeran, his momentum didn’t stop just because his weapon’s did. The man lost his grip on his weapon, stumbling in surprise as it was captured by the ice stalagmite. Reflexively, he reached out to stop his own fall. Which he managed to do… by catching onto Gordon. His flailing hands found the boy’s shoulders, and Gordon met his gaze briefly.
Briefly, because in the next second, the Menmeran was frozen solid. His entire body turned to ice, which subsequently shattered as Gordon took a step back (staggering just a little as the wave of kill-pleasure washed over him) and allowed it to fall. Chunks of the frozen body were scattered along the floor at his feet.
Turning back to the others, Gordon split his weapon apart. Sword in one hand and shield over his other arm, the boy raced directly for the thickest group of enemies that were threatening to roll right over the tiny group meant to stop them. As he ran, more ice appeared. First on his chest, before expanding quickly. Over the course of a couple of seconds, what amounted to an entire suit of armor, made of incredibly dense ice, covered his body from head to toe. Only a slight opening was left for his eyes.
With his protective armor in place, Gordon threw himself directly into the middle of that densest group of enemies. As weapons ricocheted off of his ice, the boy let more of that freezing mist radiate away from his body in every direction. His skin, and the ice covering it, was so cold that anything within a foot or so was almost immediately frozen. Meanwhile, the mist solidified here and there, catching enemies’ legs, arms, weapons, and more. Some were caught, others yanked their frozen limbs back, only to have them shatter.
For the first time, Gordon allowed his inborn power to actively help him. No one could get within melee distance of the boy without being frozen by the mist that surrounded him, and his ice armor protected from a lot of other things that they could throw at him.
It still wasn’t simple, by any means. The fight was hard, and it took a lot out of him. By the time Mr. Moon and Mrs. Mason showed up to help, Gordon didn’t know if he could have kept going much longer.
But it was him. For the first time in his life, Gordon had truly, genuinely been fighting as himself, not hiding his actual power and potential.
And that? Well, honestly, that felt pretty damn good.
“So, it’s your dad?”
Hours had passed since the moment when the Seosten man had tried to possess Gordon, and his hybrid-status had been revealed. Flick and the twins had disappeared along with the experimental transport carrying Sariel and the other imprisoned Seosten (apparently carrying them back to Earth), and those left behind had taken as much out of Kushiel’s lab as they could, including whatever prisoners weren’t on the transport.
Now, they were heading back to the Aelaestiam base on board the Sunstrider, alongside the rest of the fleet (or as much of it as had survived the extended space battle). It would take time to get there and figure out their next move as far as getting themselves back to Earth, which would give everyone involved time to decompress after everything that had happened.
Or, in this case, time for Jazz, Roxa, and Sands to talk to Gordon about that little revelation. The four of them were sitting in the ship’s private cafeteria at one of the tables, plates of half-eaten food arranged between them while most of their focus remained on the conversation.
Looking over briefly to Jazz, who had just spoken, Gordon gave a faint nod. “He’s something called a Hrimthur, or–”
“Ice giant?” That was Sands, speaking up as she peeled a fruit that looked like a blue orange. “That’s what Hrimthurs are, right?”
Actually answering questions like this felt strange, after everything he had done to hide the truth from everyone for so long. It took Gordon a moment to remember that he could answer before he finally confirmed, “Yes, ice giants.”
Roxa, sitting on the chair with her legs folded beneath her, blinked at that. “So your dad’s a giant?”
Knowing what she was trying to maneuver her way around to asking about the actual mechanics of that, Gordon met her gaze. “Not an actual giant. The Hrimthur were called giants because of the ice armor they created with their power. Like the armor I made back in that fight, only… only I’m not that good at it. Real Hrimthur make their ice armor so large that they look like giants while they’re using it.”
“Whoa.” Eyes widening at that, Jazz blurted, “You mean like mechs? Living ice mechs or something. That’s–dude, that’s awesome. You mean you’ll be able to do that?”
Wincing a little, Gordon offered a small shrug. “I don’t know,” he replied quietly. “Maybe. I haven’t really practiced with it very much. You know, because of the whole… keeping it secret thing.”
“Right,” Sands started, “we should probably talk about that a little bit.“
Jasmine nodded. “Yeah, like, we know why you kept it secret, obviously. I mean, duh. But why did you keep it secret even after we were obviously okay with the whole Alter thing? I mean, I am literally dating one right now. You didn’t think we’d still hate you or something, did you?”
Gordon‘s head shook quickly at that before he positive consider his words. “No, it’s just…Okay, maybe part of me was still a little afraid of how you would react. I mean, it’s still a hard step to take. There was part of it that was just me not wanting to add to all of the problems. There was a lot going on and I don’t want to be anyone’s special project. And part of it was habit. I… I’ve been keeping that secret my whole life. My mother basically drilled it into me since I can remember. She taught me not to open up to other people like that. She taught me to be careful, because if anyone found out what my father was…”
The other three exchanged brief glances, and Roxa swallowed hard before speaking. “Yeah, it would’ve sucked. Totally get that.”
Blinking with sudden realization, Jazz asked, “Is that why you don’t like being touched?”
Once again, the boy nodded. Briefly, he explained about his body temperature, how it tended to become very cold if he wasn’t paying attention. So cold that he could freeze people who touched him unexpectedly. “And if I had to explain why someone’s arm froze because they grabbed my wrist… well, it could lead to a lot more questions than I could answer.”
Jazz frowned at that as a thought came to her. “Wait, you said your mom taught you to be careful. But your dad is the ice giant. So, what…” Abruptly, the girl trailed off as realization struck her and she looked horrified at the subject she had brought up. “I mean, never—”
“He’s not dead,” Gordon informed all of them flatly. “He’s… he’s being held prisoner, enslaved by Eden’s Garden. He’s been a slave since I was a baby. I’ve never actually met him. Not that I remember.”
Looking like it was the last thing she wanted to ask, Jazz nonetheless spoke up. “Are you sure he’s alive? I mean, that’s a long time to be enslaved by people who don’t care if you die.” Even as she spoke, the girl looked sick to her stomach and apologetic for even saying it.
“He’s alive,” Gordon insisted. “Mom has this snowflake. Not a normal snowflake, a big one. As big as my hand. Dad made it before he was taken. It’ll only last as long as he’s alive. And the last time I checked, it was still there. So like I said, he’s alive.”
“Wow,” Roxa remarked, “that’s really cool. And really Disney movie-esque.”
Jazz cleared her throat. “Right, so when we get back to Earth, that’s something we need to do. Find Gordon‘s dad.”
The boy open his mouth to object, but Roxa nodded. “We know what you said, Gordon. You don’t want to be a special project. But this isn’t about anything like that. You’re our friend. You’re our teammate. Your dad is missing, and you need help. That’s all there is to it.“
“Yeah,” Sands agreed. “I mean, you’re not technically my teammate as far as Crossroads is concerned, but you still kinda are in every way that counts. You need help finding your dad, I’m right there with you. Hell, look what you just did to help Tristan and Vanessa find their mom. You think we’re not going to have your back with this?”
Opening and shutting his mouth a couple of times, Gordon finally out of his head before speaking quietly. “Thank you.” He didn’t trust his voice to say anything further than that. He had spent so long, including most of his time at Crossroads thus far, worrying about what would happen if anyone found out his secret. He’d spent his entire life worrying about it. And now that it was out and they were not just accepting of it, but actually going out of their way to try and help? He didn’t know how to deal with that. He has spent his life closing himself off and preparing for rejection and attack from the people who were supposed to be on his side. It was more than he could handle.
“Normally,” Roxa spoke up, “this would be where I’d put my hand on your shoulder. But, you know. So, I’ll just say it’s okay, instead.” She looked to the boy, meeting his gaze pointedly. “We’re with you, got it? And when we get back, the others will be too. Hell, even Rudolph and Doug. From what Vanessa and Tristan were saying, it won’t be long before they’re right there too.”
Swallowing past the thick lump in his throat, the boy gave the tiniest, almost imperceptible nod. “Okay,” he all but whispered.
“Great,” Jazz started then, “so let’s talk about how we’re going to get Daddy Hrimthur. And I know just where to start.”
“You do?” Gordon asked, with a blink.
Jazz nodded. “Sure, we start with Mr. Moon. He used to be part of that group, remember? He can probably tell us a lot about them. It’s a place to start, anyway.”
It was a good point, Gordon realized. And one that wouldn’t have occurred to him after all the time he spent keeping everything secret.
Yeah, maybe having people around to help him would end up being pretty cool after all.
And people thought he didn’t make jokes.