Carl - A Boy & His Doll: Family Reunion

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Description: Sis thought it might be 'good for me' if I attended the NOL Alumni Party; even though I was the youngest former student there! I guess we'd been spending a lot of time alone together, and she figured I needed to spread my wings a bit! I didn't expect to run into my FATHER there, but... well... it gave me an IDEA!

The NOL Academy always appreciated it's Alumni Parties.

Certainly, with the rich, -focused- history of the NOL, the nature of them were somewhat atypical of. And yet, the ballroom was in full swing, with ladies and gentlemen in full splendor. Waiting staff cruise between the gossiping alumni, networking and chatting. It wasn't about the money, after all, it was about meeting old friends, and building connections.

Plus, it kept track of who had escaped the grips of the NOL.

And yet, one of the guests of honor was the Head Scientist of the NOL, and the headmaster of the Academy. Relius Clover, the brilliant mind behind nearly every magical breakthrough of the NOL. Dressed in his mask and cape, he was mingling with the alumni, networking, and of course, charming. What was the Headmaster, Relius, discussing?

"... And then I told him, 'Lets look our best, before we meet the Observer face to face, shall we?~"

The small audience erupts in laughter, holding their bubbling wine glasses high. Relius, smiling cheekily, shakes his head. "Yes, yes, my adventures there were quite entertaining. But highly dangerous, you understand. Of course, I'd be happy to share my notes, if any of you are willing to 'take the plunge.'" Relius says cheerfully, as he takes a sip of his glass.

"Oh, did I explain what an Observer is yet?"

The ballroom is filled with older graduates and former students, making one person stand out like a sore thumb; being vastly younger than anyone else present.

Maybe he's here because his father, Relius Clover, is the Guest of Honour... although considering his rocky relationship with the man who robbed him of both his mother /and/ his sister, that's unlikely.

Odds are better that he's just here for a bit of social contact; an odd boy at the best of times, it might just be that 'Ada' had convinced him he needed to get out a bit more, mingle with other people, get away from his single-minded quest to restore her to life.

"Okay, sis, I'll give it a shot..." he says over his shoulder to the shuffling, mechanical weapon that follows him around at all times - taking one final, deep breath before stepping into the ballroom.

"You're right! Maybe it'll be good for me!" comes his cheerful voice in response to some imagined statement from his 'sister', as he makes his way over to the punch-bowl in one corner of the room, seemingly oblivious to the presence of his father off in the distance, amusing the crowd with some (likely made-up) story.


Suddenly, a shout that cuts through the din of conversation and the music that fills the confines of the ballroom. The voice is high, trembling, whiny - but with a dangerous edge to it that seems to promise the potential for impending violence.


Oh... oh, boy.

In a moment, it seems like the attention of the /entire/ party is firmly on one individual. The youngest person there, in fact, and wearing a large bluish-purple top-hat with a cape that seems oddly similar to that which Relius is wearing.

Waiting behind and to one side of the fuming form of Carl Clover, Ada is slouched over - emotionless face angled towards the floor, arms hung low and limp at her sides. In front of young Clover, one of the older Alumni - who made the mistake of wondering aloud 'why did you bring the machine?', has their arms held up with their palms out at chest-level. A gesture of 'no offense meant, you weird little bastard!', surely.

Relius was already talking, as the little incident unfolds.

"You see, there is a theory within the magical world called 'Event Inteference.' It would take an entire four year course to explain the nuances on it, but I am sure I can give a high level understanding. You have to first understand the nature of potential, and quantum theory on... Hm?" Relius actually pauses a moment. Something was wrong. Certainly, a while back, someone shouted, but Relius didn't really notice it. It was pure instinct, he did not notice. He grunts quizzically, peering over. What he notices, is that the entire ballroom had stopped what they were doing, which includes listening to him, and was focusing on someone not him. Relius looks over across the crowd, at the focal point.

And Relius sighs.

Striding across the ballroom floor, Relius moves with a hand in the air, an air of presence rolling around him. The crowd parts, cleaving in twain as the path is made for the headmaster. Muttering rises, boiling up, as he reaches the instigator and his... well, the instigator. And a -heavy- hand is placed on Carl Clover's shoulder. A familiar one. "Excuse me young man..." Relius says sternly, looking down at him with a frown.

"Are you interrupting my conversation?"

The young, bespectacled boy turns away from the older man he's accosting, back to the mechanical form of 'Ada' - who now has her head slightly inclined up from the floor, staring at Carl with that impassive, expressionless doll's face.

"NO, Ada!!! I'm sorry, I WON'T calm down!!! DID YOU HEAR WHAT HE SAID ABOUT YOU?!?!" shouts the strange young man, before turning back towards the individual who /started/ this entire mess only to find... oh, they've walked away - quickly - blending back into crowd.

And for the first time, Carl Clover realizes just what a /scene/ he's made here. Looking out into the crowd, he's met with a sea of wide-eyed, open-mouthed faces... /adults/, silently judging him! He stomps one booted foot on the ground and balls his fists - arms shaking heavily as he holds them down at his sides.

"Wh... What are you all looking at?!?! STOP IT!!!" he demands, one hand coming up to point an index finger at the center of the crowd as he continues shouting, "IT'S ALWAYS THE SA-"

He's interrupted mid-speech by a heavy hand falling on his shoulder; it's enough to have him wheeling around in a fury, about to cut loose with another angry verbal outpouring... when his eyes shoot up to the face of the man who had approached him.

For a moment, his own mouth hangs open, jaw loose, blue eyes wide behind those round-rimmed spectacles. A heavy exhale of breath slumps Carl's shoulders low, and a quick side-glance is paid to Ada - the doll suddenly has her head inclined to the side, looking at the same individual that Carl is now staring straight up at...

...Relius Clover. Their /father/.

"...Dad, you..." he starts, stuttering as his face reddens with shock and embarrassment and no small amount of /anger/... again, he shoots an index finger up to point behind him - at that crowd which the older man who said those mean things about Ada has disappeared into.

"That man called Ada a machine!!! T... tell him the truth!!! Tell him it's my SISTER and to BE NICE!!!"


Relius seems to tilt his head, mulling the word. Dad? And then, it strikes him. "Oh! Carl! I hardly recognized you!" Relius says aloud, almost to himself, flatly. As Carl's face reaches an embarrassing crimson, Relius stares back, no spark of love in his blank eyes, even as the smile begins to spread on his lips. "The truth?" Relius says, looking from Carl to the crowd. And then, the audience around them, the whole of the alumni. Relius scans around... before laughing. "HA ha ha. Oh Carl, my dear boy."

"You are both wrong!~"

Relius actually shifts his attention to the audience, as he begins his lecture, a hand on each of Carl's shoulders. "Ada, named after Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron... as well as my daughter, is not a 'machine' or a robot; at least, not in the sense that you mean. What powers Ada is not a mechanical in the least, but powered by magic. You see, it's not accurate to describe it as a machine, but as a construct!" Relius moves his hands, seizing one on the back of Carl's neck. Raising his other hand high, he motions at Ada, as the crowd oos and aas. "Yes, yes, it takes a great deal of magical talent to create such an event weapon, as they are called."

"And I am proud of my son for helping me on such a creation."

A gasp comes, as understanding fills the audience. "I remember when I was working hard, developing the foundations of Ada in my labortory. And yet, something was missing. Something was not quite right. So I left her, half-complete. I was thinking that perhaps, I should just abandon the project. Revert back the materials where they were before. But that night, I remember when my curious son, Carl, snuck into the lab, and saw what I started. And my wonderful boy, he worked hard to complete the project. It's not perfect, hardly, but the attachment a man has to his first creation is as a father to a daughter. For an example of what a properly built one looks like..."

And his snaps his fingers.

The audience gasps, and then applauds, as the figure of Ignis materializes out of nowhere. Relius's takes in the adoration, releasing Carl and the man. "Yes, yes, this is Ignis; named after my poor wife... and my son's dear mother." Relius looks to Carl, tenderly rubbing the boy's neck. "I find myself calling her my darling wife sometimes, as a way of coping with the terrible, terrible loss. I try my best to help Carl... but..." Relius shakes his head, looking down at Carl with a plastered on smile, his waxy skin gleaming in the lights of the ballroom.

"I'm afraid that the loss of both his mother and sister has taken a serious effect on his mental well-being."

Relius' first words - that he hardly recognizes his /only/ son - causes an immediate moistening in Carl's wide, blue eyes... he's already opening his mouth to protest, in that adolescent, high-pitched tone of voice:

"Wh.. what do you mean? I look the sa-" - and then, almost predictably, his words are cut short by his father - now addressing the crowd, rather than his own child. The boy's mouth hangs open for what must be a full minute, lips quivering before he hazards a glance to either side at the audience - attention now solely focused on his dad's lecture.

Even Ada, when he looks over to her for much-needed emotional support, seems to have her head tilted and those dead, blank doll's 'eyes' focused straight on Relius Clover, rather than her younger brother.

As Relius continues to speak, Carl's face goes through a range of expressions - rising and falling, as appropriate, throughout his father's entire monologue. His visible moods go from disbelief, to surprise, to mortified, back to disbelief, and then finally seem to settle on something akin to anger - not just at the /lies/ he's telling the crowd, but at their positive response to it all!

Still, despite all that, something keeps the boy from speaking up and yelling out over Relius' words; perhaps he's just such a good son, that he doesn't want to interrupt his dead dad... more likely it's the stunning presence and confidence of Relius Clover that stops his words before they're able to leave his mouth.

Carl tries a few times, raising one index finger in front of his face in preparation of spitting out a rebuttal, before eventually lowering his hand - and with it, hanging his head in embarrassed shame. The red on his cheeks just grows a deeper colour as he listens to the web of lies that his father is spinning in front of the adoring crowd.

At last, the patriarch of the Clover family seems to have finished speaking - complete with a scathing indictment on his son's mental health, a lie that surely isn't helped by Carl's inevitable response...

"He's LYING!!! My dad is a BIG, FAT LIAR!!!" Carl finally shouts, as he gets up the nerve to speak - not coincidentally, only /after/ Relius has finished his speech and released the grip on his shoulders.

Pointing directly at the recently-appeared Ignis, he practically /screams/ at the top of his lungs, "THAT'S my MOTHER!!!"

The finger moves over to Ada, whose blank face is moving from Relius to Ignis in turn with her arms still hanging loose and limp in front of her; the same slouched position that the construct always takes when not in battle.

"And THAT'S my SISTER!!!"

Wheeling back towards Relius, his face is so crimson - combined with trembling, shaking fists - that it's a wonder steam isn't shooting out of his ears. He's yelling so loud that beads of sweat are actually beginning to form on his brow, under the rim of that ridiculous top-hat.

"THAT man did this to BOTH OF THEM!!! I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!!! I would N... I WOULD NEVER!!!"

His attention turns back to Ada for a moment, head snapping around so quickly that his glasses almost fly off the bridge of his nose... he's silent for a moment, as if listening to some imagined words from that bizarre, robotic construct he seems /convinced/ is his sister.

"I'm NOT making a scene!!! These people need to KNOW!!! They need to KNOW that he's a MONSTER!!!"

That said, he turns to the table which containts the punch-bowl and numerous plates of pre-sliced cake... with two gloved hands, he reaches out and grabs onto it before letting out a loud huff of exertion as he leans into the object...

...yes, he's trying to flip the table over. And no, he's not having /any/ success with it.

"...Ada!!! Help me out!!!" he pleads to his sister, turning his neck around to stare up at her impassive, expressionless face.

Ada doesn't say anything.

Ignis, holds her softly, as the sigils begin to expand over the construct. Relius, solemnly watching his son's tantrum, finishes tracing them with his finger, silent all through Carl's rage. Carl could likely feel it, the string being pulled away, tugged away from him, taken away from him, as the magic seal completes. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The connection was gone.

Ada was still, lifeless. Ignis carefully ease her in a bridal style carry, holding her longways in her arms. And Relius, taking a gloves hand, runs it along her form, much like a magician demonstrating his next trick. Relius looks at Carl, a smirk on his lips, as once again he proves just how powerful he is over his son. He didn't have to say anything to him. He didn't need to. He only had to prove his point.

All while the audience applauds.

"You see? Simple magic, to create the illusion of life. And just as easily, gone away, using instricate seals." Relius takes a moment to enjoy the applause. "You see, Carl, it's all in your head. And no matter how much you yell at me, how much you scold your own father... Just know that I will care for you, my son." The audience gives an aw; one woman even says aside "What a wonderful father." Relius makes a gesture.

"Ignis, please take it away."

Ignis floats away, taking her towards the kitchen side of the ballroom... towards the dumpsters, sitting out behind it. Relius, however, leans over at Carl, smiling a toothy grin. "Now, Carl, if you can't control your temper, I would advise to go out to see if you can solve my little sigil puzzle on your doll. I find that puzzle can be incredible in helping one control anger." Relius explains to Carl. "And please, son." He gives a wink.

"Don't forget to count to 10."

Carl's boots slide across the smooth floor of the ballroom as he shoves at the underside of the table with all his might... which is fairly insignificant. So, naturally, he makes zero progress on flipping the buffet table; sweat continues to dribble down his forehead as he grunts with exertion at the Herculean task of spilling the punchbowl and cake onto the ground.

Naturally, several members of the crowd find this rather amusing; there are a few chuckles and titters of laughter that run through the impromptu audience, at this little temper tantrum from the young boy.

'How could this child be the son of the Great and Brilliant Relius Clover?', 'How embarrassing!', 'Oh, that poor child - he's so clearly disturbed!'

"SH... SHUT UP!!!" Carl shouts at the crowd, before he turns to address his 'sister' once again - eyes pleading for her to help him.

And then, he notices... his father, 'drawing' those magical sigils across the looming, slumped over form of Ada. His sister is staring directly at Relius with blank eyes - completely ignoring Carl - as the older man finishes tracing those bizarre symbols.

The moment he completes his motions, Ada's head slumps forward; what little life was present in the doll is gone, in an instant... and so, too, is Carl's connection with the construct. His hands leave the table; his petulant gesture forgotten entirely as he tries to reach out and force Ada into action only to find... nothing.

His connection is gone, blocked off by the superior abilities of his father, Relius Clover. The ultimate punishment that the older man could dole out onto his only son... and a valuable lesson, as to who /really/ holds the strings.

Carl cannot even hear the angelic voice of Ada in his own head; rather than fly into an immediate rage - as the crowd no doubt expects, given his actions thus far - he simply stands there staring up at Ignis as she lifts Ada up and begins to carry her away.

That resounding applause from the audience sounds distant, barely audible, like Carl were a listening to a recording in another room. Even the pointed smirk from his father seems to have a far-away quality, as his eyes soften and begin to glaze over his wetness.

"S.. someone.. stop him.." says the young boy, but he can't even bring himself to raise his voice above a pathetic whisper - likely only heard by Relius and himself.

A pause, as he hangs his own head... staring at the floor for what might well be a full minute, shoulders rising and falling with breath as tear drops begin to fall onto the ground between his boots. Then, the crying stops; the flow of tears cut off suddenly, as he raises his head back up to stare at his father's toothy grin - just seconds after his last comment...

No longer are Carl's eyes moist or his lips trembling; instead, his face looks set in stone, a cold anger visible through his eyes as he narrows those ice-blue irises straight into the gaze of his father. When his voice comes out, it's not the usual petulant, whining tones he'd displayed thus far... and nor does he shout the words for the ballroom to hear. It's a seething, hissed whisper - meant just for his dad, and nobody else.

"You'll pay for this..."

And then, he's rushing off after his mother and sister, back towards the kitchen in the rear of the ballroom - running as fast as his short, stubby legs are capable of carrying him. Running away from the crowd, from the scene he'd just made, and most of all... running from his father.

"Mom!!! Mom, wait!!!"

The worst part was, Relius didn't even think of it as punishment.

No one would stop a man from carrying out such a wonderful act of kindness to a troubled young man. They would only applaud, or cluck their tongue at how ingrateful Carl was. Even as Carl threatens him, Relius doesn't even drop his smile. He lets the boy go, his boy go, to chase after Ignis. Yes, Relius held all the strings, pulling and tugging them. Not just his audience, but Carl's own strings. His son was, in many ways, more a puppet than a doll. A little wooden boy, made in the image of his beloved Gepetto. Relius stares across the crowd, into the back of Carl, that smile fading into a smirk.

His lesson was not finished yet.

Ignis ignores Carl, as the crowd parts for both her and the boy. Moving past the kitchen staff, and out the side door of the ballroom, the noise and lights of the party fade into a dark, poorly lit fenced area. Where the garbage goes. The air was bitingly cold in the Swiss Alps, and there was even some snow on the ground. Ignis hovers over by the dumpster... and lets go. Ada is dropped unceremoniously into a heap by the dumpster, in a pool of spilled over rotten vegetables. And there, Ignis floats back. Watching. Waiting. Staring at Ada.

Her expression completely blank to her daughter's fate.

As soon as it becomes obvious that his mother isn't going to listen to the pleading and begging of Carl, the boy falls into silence and follows at her heels - or at least, as closely as his short stride can carry him. He's already blushing from embarrassment and frustration, with the scene he's caused at the alumni party of his former alma mater.

No point in continuing... that is, until they both get outside into the brisk Swiss air, at which point his voice picks back up, addressing the silent automaton that once was his mother.

"Moooooooom! You gotta stop listening to dad! He's not a good person!" whines Carl, tugging on Ignis' sleeve... predictably, to no response beyond a blank stare in return.

Releasing his mother's sleeve, Carl huffs loudly and stomps one booted foot on the snowy ground, splashing up a puddle of slush and rotten juice as he does so. The smell doesn't seem to bother him, neither does the cold - aside from a certain paleness that spreads across his dangerously exposed skin in the chilly January air.

"Alright... I'll show him a thing or two," he says to himself, adjusting the bottom of each glove to tighten them over his tiny hands in preparation for the task ahead, "I'm not as dumb as he thinks!"

And indeed, Carl Clover is /anything/ but stupid; accepted into the NOL Academy at a young age based upon his scientific and magical acumen alone, he truly /is/ his father's son in many respects. Perhaps more so than he is comfortable admitting.

Rolling up his sleeves, the young boy reaches over towards the crumpled, lifeless body of Ada - heaped onto a pile of garbage in a show of disrespect that turns his stomach - and begins to re-trace the sigils drawn onto her mechanical form.

It's slow going at first, and everytime he makes a mistake the sigils seem to re-appear in their original, complete shapes. But bit by bit, tracing the lines in the exact opposite direction that they were formed with, one sigil begins to disappear... the magic in it is released into the air with a hiss and sizzle of mystical smoke.

"Yes! This isn't so hard!" shouts Carl in a triumphant tone - jumping up into the air with both arms raised as he destroys the first of numerous binding sigils on his sister's 'skin'.

Turning back to Ignis, he smiles wide - beaming with a pride that isn't reflected in that expressionless doll's face; he simply gets a inclination of the neck, in return, from his mother.

"Alright... well... watch this!"

Looking back at Ada, he begins to do the same with the next sigil up her body - one index finger dragging along the surface to reverse the spell placed there by his brilliant father. Already, his nose is running and he's visibly shivering from the cold... but it doesn't concern him.

Solving puzzles is what he's always lived for; proving his intelligence, working out a problem with nothing but his hand and his brains... the fact that he's simultaneously showing up his father - albeit only to himself and the emotionless Ignis - /and/ saving his sister from being dumped in the landfill when the garbage pick-up arrives...

...well, that makes it an even sweeter victory.

Carl's progress is actually quite incredible.

The intricate pattern of seals would normally take a lesser mind... that is, a dedicated engineer of merely average magical talent... days to crack the carefully constructed sigil wards. Every bind brings a surge of life, a flicker of a connection back with Carl again. All while he has silent vigil... Carl might begin to sense that it was not merely watched by Ignis anymore. In fact, the words come almost as the sound of shattering plates.

"Are you still not done?"

The words come out honestly astonished. Heavy and hard, Relius stands. There is no clouds of vapor from his breath, as he looks down at Carl. Ignis wraps an arm around his own, clinging to him as he looks down at his son, working in the garbage. "I thought you would be done by now. Did you not understand the hint? Count to 10!" What should take an average genius days, takes Carl minutes... and Relius's expectations are still let down. He shakes his head, scowling.

"Don't you have any interest in puzzles, Carl?"

Relius shakes his head. "At first, I was delighted to hear your interruption in the ballroom. Finally, my boy can stand up for himself. And yet, when the time came to perform, what happened? You merely descended into meaningless babbles. The Nirvana Drives are much more intricate than that, as you well know. Having any family connection to mere materials... Frankly, boy, I was insulted you didn't thank me for proving to you how inane your obsession is. Your family is with me, your father. Not any dead sister, or mother. Besides." Relius sniffs the cold air, as he strides around the rotten pool.

"It's not her will that brought you in this world."

Relius looks down at Ada, nudging her with his foot. "She was content with one child, and a beautiful baby girl. I saw the potential in both of them, but I was interested in another child. And when I want something, I have it Carl. So she yielded to my desires. But then, the outrageous woman, she wanted another girl! So when we found out your gender, I had to talk her out of simply aborting you, and trying again. And when you were finally born, well, needless to say we were both disappointed; she already decided she didn't want you, and you lacked the spark they had. Still, it was worth the experiment, I believe. I would have tried for a third, perhaps a little sister, but..."

"Well, your mother's time ran out."

Relius sighs, turning back towards Carl. "You really are too sentimental, Carl. And yet, I can understand how you can see her in this thing. Her raw potential, her raw power. You can't help but project what you want in it." And his tone softens, to almost sinister levels. Sinister... or empathetic levels? "Do you really want them back, Carl?" He asks directly.

"Do you really want to feel them again?"

Gloved fingers meticulously re-trace the sigils placed there by his father, as Carl's brow furrows in concentration... one wrong move, a single flinch, could undo all his work on each symbol. He's just moments away from unraveling the second of the mystical wards placed on Ada, a bead of sweat forming on his forehead even in the biting cold of the Swiss alps...

Almost there... so /close/...

And then, /that/ voice from so close behind him causes Carl to make a startled half-jump - his hand leaps off the surface of Ada's metallic form, and the sigil re-appears in it's entirety. All his work, undone in an instant - perhaps intentionally - by his father, Relius Clover's sudden words.

There's a shocked pause from the young boy, as he watches that mystical symbol reform back to it's original state... his eyes are wide, mouth trembling in either frustration or /rage/, as his blue irises stare out at that damned ward from behind his round-rimmed spectacles.

He doesn't turn his body around to face his father, nor does he look over his shoulder... the only thing Relius will see from behind him, is Carl suddenly hanging his head low - shoulders slumping down as though the weight of the world were suddenly resting upon them.

For a second, he almost had it, and then... his /father/ ruined everything... again.

Carl doesn't speak as Relius begins his monologue from behind him - his expression unseen and unreadable, with his blonde hair and purplish-blue cape whipping in the bitter wind. Booted feet are perfectly still in that pool of snow-slush and rotten garbage juice, as though he were perfectly at-ease standing around such filth...

Compared to what his life has become these past few years, this disgusting alleyway - with the sour smell of trash hanging heavy around him - is almost /comfortable/.

As if to illustrate that point, his father goes on... about how Carl wasn't wanted by his own mother, about how she wanted to dispose of him, about how much of a /disappointment/ he proved compared to his older sister...

...does Carl Clover believe the words of his dad - the man he /knows/ is a liar, through and through? He shouldn't; and yet... the patriarch might very well be speaking the truth here and now. That is the true evil of Relius Clover; the lies he spills are peppered with tidbits of fact, harsh realities that would better be left unspoken. They all tumble out of his mouth with the same casual ease, the same air of smug, intellectual matter-of-factism.

'Do you really want to feel them again?'

/That/, however, is enough to cause the boy to turn around... and where one might expect streaks of tears running from his eyes down his cheeks, there are none. His mouth is twisted up into a hateful scowl, his eyes are a wall of ice - those blue irises freezing over into something almost inhuman... so much like his father, in that moment - and yet, perhaps, something even darker lurks inside of him here and now, in this hideous alleyway, in this horrible moment.

When he finally speaks, his voice doesn't sound like the boy he is; it's neither whiny, or inquisitive, or emotionally disturbed, or endearing in some cute way...

It's cold. Hard. With a determinated hiss to every word that is spat out through tightly clenched teeth...

"You're going to /pay/ for this, /father/..."

Staring up at the man who gave him everything he ever had - even that which he never /wanted/ to receive - Carl's eyes dig into Relius' face without flinching. He doesn't respond to the question posed, not for what might very well be minutes... but that query - potentially an /offer/ - is something, he finally realizes, he couldn't live with /not/ responding to.

So, after another moment's consideration, his gaze softens slightly, and the scowl disappears...

"You /know/ I want to..."

Relius knew what sort of desires sat in Carl's heart.

And why wouldn't he? Certainly, he would forget about his boy sometimes. But when he remembered him? He would focus his attention on him so hard. There was nothing that Relius wanted more than to see his young boy grow up into a man like him. And when Carl can finally... control his emotions? Relius gives a gentle grin.

And he snaps his fingers.

Ignis suddenly -jolts-, as if her string have been cut. Collapsing forward. She... she... she looks around. Bringing her hands to her eyes... she stares, the limbs trembling. She flails, scrambling as Relius steps back. And as she levels herself out... she looks at Carl. She stares... and covers her eyes, as if she was ashamed. What was this?

"Go ahead." Relius says lightly.

To Carl? To... To Ignis? Ignis pulls away her hands, and looks at Carl, her hollow eyes showing no emotion, her form showing no emotion; it was impossible through the iron mask fused over her. And yet, she... she reaches for her son, with her long arms. Her fingers extended. So slowly, so gently...

To touch her baby boy on the cheek once more.

Obviously, Carl is incredibly skeptical of /anything/ Relius says - he's almost certain there's about to be some horrible trick played on him as soon as he says those words. But the fact of the matter is, his entire life has become a quest to bring his sister (and, to a lesser extent, his mother) back into his life... and, although he would never /admit/ it, even to himself, his /father/ as well.

For him to ignore Relius' question, or to spew hatred at him, or to give him a petulant 'no' - all the while knowing he /might/ be genuinely offering it - would be too much for the boy to bear. It would likely destroy what little sanity he still clung on to, and with that he would doubtlessly become a monster even worse than his own father - who, though evil, had a /purpose/ in mind throughout all of his sinister acts.

So, too, does Carl Clover have a purpose; one that drives him constantly and has caused him to commit terrible sins /himself/. Without that purpose, without attempting to reunite the family he once had (albeit an idealized version that may never have existed), he would become some sort of mindless monster.

That is something he cannot do, he will not do, not when there's the slightest glimmer of hope. It's all that sustains him, all that keeps the increasingly disturbed, unhinged brain of the young genius from completely losing all grip on reality - what little he has left, at any rate.

Therefore, he says yes. He does want to feel them again. That's /all/ he wants in this world.

And Relius Clover, his father, gives it to him.

Carl's eyes are slightly narrowed as his dad snaps his fingers, gaze shooting over to Ignis as she suddenly jolts - as though his control over her were suddenly lifted... and then, his mouth opens in shock when Ignis' fingers gently run along his cheek. Almost immediately, he hangs his head to cover the expression that crosses his face - somewhere between a regretful happiness and a crushing, overpowering, soul-shattering feeling of melancholy...

"I knew... I knew she was still in there..."

Those blue eyes look back up to Relius then, and they stare at the visage of his father as though he were looking for something... some reason, why all this had to happen... why Carl's life was torn away from him so cruelly - setting him on a dark path that he may never be able to pull away from. Was it Relius' ceaseless lust for knowledge, for accomplishment... or some way for him to exert control over his only son?

Perhaps he knew it was the /push/ that young Carl needed to become greater than what he was - and in that regard, it was a great success. If he'd returned from the NOL Military Academy to find his family intact, he might become some average - albeit gifted - student... but instead, he's pushed himself beyond that in a search for some way to restore Ada to life, back to the sister he once had and relied on so much.

Suffering has made him great. But did such a thing even enter into his father's head before the fact? Maybe young Carl will never know the truth, but he still has to /try/ and find out. It may not change what he feels he has to /do/ to Relius; he knows that one day, he /will/ have his revenge on the man... but he's always shared his father's curiosity, in all matters.

"Why couldn't we all be happy, dad? Why did you have to take them from me?"

Perhaps Relius understands that urge all too well.

Ignis moves to wrap Carl in her arms; not to seize him as an automation and Relius's minion, but to hold him. To embrace him. To trundle up the young man into her arms, and cradle him like a baby... like the long lost ideal. To rock him, back and force, so lovingly, so gently. Carl could probably feel so close now, so close to the thing so far away. So close...

That he might feel the strings.

Immaterial, magic connections. Much like himself between Ada. These, however, could be felt directly tied to Relius. Every action that Ignis makes, every faceless look of longing, every non-verbal cue... comes with a pulse. As Carl asks the question, he might even look at Relius, who looks solemnly at the display. No... not solemnly. -Focused- on the display, of a mother returning to her son.

As he subtly wiggles those fingers.

Ignis turns with the pull of the strings, looking blankly at Carl. She nods her head at Carl, in perfect pantomime, as she wipes away a delicate, imaginary tear under her eye. And now, as Ignis stares into Carl, Relius answers... with a question, as he tends to do (at least it is a short one).

"Are They Really Gone, My Son?"


There is no response from Carl Clover at first; how /could/ there be? Finally given just a taste of everything he's been missing for years... he's stunned into silence. As though someone had cut his /own/ strings, he's left with his head resting against the frigid, inhuman body of what was /once/ his mother - and, perhaps... still is. He can feel it, in that moment, that she's still in there somewhere.

Trapped, by the man she once loved... the man Carl once looked up to with adoration, the one he wanted nothing more in the world than to impress with his own scientific accomplishments. Now? Now he feels something much different, much darker...

Carl rests in Ignis' grip for a few moments, cherishing this brief instance - for who knows if he will ever /truly/ have the real thing again? This might very well be the closest he ever gets. For the time being, the lifeless 'body' of Ada rest atop that heap of trash is forgotten. All the pain and misery and loneliness of his own life dispelled by this single, familial gesture.

It doesn't last; how could it? It's not real... Relius might well view it as a suitable substitute, but Carl remembers the /real/ thing. This is just a poor imitation of what he so desperately craves, an ersatz copy of the childhood he once had.

But then, why does it feel so /good/, if only for a moment? With an effort that seems to weigh on him with every small movement of his body, he pulls his head away from Ignis' body and cranes his neck around to stare up at the face of the man who caused /all/ of this.

That happy - if /slightly/ emotionally disturbed boy - is gone. Whatever innocence remained in those eyes, on his face, is gone. Without the voice of his sister to 'speak' to him in those unheard words, what little humanity remains in the son of Relius Clover is slipping away...

...with each moment that passes, he becomes something colder, more hateful, filled with dark impulses that may very well mirror those of his father - the man he hates... and loves... most in this world.

"Some day..." he starts, two harsh words seething with an icy malice that seems to belong to a man far more mature than the young Carl Clover. And then, he falls into silence as the words hang in the air - as heavy as the stench that fills the entire alleyway. It's almost as if he began that statement without truly understanding what he /wants/, or if it's even possible...

...some day... he'll do /what/? Bring his sister and mother back to life? Reunite their 'happy' family? Prove himself worthy of their love? Become greater than his father? End the life of the man who holds the strings, freeing them all?

Whether he simply doesn't know, or doesn't want to spoil the surprise, or can't bring himself to /say/ it... Carl doesn't finish his thought. Instead, his eyes move over to the blank, smooth face of the Ignis automaton; as though he were done addressing his father, and were now speaking to his mother - or, rather, what's left of her.

When he speaks, to her, his voice is once again that of the young son of the Clover family - that vengefulness gone, now that he's no longer looking at the smug face of Relius Clover.

"Let me go, mom... It's... it's not the /same/, and you /know/ it's not!"

"You are right, Carl."

Relius says with an air of intrigue, as if he was making a point. Relius twists his wrist, and the facade fades. Carl is dumped to the ground, as Ignis flashes next to her master. The elder Clover doesn't stop his performance, as Ignis follows the pull of the strings. At first, she Ignis covers her eyes, trembling in fear. And then, she shifts, pointing a finger at Carl, giving an imaginary scolding. And then, finally... she puts on a coquettish roll of her arms and shoulders, swaying as she floats to her master. Ignis clings to Relius's side, in a kind of affection suitable from a wife, not a mother. "It's not the same at all, isn't it? That's because..."

"She's not... your mother."

He shakes his head. "Every boy, sooner or later, must put away his toys and become a man." Relius lectures to his son, as he breaks free from Ignis's fawning adoration. He strides over Ada, standing over her, his fingers begin to dance, his focus directed -squarely- upon his previous work. He doesn't simply dispel the sigils. He removes them, one by one, piece by piece, solving the puzzle before Carl's very eyes. "And you can convince yourself that it is really her. You can pretend to hear her voice, imagine her. But in the end?" He looks over at Carl, his hands working their magic on the remaining seals.

"Who is pulling her strings, Carl?"

The last seal is broken, and Ada.... Ada can begin to move, begin to rise up. Relius doesn't even look back at her. "You can join the party again when you are finished composing yourself. And don't hesitate to interrupt my conversations, my son. I do in fact greatly enjoy your intellectual challenges; and every loss you bear in the forum of public thought will only make you of a stronger mind." Relius stops his stride, as Ignis drifts along, now demur, with no expression or reaction to Carl. "Oh, before I forget." And he gives the last words, before continuing his stride right back into the ballroom, into the party.

"You're welcome~"

There's no response uttered by Carl, standing there in stunned silence at the sheer cruelty of his own father - and the harsh point of his mother's long, metallic finger. His mouth is once again hanging open, as though he were about to speak... but nothing comes out. Behind his spectacles, those magnified eyes glaze over with a thick sheen of some unstated sentiment.

By the time Relius has finished unraveling his magical wards, Carl is - once again - weeping... but silently, and only his eyes betray the pain that he feels inside. The rest of his expression is twisted in some strange mixture of self-pity, remorse, and a deep, almost monstrous hatred.

He has no words as his father says his last statement and turns to depart. The boy simply stares up at him as he turns to stroll off.

The tears stop as suddenly as they've started, watching Relius - purple cape blowing in the breeze - calmly and confidently walk away, through the door that leads back into the ballroom.

Once his father is out of his line of sight, one of Carl's gloved hands come up to his chin, resting it between his index finger and thumb as an idea seems to cross his mind... the emotion of the past few moments is gone, again, this time replaced with an inquisitive, puzzling far-away stare. A young genius, working on an entirely /new/ problem in that twisted - but brilliant - little mind of his.


Those fingers move from his own chin suddenly, and snap together - the crisp sound breaking the sudden silence that has descended over the alleyway. With that one motion, Ada springs back to life, her long arms pushing herself out of the heap of trash... once standing, long, dagger-like nails scrape a line of filth off of her backside. Then, like an obedient puppet, she steps up towards Carl - impassive face staring down at her younger brother, as though waiting for an order, some signal of what to do next.

"Come on, Ada... we've got /work/ to do..." Carl finally says, without a hint of emotion in his voice - sounding very much like a man on a mission, once again filled with that all-consuming passion that drives his forward... and with a sudden idea of what his next step will /needs/ to be, in order to achieve his goals.

Turning on his heels - his own bluish-hued cape swishing through the air as he does so - the young Clover begins to stride away in the opposite direction... away from the party. Away from his father, and his mother, and the judgmental stares of the adults still inside.

Ada turns as well, slowly, as her brother's control over her lifeless body begins to seep back through the construct... with slow, shuffling steps, the boy's doll begins to follow after him - head remaining low, arms dangling, the only signs that there's /something/ in there is the movement of her feet...

...and the slow, back and forth, shaking of her head.

Log created on 17:56:29 01/21/2018 by Carl, and last modified on 14:32:59 01/23/2018.