And now, for the truth.
The light, something about the light stopped her. Madala paused, midway, as the shine doubled once again. But now it wasn’t white like before. It took a second colour.
Half a world away, Tani saw it too. She stood at her window, entranced by the glowing sky, but her mind was on the image her eyes couldn’t show her. She sensed it the way her people always do. She saw the second one appear, far below.
"Madala?" She whispered to the frozen night. "No, Christopher!"
Jocaster’s eyes bulged in fright. His power was at its furthest zenith, and yet he was not alone. Before him, barely further than his fist, was a second one just like him. The boy’s hair glowed just as his did, and his power was equal, and immense. But for one difference. Where Jocaster shone white, he shone gold.
So quick, he was instantaneous. So controlled he could annihilate Jocaster’s weapon with perfection. And now so very close.
Jocaster’s lips twitched into a smile. He could see himself. That surreal and yellow power had been his mere hours earlier. Very well, he told him, let’s see the truth.
Madala felt a rush of relief to see what she knew was her son. He wasn’t anything like she’d ever dreamed he could ever be. But he was unmistakable. He lived! She sighed. But then she saw what Jocaster chose next.
The elder prince put his wrists together, as he had done the last, and pulled his aner from the massive vortex that trailed him, into a single point. He drew and focussed his power, all the more of it than there had ever been, and in his hands a new sphere glowed, a tiny replica of a mighty star; every bit as strong.
The younger prince seemed not to care. He never broke his stare straight into Jocaster’s eyes. No matter the furnace beneath his face, and no matter the fatal threat to the shaking world. He saw Jocaster for what he was, and felt no fear.
Quite the opposite was true for his mother. She couldn’t understand his choice to remain defenceless to Jocaster’s attack. Her sword still clasped in both her hands, she readied it again, and tried the same on her resolve. Red light, any other day so strong she had to hide it at all costs, flickered so faintly compared to them that neither even noticed. In any case, it was all she was. And so she took, at top speed, a bolt of scarlet lightning in her own form, straight towards her brother’s back.
Jocaster had everything he needed now. His rival’s power was astonishing, but his weapon had the sharper point. The younger man wasn’t so far ahead of him he could overcome that charge. He would do well enough to dodge it, as it ploughed down into the Earth that was.
The fireball spun, perfect in his parting hands. The elder prince looked at him in peace, as he made his kill.
Not far behind him, Madala swung her glowing blade up beyond her head. It was now the pointed arrow of her fatal flight. She saw him now. And she took her aim at her brother’s heart. She had to take him in one strike. Even if, she couldn’t help to think, it meant the chance of killing more than one of Ayana’s sons.
Jocaster threw the fireball at Christopher, point blank. It exploded with such vicious force even its maker couldn’t see. White light burst out, so strong it robbed space of its black. White heat teared out, so fierce it felt like death. Whiteness was all there was. No one knew any more or less. Not even the prince.
"Shit!" Jackson cried, his hard face broken down with loss. His ship was alone in glow. "It’s gone."
"I’m sorry." Said Alexander, torn up just the same.
“Me too.” Said Carl, bawling with him in the blinding glare.
“And so it ends.”
The shockwave ripped Madala from her sword. She saw nothing either. But she knew she was too late.
Her brother felt the cold metal slide against his shoulder. Harmless. He turned to grab it in surprise. He was lost as well, for the first time in his life, all his senses blinded.
Carl breathed deep and snotty breaths. Each one twirled with his miserable lips. Alexander’s tears dribbled down on him as the two hugged in thoughtless grief. Beyond them, perfect silence.
"He tried." Said Carl, with difficulty.
“Aye.” Said Alexander, shaking to control himself. “He did.”
Out the window, between Atarchus and Samean, the shockwave trembled through the shining haze. Carl looked into it, with soaking eyes, and wondered what he saw as it reached the Dragonfly.
"Argh!" Yelled Alexander, as the ship lurched and he flew off his feet. Another emotion possessed his voice. Anger.
“Get up.” Said Carl. “I think I see something.”
“It’s over, Carl!” Said Alexander, before realising. He didn’t want to break the poor boy’s heart.
“Look!” Carl commanded.
“There’s nothing.” Alexander held up his sleeve to protect his eyes. “You’ll go blind peering into that!”
Out of reflex, Carl rubbed his eyes. Every second, the blinding light was turning weaker. So he stared at it again.
"What do you think victory looks like here?" Said Carl, his face quite turned.
“Victory? You’re losing it, wee man. You and I only just survived the end of the w…”
But it was fine.
The fading glow exposed the Earth’s immortal orb once more. Alexander was absolutely gobsmacked. Understandably.
Jocaster’s eyes were as wide as Alexander’s. Not at the sight of the world, but of his rival, just as well. The young prince achieved the unthinkable. He annihilated the pinnacle of Jocaster’s power so perfectly the whole Earth wasn’t rendered molten in the process. That fireball was so potent, and the distance so close, that the boy could not have made a hair of error. Not one. Jocaster was just staggered. It, he, made no sense at all. What limit did the young prince have? If any!
Jocaster felt the metal of his sister’s fallen sword, laid bare in his hand. Her handicraft was wanting. He made better blades when he was a child. Then he realised that he was alone. The boy had shot away, to save her.
Turning, the elder prince watched him pick her up. The son rescued his stricken mother. She who had come too close to the fire.
"Christopher!" She said, startled, when she recovered from the shock. "Oh my little Chris!"
Jocaster looked on, as they were barely any distance. He saw the brute simplicity of a mother’s joy and grief. He even smiled, when she did. And then he found his answer.
As his mother squeezed him in a cuddle, Christopher woke up.
Phew. That, bar odds and ends and a healthy edit, was the Child in Time sequence. The dramatic summit is reached. Hope it wasn’t too gruelling, or a disappointment. I’ve still got work to do on it, that I know for sure.
I like to immediately answer my own questions. And so lies the ending above, which may well not be definitive anyway, as I might have another bit left before closing up the act. But! Christopher’s limit is his potential, and the complex relationship he has with his unknown self. The big stuff. And what I mean the most to explore once I’ve got this started.
You know what they say. The end of the beginning is your friend.