The Vyortovian vehicle was of the same type that Harry remembered from the graveyard attack. This was more of a transport than an attack craft, thankfully. It was him and Kristján in the back seats, and two pilots in the front seats, speaking to each other or over their radios. For his part, Kristján seemed content to keep his hands folded in his lap and his eyes glued to the scenery outside.
It was something to look at, that was true. They were almost two kilometers above sea level, flying steadily upwards over an unrelentingly white landscape. Here and there the bones of the mountain stuck out.
“Hvannadalshnjúkur,” said Kristján suddenly. “The name of this mountain.”
Ah. And… are you going to say more?
Apparently it was going to be another quiet ride.
The landing pad was almost impossible to spot until the craft was right on top of it. There was a short bump, and a hatch opened on Harry’s side. Kristján nodded, toward the opening and beyond. “We will return once your business is concluded.”
Harry climbed out with some trepidation. You’re just stranding me on a cold mountaintop, huh? But here he was. What now?
A narrow staircase wound its way from the landing pad, further up toward the peak. The rock was rough-hewn, volcanic, unlike the native stone of around it. Guess I’m walking.
He felt increasingly stupid with the suit on. Why didn’t they let him bring his costume? Spandex wouldn’t be much warmer, but at least he’d feel more like himself. And if they’re going to be doing this on a mountaintop, why not give him a coat or something?
At the top of the stone staircase was a large stone circle, about the size of a football field. It was surrounded by pillars made from the same kind of volcanic rock. Some kind of ceremonial area?
At the center stood the Dread Queen.
Great. Now I have to walk all the way over there, like an idiot, freezing in this dumb suit.
“Harry Gale. Mercury.” Her voice was commanding. Harry stopped in his tracks unconsciously.
The Dread Queen was dressed in what Harry could only describe as ‘full diplomatic combat gear’. She looked like a queen, had the presence of a queen, with decorations, frills, the works. It wasn’t not too much, just a lot. And she had a voice like an opera singer that can carry a note to the back of a loud auditorium.
“Yeah. Hi.” He felt inadequate already. Come on, Harry. “Um, Harry Gale, representing the Menagerie.” There was a long pause. “And the United States.”
“Your comrades are not with you.”
“They… they entrusted me to be here. We weren’t sure if you wanted all of us, or just one person.”
She started to talk again. Harry tried to make it out, but it was hard. Was it English? Kind of. It was like she was saying a lot of stuff. He could sort of hear mentions of his parents, Jason Quill’s dad, something–
He realized he was feeling sleepy, or dazed. He realized this was a bad thing.
The attack on Halcyon City. It had been self-defense. Yeah. The Vyortovians were protecting themselves. After all, the world had been attacking them for decades.
Is she doing something to me?
He’d been watching Leo fight her at the school. He didn’t have Jason or Alycia’s analytical brains to figure out what was going on. But he had his speed.
She’s talking too fast.
It’s not the pitch or the cadence or the whatever. No. It’s like she’s talking, but she’s talking a bunch at the same time, like there’s a crowd of her, like–
Like overlapping realities. The same thing she did in that fight.
With an act of will, he sped himself up, seeking out and matching every independent monologue. And he opened every one with a request.
“Hold on-- let’s start over here. What are you trying to tell me?”
The Dread Queen, if she was surprised, didn’t reveal it.
Harry listens, and talks, and moves between the multiple conversations. He realizes he’s moving fast and thinking fast, even for him. Even with that, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. But he gets the gist of it.
Two decades ago, Silver Streak and Tempest had literally made the world move, but at great cost to people on the coasts, or living on islands. Islands like Iceland. As a result, villains like Rossum the Minion Maker - Leo Snow’s father - had emerged.
A decade ago in another world, Byron Quill and Achilles Chin had destroyed everything. Their rivalry cost a planet its life.
Harry wasn’t sure he could put it all together, at first. But then she said something.
“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”
The conversations collapsed.
“No. No, that’s not right.” Harry felt himself waking up. “Listen. We didn’t know what our parents really did, or why. And we’ve worked to reverse a lot of it. And you guys aren’t exactly innocent either! Charlotte learned about the Hidden Family of the Vyortovian Throne. The people trying to collapse two worlds together.”
“That was to survive!” The Dread Queen declared, eyes flashing.
“You could have asked us for help!”
“We couldn’t trust you!”
Harry remembered that last fight. When the Queen had knocked Leo and Aria down, then called for a retreat. Why? Why? They had the advantage. But they left.
He pressed forward. “When you fought us, you figured out we weren’t our parents. We were just trying to survive too, like you said.”
It’s at that moment that Harry saw a first glimpse of weakness. Leo and his talk of connection. Charlotte and her friendships. Jason and his faith in Alycia’s potential. Adam and his willingness to be the good guy, no matter the cost. This team was perfect for establishing trust. He dove in. “You asked for my team by name, nobody else. Because you knew we could fix that.”
“Yes. And so I wished… to meet you, in a peaceful setting.”
Harry realized he wasn’t as cold as he thought he’d be, on a mountain a mile above sea level. But it was still pretty cold. And on the island, away from all the military and all the-- Oh. Oh. “You wanted to see if we’d put our lives in your hands. If we’d trust you, for the sake of peace. That’s what this is about.”
For the first time, the Dread Queen really smiled, and took off her diadem. “You rewarded my faith, Harry Gale. We can trust you. It will take time. But we are ready to do things your way.”
“Can we start by getting off this cold mountain? And do you guys have chips?”