26.5 Jason and Rusty [Cutscene]

He’s sitting on one of the stone railings on the back of the Capitol, looking out as the sun sets at the far end of the Mall. The sounds of celebration are back behind me, but a green glass bottle of something distilled is sitting by his side.

“Rusty.”

“Kid.”

* * *

My relationship with Rusty has never been what you might think it was.

He joined our family as a bodyguard for me. AEGIS was concerned that, were I kidnapped or otherwise threatened, the great Byron Quill might have been compromised.

That he and Dad would hook up was – yeah, life, and love, is evidently pretty weird. I come by it honestly.

I’m not quite sure what AEGIS ever thought of the whole thing. It was an open secret in the supers world, though – not public knowledge (the Daily Mail notwithstanding), but people who should know did know, and they didn’t chat with the tabloids. I never had a problem with it because I grew up with it. And they were Old School enough that, even when we were in countries that considered gay stuff evil, they flew under the radar.

Those countries. Fuck 'em.

Rusty and I never had a parent-kid kind of relationship. There was never any question about who was “Dad.” Closest I can come to it (from TV, movies, that kind of thing) is a combo of live-in uncle and personal tutor. Rusty was my bodyguard, after all – and, to give him credit, I never saw any case when he compromised whose body he was guarding. But he was never a father – he was –

– a coach, I guess.

Hard drinking, darkly cynical, blunt, unforgiving of slack, and (as I had reason to know) a stone cold and quite effective killer when necessary. I learned a hella from him on stuff I didn’t want to actually know about, but that was critical to my survival. So maybe you’d say he was proactively a bodyguard, if nothing else.

Dad set policy in the household. Strategy. Where we were going. What we were doing. What our goals were. What Amir and I should be learning next.

Rusty was the tactician, the enabler, the chancellor, the chief of staff. The button man, in mob terms.

Rusty liked me, I always thought. He had – affection toward me. He’d protect me, even beyond his duty, sure.

But he loved Dad.

I’ve dreaded this talk since I walked out of the Keynome chamber.

* * *

“So,” I start. What can I say? “Sounds like Ghost Girl --”

“Hard call on your dad.”

Did I mention “blunt”?

“Yeah.” I feel a surge of anger. But – “Yeah.”

“You look like hell, kid.”

“Yeah.” Nothing that a handful of extra-strength Tylenol, and a cure for certain death won’t help. “Yeah. Long day.”

“The nanobots.”

I look at him.

“Kid, I’m not a super-scientist, but I do work in intelligence. I can put two and two together. And – I’ve been on the listening end of a lot of your dad’s … ventings.”

"He knew?"

“Your dad didn’t intend to get caught in another dimension, kid. He knew he was rushing things, but he knew this whole thing with the Vyortovians was coming, and wanted you --”

“He wanted me away from Alycia!”

Rusty looks old in this half-light. I’ve never seen that before. It’s unexpectedly disturbing. “Kid, I love your dad. I’m not going to defend everything he did, or why. I’m not even going to say that I agreed with all of it. But I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to be your parent, and Byron was. I expressed my opinion, your dad made the decision and implemented it.”

“You could have --”

“No, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Not my call.”

“Some bodyguard.”

He pauses. “Me and Spenser, kid. I’ve got regrets in my life. That one ranks up there, but it’s not the Top 5.”

“Thanks.” I can’t keep the bitterness out of that, too.

“Suck it up, kid. You’ve had your revenge.”

I look out over the twilight skyline of the semi-ruins of Federal City. “It wasn’t meant to be revenge.”

“Of course it was, kid. Don’t apoligize for that. You thought your dad did you wrong. You found a way to deal with it. Own it.”

“And – what I did --?”

“I’m not going to defend that, either. I should probably deck you, but – well, I’m not that bad of a bodyguard.” He takes a long drag from the bottle. “And you nailed Chin, too, so maybe you deserve a medal.”

“I --”

“I’d have put a bullet between his slanty little eyes, kid. You showed mercy. Hope you won’t regret it.”

“I suspect I’m going to regret everything about today.”

“Now you sound like your dad.”

I stare at him.

“Your dad was paid the big bucks to be the Authority. The Guy who Knows Everything. The oracle who proclaims shit and is always right.” He snorts, takes another drink. “Byron’s a man full of regrets. Most of which he’ll never admit to anyone else. Hell, most of which he’ll never admit to himself.”

I’m quiet for a moment. “If that’s the truth --”

“Kid, don’t second-guess what you did. You made the call. It’s done. Regrets eat a man up inside. Make him make mistakes to atone or fix things. Do what you think is right, then move on. Learn your lessons, but don’t use what you’ve learned to decide a more ignorant you was a son of a bitch who should be punished. That way leads to a very unhappy life.” Softer. “Believe me.”

I draw a deep breath. Let it out.

“Hit?” he asks, holding the bottle out to me. He’s never offered me alcohol. I briefly, stupidily wonder what the legal age is in Federal City, then take the bottle, take a swig. Spit it out in a spray.

Rusty chuckles, not meanly. “Every culture, no matter how primative, has distilled spirits. Doesn’t mean it’s good stuff. The fact you don’t like it – that’s probably a good thing, kid.”

There’s a long silence that I’m not sure how to break. At length I say, “I want to help this world. Figure out how to use the Foundation’s resources, that kind of thing. Maybe the UN --”

“Do it because you think it’s worth it, kid. Not because you think you should, or because you feel guilty about it.”

I take a long breath. Then another. Then a series.

After a minute or two, I take another sip of the bottle. It’s bad, but not that bad. I hand it back to Rusty.

“Thanks kid.” He looks at me. “I quit.”

“What?”

“Bodyguard. You’re on your own.” He gives as big a smile as I’ve ever seen – not large, and I’m not sure it reaches his eyes, but it’s getting kind of dark. “I think you’ve been doing a pretty good job of it the past couple of years. And you’ve got some friends that seem halfway competent.”

“Thanks. Um – and thanks. I --”

He snorts. “Right. You’d be dead without me. I’ll hold that to my heart on the cold, cold nights.”

That gets a laugh from me, something I hadn’t expected. I also hadn’t expected a sense of peace, talking with him. “Watch after Dad, Rusty.”

“Always have. Always will. He’ll be okay. Maybe a big challenge is just what he needs to get him on to bigger and better things.”

“Maybe.”

I start to move away. Stop. Walk back to him. Hold out my hand.

He looks at it. Nods. Takes it and gives it a shake, with his usual bone-crusher grip.

I try to give as good as I get. I fail, but that’s the way that’s always worked.

As I walk away a second time, I hear him call out. “Hey, Jason.”

I stop, turn slowly.

He holds up the bottle. “Not a kid any more. Make me proud.”

I smile. Give him a thumbs up. And go back to try and enjoy the victory party.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085264

[In retrospect, I’m not supposed to shake hands with Rusty, lest an earth-shattering ka-boom ensue. I will leave that in, however, as dramatic license.]

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085283

As part of his Moment of Truth, Jason was left with enough knowledge (perhaps some holdover from touching Byron’s mind) to figure out how to synthesize nanobots of local materials, coat himself in those, then discard them before the charge leaks to him. I mean, if you want. :slight_smile:

I’ve reread the “Jason’s Tale” posts a few times. For my money, the funniest bit was, after months of grieving for his loss, enforced apathy, and furious attempts to locate and reconnect with his parental figures, literally Jason’s first thought was “fuck you Rusty”. So it’s nice to see these two interact more, uh, positively?

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085285

Bill G. said:

As part of his Moment of Truth, Jason was left with enough knowledge (perhaps some holdover from touching Byron’s mind) to figure out how to synthesize nanobots of local materials, coat himself in those, then discard them before the charge leaks to him. I mean, if you want. :

I’ve read worst No-Prize justifications. :slight_smile:

I’ve reread the “Jason’s Tale” posts a few times. For my money, the funniest bit was, after months of grieving for his loss, enforced apathy, and furious attempts to locate and reconnect with his parental figures, literally Jason’s first thought was “fuck you Rusty”. So it’s nice to see these two interact more, uh, positively?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Walt Whitman

While Jason thought his Dad and Rusty dead, there was both a natural tendency to idealize and grieve them.

Once he realized they were alive, and the events of their death were not as they seemed, and coupled with his growing understanding of how Byron had screwed with him – those emotion flipped, and he let anger take over.

When they got to the Sepiaverse, Jason’s confrontation was mostly with Byron; Rusty actually (and very wisely) stayed out of the conversation for the most part, except when it called on his role as security chief.

Jason’s anger sort of came to a climax down in the Keynome Chamber. In a sense, the Moment of Truth and actions against his dad for his sins were, if nothing else, cathartic.

And, beyond the formal arguments (and beating around the bush) with Byron in the Senate office, there’s still a difference between an off-hand “fuck you, Rusty” when Rusty is a conglomeration of memories and absence, and dealing in the aftermath of a very long day with Rusty in the flesh, when both are actually kind of vulnerable.

And, in a sense, Jason’s awareness (and Rusty’s) that Jason is heading back to the Prime Earth, and that they may never see each other again, makes it easier for them to let that impending departure smooth things over. If Jason was going to be staying on, both might react a bit differently.

(Byron’s disability might actually be something that Rusty, possibly with some guilt, welcomes. It can’t be easy being the lover and companion to the Smartest Guy in the Room.)

At any rate, yeah, it was a much more positive interaction than I would have guessed an issue or two ago, but it seemed to make sense to me, esp. as a hail and farewell kind of moment, where we let nostalgia and anticipated loss gloss over the conflicts we might have been kvetching about only days before.

That all said – yes, it is kind of funny. But, then, human relationships are sometimes that way.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085317

It’s tough to briefly summarize how that first three words came off to me as a reader. So I’ll let Obama do it for me.

Not hostility, but that old familiarity one has with people who’ve been through hardship together. A recognition of how things were, but no change. But instead of that, this felt like it forged a new way for things to be. I personally think that’s a big step up for Jason. :slight_smile:

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085324

I agree. Both characters have a new understanding of each other.

Rusty has been an underplayed supporting cast member. Aside from one cutscene, he’s been, at best, a backdrop during flashbacks. Before Jason leaves him stuck for the time being in the Sepiaverse, I wanted to get some closure and clarification on that relationship.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085714

I’d sort of hoped for a Bourne style Rusty vs Hector throwdown during the attack, but there might be room for a flashback if you are ever so inclined.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085971

*** Dave H. said:

[In retrospect, I’m not supposed to shake hands with Rusty, lest an earth-shattering ka-boom ensue. I will leave that in, however, as dramatic license.]

In the interests of preserving this handshake and to open the door to future shenanigans, we’ll say that while Hector and Rusty were close enough to the Keynome to be pulled through, they didn’t soak up all the dimensional energy that Byron and Achilles did. This will mean both that a handshake isn’t also a self-targeted AoE (maybe prolonged contact WOULD build up a charge, but who’s going to test that?), and that Hector or Rusty could, in theory, drop in for a visit, back home.

Guess we’ll see.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6085976

Hmm. Somehow I lost a post in here.

First, this is great. I have nothing useful to add - it’s really a satisfying scene.

The part that made ME laugh was this:

“Rusty.”

“Kid.”

So much packed into that single bit.
I think Jason’s left Byron in a position where he’ll actually take Rusty’s input a lot more, and that’s probably not a bad thing.

I foresee Byron and Chin alternating Chess and Go games in Chin’s cell, while they debate irrigation techniques and the inherent poisonous failings of late-stage capitalism.

There’s really some great symbolism in how and where Jason has left Byron (and Alycia, ditto - I love how their resolutions worked so well as mirrors/parallels - ultimately her story was very much like his story, which is great), and how he left it with him, and the sundered Influence there. His, it turns out, is the story of recovery from abuse when you didn’t realize until later the abuse was happening. (Compare that to Leo’s which was much more of the Living the Nightmare variety.)

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6086114

Doyce T. said:

First, this is great. I have nothing useful to add - it’s really a satisfying scene.

Thank you. It felt satisfying. If they never meet again, they’ve checked off that relationship box (thinking of different PBTA stuff); if they do, it will be at a new starting point.

The part that made ME laugh was this:

“Rusty.”

“Kid.”

So much packed into that single bit.

Yup!

I think Jason’s left Byron in a position where he’ll actually take Rusty’s input a lot more, and that’s probably not a bad thing.

This might actually help their relationship a lot. I hope so (so does Jason), even if that wasn’t the purpose.

I foresee Byron and Chin alternating Chess and Go games in Chin’s cell, while they debate irrigation techniques and the inherent poisonous failings of late-stage capitalism.

Heh. Yeah, there’s a scene six months down the line I’d like to see.

There’s really some great symbolism in how and where Jason has left Byron (and Alycia, ditto - I love how their resolutions worked so well as mirrors/parallels - ultimately her story was very much like his story, which is great), and how he left it with him, and the sundered Influence there. His, it turns out, is the story of recovery from abuse when you didn’t realize until later the abuse was happening. (Compare that to Leo’s which was much more of the Living the Nightmare variety.)

The parallels between the three of them (Jason, Leo, Alycia) have been fascinating to me as this has all organically evolved.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6086226

In the category of “Stories that will probably never be written”:

Jason Quill has had a very, very, VERY long day

  1. Jason, completely wiped-out-with-exhaustion (or -doom), zonks out in a chair in the Capitol building during the celebration party.
  2. A trio of young Sepiaverse ladies, each with a thought toward the advantages of snagging the Son of Quill for herself, attempt to approach him, bother him, seduce him, or do something that would wake him up.
  3. They are intercepted and thwarted, in turn, by Summer, Alycia, and Charlotte, for independent but similar reasons.
  4. Jason snoozes on.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6087537

Sounds like a challenge. Any objection if I do my part? :slight_smile:

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6087594

Well, if you have to explain a joke it stops being funny but … sure, let me tee it up.

(No particular defined order to the guardian angels intervention.)

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6087697

I think you will find this one funny enough to be worth it.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6087706