Changehood

The Story of Patrick Leary

The End: Generations

March 27th, 994

Patrick liked his life. He was happy with it; not just content, but happy. He genuinely appreciated each moment. There was very little that he did not enjoy. There was very little that could upset him.

He loved his wife, Riley, even though he did not love how frequently she had to go on missions for the sake of Ronin Village. But, the moments she left only made the moments when she returned even better. He loved to support her and loved to be there for her when she got home.

Patrick was a teacher at the academy, after all, which meant his workday began at a certain time and then ended at another time. Sometimes Riley would be gone for a week, and other times she would be gone for an afternoon. It was difficult to tell. Still, in spite of the mystery, Patrick made it the best place for her to return to, and the time they spent together was worth any amount of time apart.

He had to split her attention, however, with two other boys in her life; Andrew and Leif, their sons. Andrew just turned two a month earlier and Leif was creeping up on his first birthday. Although Andrew showed no signs of developing either of his parents' abilities, there was still plenty of opportunity for it to occur. After all, sometimes it took all the way until puberty for an ability to develop, so there was always a chance to hold out hope.

Leif, on the other hand, appeared to be born with his biological father's ability of excellent hearing hindering him. Patrick was not Leif's biological father, though he was his father in every other sense of the word. An incident occurred, resulting in some less than favorable conditions involving Patrick's wife and best friend, Alexander Orion. Things were all right for them now, but the man who had caused all their anguish, Aaron Lurn, ended up escaping. It was an end Patrick was not satisfied with and if he could do anything to change it, he undoubtedly would.

Andrew was always well behaved, while Leif was good enough as long as he was asleep. Because of this, Patrick could take them to school with him whenever Riley was away on a mission. Both boys were comfortable enough with the environment they spent a lot of time in so it wasn't unusual. Most children in most classes adored the Leary boys and would often fight over who got to watch them whenever Patrick had to leave the room for whatever reason.

"Mr. Leary," came a quiet voice in the doorway.

Patrick turned to determine exactly who had decided to interrupt his class. He was introducing strategy to students who were probably too young to apply it, but it was all about the exposure. Roy Hardlen, son of a former Head Change of the village, was among the class and peered curiously at the person in the doorway, perhaps attempting to recognize the visitor before Patrick did.

However, Patrick knew right away who was standing outside his class; fifteen-year-old Coach Campbell, a former student of Patrick's. The boy was a medic, and a good one at that, often working with the patients in the most disastrous conditions. He had perhaps saved more lives in the year he had been a medic than some doctors did over the course of their entire careers. Coach was tall, attractive and steadfast, which made his face trustworthy and his character infectious. Anyone was lucky to know Coach so much so that Patrick was glad to be a piece of his upbringing as a Change.

"Coach, what are you doing here?" Patrick questioned. He thought it was strange how serious Coach looked.

"Can I speak with you privately?" Coach requested, noting apologetically at the class.

Patrick pointed at the girl who sat in the front row; her name was Lilah. "Watch them," he instructed, gesturing towards his two boys sitting at the front of the class. Leif slept in his carrier on the floor while Andrew sat at a desk and colored quietly, glancing up briefly as he watched his father go to Coach in the door and step outside the class.

"Mr. Leary—Patrick," Coach began somewhat hastily, wanting to get directly to the point without wasting any time. "There's something very important I have to tell you."

Suddenly, in that moment, everything changed. Patrick's head flooded with all the worst possibilities: there was an invasion, someone had been killed…Riley had been killed. He could feel the blood drain from his head. Coach hadn't even said anything yet, but his tone was so serious, that it couldn't have been anything good. Patrick regretted going into the hall with Coach. He thought, maybe, if he had just sent Coach away, he would be able to finish the lesson and the bad news wouldn't touch him. It had to be it—Riley had been killed.

"Patrick, are you all right?" Coach asked hesitantly.

"What is it," Patrick began, taking a deep breath. "What did you want to tell me?"

"It's…we got a message from the Village of Lica," Coach said.

"Brace yourself," came Black's hum in his hear. Black, his personal companion, a common housefly packed with more strategy than even Patrick himself. Sure, Patrick could talk to bugs and hear them talk back, but there were stranger abilities in Ronin.

Patrick nodded in response to Black's advice. "This day started out so normally," he reflected in a voice only Black could hear.

The truth was, being a Change was a dangerous job for anyone, but especially for the ones ranked at the top. Riley had one of the highest ranks in the village, so the danger increased for her since she was sent on the more perilous missions. Both Patrick and Riley knew what it meant to be a Change, so they should have been prepared for whatever news would come to them.

"It's Aaron Lurn," Coach went on.

"Aaron Lurn?" Patrick repeated. "Did he hurt Riley?"

Coach appeared confused and taken aback by Patrick's question. "No," he said immediately. "No, Riley—I haven't heard anything about her. This doesn't have to do with a mission. The Squad in Lica found Aaron Lurn."

Patrick's rush of horror released. He relaxed. Riley was all right; everyone was all right. Then, after the relief, the horror returned. Aaron Lurn. It had been a year and a half since he had to hear that name. That man was the cause of so much death and suffering around Patrick and many others. It all rooted back to the day Patrick accidentally killed Lurn's son on a mission over ten years ago. (At this point, it's actually almost been fifteen years.) It really was an accident, but Lurn swore revenge that day. And, progressively went mad. His mental state deteriorated as he expelled most of his energy attempting to have Patrick killed. Then, apparently just for the fun of it, Lurn went to the surrounding villages of Lica and abducted some of the highest ranked Changes. His attempt was to breed them to create his own army.

Essentially, that's where Leif came from.

"Patrick?" Coach asked hesitantly.

"I see," Patrick said, feeling an innate fear of this man bubble up into his throat.

"Their thoughts are to put him to death," Coach explained.

"Good," Patrick said finitely without even actively commanding himself to do so.

"But, recently a slew of civilians have gone missing," Coach continued. "They suspect he knows where they are. They're afraid if they kill him, they won't find out where the civilians are."

Patrick waited for Coach to continue. "And?" he led.

"Lurn babbles confusedly and doesn't speak in full sentences," Coach went on. "He's completely mad. The only thing the interrogators can make out for sure of what he's saying is…" Coach paused, as if he wasn't sure what to say. "Patrick Leary. Your name."

Patrick swallowed hard. After all those years and despite his madness, Lurn still was strikingly single-minded.

"Lica sent a representative," said Coach. "I think you know her. Eva Samuels?"

"I know her. She's a sweet girl. She was there on the mission to retrieve the retired Squad members."

"She is requesting you go back to Lica with her," Coach offered. "They imagine that after seeing you, Lurn's mind might become more focused. They're hoping they could have a more successful interrogation and find the civilians."

Patrick knew he heard the words and was fairly certain he understood them, too. Still, somehow, they didn't make any sense.

"So, they want me to go back to Lica and hope that Lurn has some kind of reaction when he sees me?" Patrick inferred.

"Yes," Coach confirmed.

"I don't think anything will happen," Patrick reported, glancing back towards his classroom which sounded like it was getting a little rambunctious in his absence. "The two of us never even met. He probably wouldn't even be able to recognize me."

"I suppose you don't know Lurn's ability?" Coach questioned.

"No," Patrick answered in a tone that invited Coach to elaborate.

"He has the ability to invade someone's mind and rearrange thoughts," Coach replied. "He can't eliminate memories, but he can misplace them and change the orders of them. His madness is no doubt a direct result of using this power a bit too much. Nowadays, he doesn't have control over it anymore. He's no longer capable of doing any damage, and his ability is more limited to simply reading memories as if he was reading a book."

"They want to let him read my mind," Patrick said.

"And once he does, they imagine that will jolt him out of his madness long enough to allow them to interrogate him," Coach summarized.

Patrick's frown was becoming more animated. He liked the plan less and less, and was especially not-too-keen about the idea of allowing his most hated enemy to prod his mind. Of course, Coach did assure him that there was no threat. Still, there was something so very threatening about those who could read and manipulate minds, like the three Keller brothers from Larid that Patrick had met about a year and a half earlier.

"When would I have to go?" Patrick asked.

"As soon as possible," Coach said. "That is, if there's any hope of ever recovering the missing civilians."

"I see," Patrick said. In a way, Coach was essentially telling him he had no choice.

Patrick wished he could be more enthusiastic, but this all came out of nowhere and was not anything close to what he wanted to do. Plus, Riley was away on a mission, so he would have to find someone last minute to watch the two boys. Of course, he never had trouble doing that, but it was still a huge inconvenience for everyone involved.

"I assume you know when the next train to Lica leaves," Patrick said.

"Very early in the morning," Coach replied. "Before the sun."

"I understand," said Patrick. "I'll go, of course."

"Ms Samuels will go back with you," said Coach, and then he smiled. "She raves about you, Patrick."

"Does she?" Patrick almost laughed. "What does she say?"

"Only that you're wise and powerful," Coach said, almost laughing.

"Why would you laugh at that?" Patrick said, rolling his eyes.

"Well, she said someone else was originally sent on this errand to collect you," Coach continued. "But she begged to switch. She admires you very much, and became vocally envious of me when I told her you were once my teacher."

"Doesn't that seem so long ago?" Patrick inquired.

"It does," Coach agreed. "A year. More, even."

"Do you ever see the others? Mary, Remy? Jones?"

"Not really," said Coach with a shrug. "Only when they're passing through with injuries. Especially Remy, who always expects me to drop whatever I'm doing or whoever I'm seeing to fix even his paper cuts."

"Remy's always been that way," Patrick said.

"I know," said Coach. "Did you hear that—" Coach bit his lip and shook his head.

"What?" Patrick led.

"I've resolved to attempt to stop gossiping," Coach said, waving his hand. "It's a bad habit I've picked up thanks to the nurses. I might know just about anything about anybody at this point."

"So, what were you going to say about Remy, then?"

It didn't take very much to crack Coach open. "He applied for promotion to Third Level but he was denied," Coach said, and there was a bit of a glint in his eye at the prospect, as if it excited him. "Serves him right, always thinking he was so much better than the rest of us."

"He's only thirteen, isn't he?"

"Twelve," Coach corrected. "He doesn't really need to be a Third Level, don't you think? Not yet, anyway."

Patrick wanted to continue this conversation, but he heard Leif suddenly start to cry from inside the classroom, and subsequently Lilah called out for Patrick to return. Patrick turned apologetically back to Coach who invitingly gestured for Patrick to return to his work.

"Ms Samuels will meet you at the train station in the morning," Coach said simply as a wrap-up and goodbye. "I hope you have a successful trip."

"I do too," said Patrick. "Thank you, Coach."

Coach nodded to Patrick and left the hallway hastily, perhaps already late to returning to the Head Change with his report. Patrick did always like Coach's personality the best out of his four students from his first year as a personal teacher. Coach was honest and realistic but, most of all, he was strikingly polite. Even though he spoke his mind, he was always sure to be gentle with whatever point he was attempting to convey. That is, of course, if the person he was speaking to deserved his respect.

Patrick reentered the classroom and immediately went to where Lilah was crouched beside Leif's rocker. The baby cried mercilessly, and Lilah apologized for not being able to keep him quiet, but Patrick assured her it was not her fault.

Patrick bounced Leif as Andrew watched with his usual look of passive discontentment that he generally wore whenever he couldn't understand why his little brother was crying.

Patrick scanned the room quickly to make sure everyone was still there. He could tell they all desperately wanted to ask what he talked about with Coach, but he didn't feel as though they needed to have their questions justified. There was very little about eight-year-olds that Patrick felt needed justified.

Still, he knew finishing out the lesson would be very difficult. Sure, Leif was crying, but that was something he could deal with. He dealt with it every day. It felt almost more right that Leif was crying again.

The notion he couldn't deal with was the thought of finally laying eyes on Aaron Lurn, a man who had never drifted out of Patrick's memory, not even for one minute of any day.


Hey guys! Sorry it's been a while since the previous installment. I hope this lives up to the wait. Thanks a lot!