Legend – Chapter 01
“I think today’s session went well, Mr. Thompson,” Jennifer Hsui said in her best professional tone. It was important to conclude each appointment on time, but not to make the patient–or client, as some people preferred–feel pressured or cut off.
Thompson, a man with a heavily lined face and graying hair that showed it had once been dark, managed a smile that creased his cheeks with wrinkles that had not been there so often when first he had come to her—-was it a year and a half ago? “I guess so, Jen. Still hard to talk about some of this . . . but it’s all getting easier now.”
“Good to hear. Same time next week?”
The door closed behind him and Jen sat back with a whoosh. The hardest thing about being a therapist sometimes was trying to figure out the right direction for the patient, and then get him to move himself along it. Some people came looking for a quick cure–no, most of them do, let’s be honest with ourselves, Jenny–but even when they accepted that this wasn’t an option, they still had their own expectations of direction. And sometimes–maybe even usually–the direction they expected wasn’t the right direction to go in.
Day’s not quite over yet, not time for woolgathering, as my mother used to say. She stood and moved over to the attached bathroom, checked herself in the mirror; straight long black hair parted just so, touch up the makeup a bit, but nothing major.
She checked the schedule; a new patient was due in, a David Helten. He had a late appointment–5:30.
Whatever possessed me to take another patient at that hour?
She knew the answer: instinct. When Mr. Helten had called, his approach had been very professional, matter-of-fact . . . but there was just something about the tone of voice that made her feel there was something important there.
It was always important for the patient, once they made the step of calling, but somehow it had rung out strongly in the way he spoke, and she’d felt it.
Fifteen minutes before he gets here. She picked up the phone and dialed, waited. A few minutes later, a high-pitched child’s voice answered, “Hsui residence, Yukari speaking.” The words were enunciated with careful pride.
“It certainly is Yukari speaking!” Jen said.
“Mommy! Are you coming home now?”
“Not tonight, Yuki. That’s why Gran is still there with you. I have a new patient tonight.” She looked out her window idly as she spoke; from her tenth-floor window in the newly-constructed Grume Building the view was spectacular. Today, the sun was hanging low, shining across Albany and making long shadows from the buildings, throwing the Memorial Square into sharp relief. The new structures around it did not rise nearly as high as the old South Mall had, even though it had been . . . what, nearly ten years now? Had to be; Yukari hadn’t even been born then. But there were also so many more buildings . . .
“You’re going to help him?”
Bless you for being so understanding. I don’t know if I would have been at your age. “I’ll at least find out if I can, sweetie. I just wanted to call and say I love you.”
“I love you too, Mommy!” A pause, during which Jen thought she saw tiny, distant shapes moving fast against the sky. They twirled together, a flash, a streak of light, and they were gone. I still have a hard time realizing that I’m really seeing this. “Mommy, it’s Thursday . . .”
She laughed. “Oh, I see. Put Gran on.”
Her mother came on the line a moment later. “I’ve already got dinner on, Jenny. Yukari’s finished all her spelling words and showed me her other homework, which she was perfect on.” The eternal pride of the grandmother echoed in her mother’s tones.
“It’s only third grade, mother. I think we’ll wait to declare genius until the Fourth.”
“If you insist. Now, I was going to read her a book later, but she insists–“
“Mom, you know she’s going to watch her show tonight. There’s a two-hour marathon ending with a new episode. It’ll make her really easy to sit for–just make sure she showers first and she can go straight to bed after, if I’m not back. I should be back long before then, though.”
“But that show is so–“
Yes, yes, I know. But she loves it, and it’s not that bad. And I’ve had this argument with Mom so many times. “I know, Mom, you think it’s lowbrow, boy’s adventure with nothing to recommend it. And I admit I don’t know why this grabbed her attention, but it has, and she doesn’t just sit and watch.”
“I’m sorry, Jen. I really should stop questioning you. You’ve been doing fine on your own. I’ll get her fed and washed up and with luck you’ll be back . . . when, seven?”
“If it all goes smoothly. I’d hope eight at the latest.” She glanced at the clock. “Gotta go, mom, put Yukari back on.” When her daughter was back, Jennifer said, “Love you, Yuki. Gran knows you’ll be watching your show, so that’s all set. I should be home at least in time to watch the new episode with you.”
She ended the conversation with a kiss and hung up. She looked up at the monitor over her desk. No one in the outer office yet–her part-time office manager had gone home, and the patient wasn’t there yet. I hope he’s not late. The green telltale showed that the CryWolf unit was in good operation, not that she was really worried; the number of Wolf incidents in Albany was very low, even compared with other cities. Still, it was good for peace of mind.
It struck her anew how incongruously bizarre it was that she accepted the presence of a werewolf detector in her office as a completely normal thing, like having a smoke alarm in your house. That was when the world really started to change, I guess. Though even then we could never have imagined what the world would become.
The Transformation, the Awakening–people called it different things . . . but suddenly there were new sorts of creatures appearing, some like men, some . . . not. And they, and some of the people, wielding powers that had just been fiction, stories in paper and film brought now to impossible life. The law, science, even political realities shifted, and the world was still far, far from adjusting fully.
The last minutes ticked by as the sun almost touched the horizon. No one there. He’s late.
There was a rap at her window.
Jennifer jumped in startlement and whirled from the monitor.
Standing impossibly outside her window was a man, a tall young man with wild-flowing black hair bound back with a silver band, wearing strange, impractically styled armor that showed a physique like an Olympic swimmer, an outlandish outfit finished off with a flowing silvery cape.
She felt her mouth drop open as she stared, but for a moment she simply couldn’t do anything other than stare.
“Dr. Hsui,” he said in a voice that somehow penetrated the thick glass without being either diminished or shouted, “I’m your five-thirty appointment.” He flashed an apologetic grin. “Sorry about the unorthodox arrival.”
And at last she spoke with the only word she could think of. ” . . . Legend?”
He smiled and nodded, the trademark confident smile that had been the symbol of the world’s final transformation. He was not the only being of his type–not the only Super, as most would call them–but he was the first.
He was Legend.
She broke her momentary paralysis and yanked open the window – it took a moment for her to figure out how to unlock the sash, since there were safety features to prevent that being easy. Legend dropped through and landed lightly, making it look trivially easy to do the impossible.
“Why didn’t you . . . use the regular door?”
“Didn’t want to be recorded on the cameras. No one was watching this part of your building from the outside, not this high up.” She noted that the cape somehow moved with him, avoiding getting in his way, as though it knew what he was doing, where he was going.
“All right.” She could understand that. It must be very hard to have anything private when you were like . . . well, like that. And you’d have to go to extraordinary lengths to assure privacy. “So . . . what can I do for you?”
His smile was suddenly less confident, and just as suddenly more familiar.
“You have . . . problems?” She failed to keep the incredulity out of her voice, and kicked herself for it.
Fortunately he laughed, and the laugh itself told her a great deal. It was a laugh edged with uncertainty, nervousness, even a ragged tone that might be unshed tears. “Problems? Yes, Doctor . . . I have a number of problems. And I did a lot of searching to decide what I should do . . . who I could talk to. You ended up being highly recommended.” He sat down in one of the chairs and leaned back, trying to look like he was relaxed – and failing miserably. “So how about doing some headshrinking on a superhero, Doctor Hsui?”