The Excess Son – A Ulysses Hypercube Tale, by James Wylder
Ulysses looked like a brute. When he walked down the street, people gave him space. When he went to work out, some girls were scared of him, and some flocked to him like he was a demigod. But none of them really got that he wasn’t just a pile of muscle. Outside of his family, he was an outsider, a locked room which he peered keenly out of from his auburn eyes. He was a titan, he could crush a man’s forearm no problem, no effort. But he was Ulysses at heart, and he saw the world like an odyssey. He went to pick up his dad’s dry cleaning, and the noticed the tell tale twitches of the man behind the counter, and he smoothed his words to get a discount. The fact that he looked like he could smash people’s skulls in always made them underestimate him. Always made them misjudge him. Put them off guard. And it was their luck he didn’t give a damn about manipulating them for anything more then discounts.
Because when it came down to it, Ulysses was a family man. Hopefully one of his own someday, if he ever found a woman who could actually comprehend who he was he wasn’t related to, and for now, the family he had. His parents, his brothers and sisters, and Anya, who while not actually related to him, was the closest he was to anyone. She was like his twin, and she was only a tiny bit older then him so it was close enough. Children from previous relationships, with twelve siblings, best of friends.
This isn’t about Anya though, she left a few days ago, to go find the parents of both of them who had apparently abandoned them, and Ulysses parents were out trying to negotiate new treaties, so Ulysses was a glorified baby sitter. Glorified, but necessary, after that weird alien had tried to kill off his family.
“Ule! ULE!” He looked up, Eowyn was standing there, holding Murasaki in a very loose headlock.
“Oh, Eowyn, not again.”
“I have conquered my sister!”
“Yes, I can see that.”
“Get off of me!”
“Eowyn let go of your sister.”
“But I won.” Ulysses gave her a look, a stern look, but not a cold one. It was a look carefully crafted over decades of having over a dozen siblings. She let go. “Good girl. Now, how about you two go get yourself a snack?”
“Will you help us make it? I want apples.”
“I want celery.”
“I wand celery and apples.”
“You kids are freaks.” He got up, chuckling to himself, and soon found himself slicing up apples and celery and getting peanut butter in cups to dip them in. He sliced the sticks just right for the size of his sisters hands. He did the math about how much peanut butter they’d need. They devoured it, and began running around again: another satisfied loved one. That was when Ulysses heard the buzzer go off for the gate, and checked the monitor, saw the man standing there, and the day got a whole lot less simple. Ulysses didn’t think this would be very impressive trip. People came to the gates all the time, for business, because they had the wrong address, because one of Zoro’s ex boy or girlfriends really wanted him back, it could be any number of things. One Hypatia even had some guy with a crush on her drop off a love poem. He’d been surprised that anyone had noticed her, with all those books in between her and other people’s eyes, but it had made him happy to see her read the badly written poem, all a giggle.
This wasn’t that kind of day. At the gate was a man, Earther from the looks of him, mid thirties. He had a little girl with him, who looked terrified as hell, like she had stepped from Earth onto a moon made up entirely of pirates who cut their limbs off and replaced them with robot parts just for fun. He gave her a smile. She smiled back. At least Ulysses knew he was good at something.
“Welcome to the Hypercube residence. What business do you have with the Cube2Hypergang, or the Hypercube family?” The man, who was dirty as a duststorm, and his clothes ripped enough to be fashionable with the right crowd, sheepishly smiled.
“Is this… Is Geraldine McGraw Hypercube here?”
“My mom? What buisines do you have with her.”
“I… I’d rather talk to her about that in person.” The child, who was clinging to the man’s pantleg as though she were in the ocean, and he was her life preserver stared into Ulysses eyes. She looked familiar somehow.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you in unless I know the nature of your business sir. Family rules.” The man bit his lip, and stuttered for a bit. Ulysses stared back coolly.
“I…. I think she’s my mother.”
Ulysses could have stared forever. In that man, and his daughter, he saw the tell tale signs of his mother’s genetics. The little traits she’d passed on to himself and all of his non-Anya siblings. The cheekbones. The eyes. The wrists that bulged a tiny bit where they connected to the hand.
“I think you should come in. And I think we need to talk in private.”
The man sat in the wing chair in the dirty parlour, mom had meant to clean it a year ago. She kept not getting around to it. The man’s daughter was playing with Eowyn and Murasaki, and the three seemed to be getting along well enough that they weren’t being interrupted yet, so no complaints.
“Myself and my daughter got off Earth right after the blockade ended…. My wife didn’t make it… She got…” he trailed off, and stared out the window. Ulysses let the man take his time. He wasn’t having an easy time. “My name is Gerald Martinow.”
“Its good to meet you… So I expect you want to know my story.”
“You’d be right. I’m listening. I’m patient. You want anything to drink?” The man shook his head, “any food?” Ulysses should have thought of that himself. He commed Leonides, “Leo, get me some sandwitches in here stat.”
“You aren’t a doctor, man,” he grumbled back,
“Yean, and you’re a deli worker as of now. Bring some chips and a drink to.” Leo just sighed. Ulysses had won, of course.
“Continue, please.” The man unbuttoned his top button on his shirt, and loosened his tie. Judging by the circles under his eyes, he hadn’t had a full night’s rest in days.
“My father was a CGC banker, not high enough up that he was making important decisions, but high enough he was wealthy. My mother was a painter, not the artistic kind, the outside of houses and such. Though, I think she wanted to be an artist… Anyways, she always hated me. I had other siblings, ones I don’t really know if are alive or dead right now…”
He nodded, “Its… The way of things now isn’t it? Wars come and rip our families apart, split us up from the people we care about the most…”
“I know the feeling somewhat right now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Well, look, I don’t know how to say this, but I always suspected that I wasn’t my mother’s child. I didn’t look like her, or act like her, and she always looked at me like I was some sort of…”
“Yeah, that’s the word… And I found I didn’t have a birth record from Earth when I started looking into it. It was from Maverick space. No mother listed.”
“I see. Can I see your papers?” The man seemed startled, as though Ulysses was going to turn him over to the authorities. Then the man remembered he was in Maverick space, and pulled out a datapad. Ulysses skimmed through the Documents.
“Well, I’m afraid you can’t be my mother’s son, Mister Martinow. She would have been twelve when she had you, if this is correct.”
“It is correct.”
“Then I think any further discussion would waste both of our times, I have a lot to do.” Leo entered with a finely crafted tray of sandwitches, and the look on his face of, “I heard your last sentence, and I cannot have made all these for nothing.”
“You and your daughter can of course eat before you leave.”
“I’m not done… There’s more.”
“More about what?” Leo said, setting the tray down.
“Leave the room Leo, we’re discussing something very important.” Ulysses held his look. He was getting better and better at holding that look.
“Fine, whatever.” The door slammed behind Leo, and Ulysses turned back to Mister Martinow, his shirt bending with the contours of his muscles like some sort of high powered machine moving under a sheet.
“After I got off Earth, I started looking, to see if I could find more about my family here… I didn’t find anything in the hospitals… So I started tracking down back alley Doctors.”
“That’s pretty damn dangerous, sir.”
“You could have endangered your daughter.”
“I never took her with me!”
“You could have endangered your daughter.” The gaze was turned on, and Martinow slinked back a bit in his chair. “In… Indeed I could have. I’m sorry.” He said, not sure even why he just apologized.
“Yes, well, I started finding records of… Child prositiution rings.”
Ulysses stood up, his eyes were like the Shi’s sun. “If you’re insinuating my family would ever even consider running a-“
“No! I’m saying your parents were both children in one!”
There was a silence as deafening as the deep space only miles above their heads. “What did you say?”
“I’m saying that the records seem to indicate that your mother and father, and the other founding members of Cube2Hypergang were… Child prostitutes who killed their enslavers.”
“I don’t believe you. That’s ridiculous. Get the hell out of my house.” The man simply held out a datapad, and Ulysses stared at It, then grabbed it furiously. He scrolled through the data. And then he scrolled through it again. And again. And again. And then he threw it on the floor. The man stared, waiting for a response.
“I’ll put you up in a hotel for the night. I need to think about this.”
“And… You read about me in there? That I’m her kid from…”
“From being raped by your asshole of a father when she was eleven. Yeah. I read it. You’ll have a warm place to stay tonight. Now get the hell out of my house.” The man nodded, and Leo escorted him and his daughter to the gate, and gave them a data card for housing credit. Ulysses shut off the monitor he watched that on, and slumped down in his chair. Anya and him were both learning things about their parents. He just hoped what she was learning were things she actually wanted to know.
Ulysses didn’t really sleep that night. He stared, which was usual for him, but only at the ceiling. He would have cried, if he hadn’t gotten so used to not crying for the sake of all of his siblings. Any one of them could barge in needing him, at any time. He couldn’t risk tears. But he wanted to weep. “Mom…” he muttered, “How could anyone do that to you…” he wasn’t going to cry. He couldn’t risk it.
He rolled over. These weren’t tears in his eyes, his body was just expelling salty liquid.
He wasn’t crying… And he definitely wasn’t weeping.
Ulysses showed up at the hotel around lunchtime. Zorro and Denise, which was the worst name for a long term girlfriend ever, had agreed to watch the house while he was away. He rung the doorbell. No response. He knocked. No response. He knocked harder, and the door cracked open a tad. The little girl looked at him, her whole body was trembling slightly.
“Daddy says to come back another time…”
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” He squatted down to eye level with her.
“Nothings wrong. You can’t come in.”
“I paid for the hotel, doesn’t that mean I can?”
She shook her head slowly. Like a doll. Like…. Ulysses felt sick. He didn’t have to think very long to decide to ram the door in. The girl might break some bones, but that would be better than the alternative. His shoulder was like an oxen, and the door hairline fractured as he rammed it. The girl was shoved backwards… But not as backwards as she should have been, because a long segmented tendril covered in thin spines was dung into her spine, and she lifted up from the ground a bit as the tendril tried to save its puppet. Ulysses didn’t stop moving. He didn’t stop looking. There was her father, sitting on the bed, glassy eyed, another tendril dug into his spine. Ulysses was angry now. He hated mister Martinow, a bit, for no fault of that man’s own, but he couldn’t blame a child. And he couldn’t let anything do that to a person.
Ulysses didn’t dodge the first tendril that shot at him, he just grabbed it, and began wrestling the armored muscular thing to the ground. It writhed, and he bent it too far, and there was a snap. Electricity and ooze seeped from the wound, and it thrashed even more violently, slicing up Ulysses forearms. Ulysses tried to barrel forward, but the thing put the child in front of him, her face smiling back at him like a baby doll. “You deserve this for killing my family Ulysses Hypercube.”
“Yours tried to kill mine!”
“Yours deserved to die. He could tell that reasoning with this thing was going to work wonders. Luckily, Ulysses was always staring, and he caught in the open air, the momently glimpse of a finger over a mouth, and another finer pointing towards the north wall. Ulysses didn’t question. This was too dangerous for questions. Lives were on the line. He edged north.
“I’ll break your bones, and kill your little siblings off one by one. I’ll start with the other one you came with, with the metal limbs.” Ulysses was definitely not mentioning she wasn’t around for that.
“Try it.” It swung at him, using the bodies it had on its tendrils like clubs. Ulysses gritted his teeth. He knew what the right thing to do was. He did it. When the tendrils came towards him, he rammed into the base, below where the bodies were attached. The spines sprung out, and dug deep into his flesh, and he could see his own blood pooling on the floor. But the father and daughter weren’t smashed to bits. He would have breathed a sigh of relief, if the thing hadn’t started constricting around him, like a python made of knives. He struggled against it, threw his weight back and forth, but he was losing a lot of blood, and this thing was giving it it’s all.
This made it all the better for Jhe Aladdin, who had been tailing Ulysses on the way to the hotel, hidden with a shroud, to set off the triggered burn gel he had been applying to the spots between the creature’s plates. It would have screamed, but it simply thrashed, and the last thing Ulysses saw before he passed out was Aladdin unshroud, and pull a gun out of his shirt, and fire come streaming out of it onto the already burning creature.
Hypatia was the first person he saw when he awoke. She was looking over him, her face a scrunchy of worry, that lit up with delight when he opened his eyes. “You’re alive!”
“They go together stupid.” She hugged him. The hug hurt a lot. He laughed. “Good to see you to.”
“And you, Ulysses.”
There was Aladdin, standing in the corner, circles under his eyes. He’d drawn some sort of design over his face, like a lightning bolt.
“Aladdin, I’ve never been so happy to see you man, you saved my life.” He nodded, “Before you ask, the father and daughter are okay. The Doctor’s were able to remove the spines from their nervous system without permanent damage. If I’m alive then, I’ll tell my father building a Darkshadow hospital here worked out well.” There was that Darkshadow name again. Maybe that Darkshadow lady was a doctor? Ulysses didn’t know.
“Also, its good to see you to, Hypatia.” Aladdin added, as though he had suddenly realized she was in the room.”
“Are you okay man?” Aladdin shrugged.
“Absolutely not. I have a lot of… Things to do.”
“You know I’ll do anything I can to help.”
“Where’s your sister? I was hoping to talk to her.” Ulysses glanced at his younger sister, “she’s… Getting her leg replaced. The one she got malfunctioned, and calling the guys who sold it didn’t work out, So she went in person.”
Hypatia looked convinced. Aladdin looked like he knew Ulysses was lying, but didn’t really give a shit.
“Whatever. Look, she comes by, tell her to call me or something. Oh, and…” His eyes glazed over for a moment. “Oh yes, there’s one other thing, I need to tell you about someone, both of you.” Aladdin’s face got more flush, his eyes more human, “Have you ever heard of Nightingale McCleod?”
Gerald hadn’t ever wanted to find out who his mom was, but now he knew. His spine hurt, and the last few weeks were all a blur from when that thing had turned him and his daughter into puppets… He sat in the hospital bed, and pondered the future. He didn’t have a home on Earth to go to. He didn’t have a friend left living. And then Ulysses entered the room, and he couldn’t help but look away.
“Hello, how are you feeling?” the half Korean man said.
“I’m… Sorry. I didn’t men to put you or your family in danger… I was…”
“Mind controlled, yeah, I’ve seen it before, it ain’t pretty. And neither is how you came into this world.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to find you, my father told me the truth, before he died… I couldn’t stand it, I could never look him in the eyes again…”
“And you aren’t him. And you are never ever going to tell my mother or father who you are, do you understand?” Ulysses stared. Gerald nodded.
“But, we have dozens of bedrooms in our house that ain’t used, and you’re my blood. So you and your daughter are living with us now. No arguments. No Hypercube is living on the streets ever again. You two get well, and you’re getting a roof and some food. But you betray my trust, and we’ll have problems, do you understand me?”
“I… thank you… I…. I don’t deserve this. Thank you.” Gerald began to cry. Ulysses, stared, not out of any way he could change people’s minds by staring… But because he was jealous as hell that Gerald could be crying.
“You’re blood. We look after are own. Always. Even when they screw up, or come from parents our parents hate, like I assume my dad and my older sis’s mom are hated by my parents. Doesn’t matter. You’re a hypercube. You’ll be cared for.”
Gerald nodded, “Mary will have some friends her own age to then… That’s… More than I could ever ask.”
Ulysses headed for the door, “you didn’t ask, and you’ll never have to. That’s family. See you when you’re better.” Ulysses walked out the door, got to a cab, went home, and spent the evening carrying Boudica around on his shoulders while she shouted something about Revolution. “Revolution Boudica? You been reading about your namesake?”
“I’m not Boudica, I’m the Nightingale!”
Ulysses smirked, “You know, I heard some stories about her, would you want to hear em?”
“Yes! Of course I want storytime about Nightingale!”
Valentinez leaned his head out a door, “storytime?” this continued, till the whole family was assembled, even Denise, if she counted, and someone had prepared an impromptu meal people were snacking on. Storytime always ended up this way: an hour to get ready and set up, and it would go all night. This is why he loved his family.
“So,” Ulysses started, “You remember our friend Aladdin?”
Everyone nodded, or said yes, except for Valintinez who was being contrary for no reason.
“I’m going to tell you a story about him, and about a girl named Nightingale, and about some things we should treasure. Our freedom, and our family. It all started, when Nightingale’s family went hungry….”