As requested, Stephen was sitting atop the picnic table when Kitty and Daisy pulled back into Valhalla. Daisy headed inside, and Kitty made her way to Stephen, who asked, “How did the shoot go?”

“It was good, thanks.”

“You know, I’m not so sure Margot going to Wuhan is a good idea,” Stephen said bluntly.

“No need to worry about Margot,” Kitty assured him. “She’s on this mission, too. She knows what she’s doing, probably more than the rest of us, and she’s protected, so park your paternalism, and patriarchy.”

“That’s some nice wordwork, Kitty.”

“I must be picking it up from all you wordsmiths, and weirdoes.”

“Maybe so, but adding weirdoes to the end of that sentence was gratuitous. If a talent for wordcraft were communicable, you wouldn’t catch it from weirdoes.

“Well said, wily word wizard.”

“Touché! But, you didn’t want to see me to discuss linguistics, or etymology.”

“Actually, I kinda do.”

“Okay, let’s play. You start.”

“Okay, I shall. VoV.”

“Interesting. Simple anagram. One syllable. Doesn’t rhyme with anything I can think of. Could be an acronym. Not a word I’ve ever heard. Something you kids are using?”

“Not that I know of. You’re rigt about it being an anagram, obviously, and I think it is an acronym.”

“For what?”

“You tell me, oh, wily word wizard. You created it. More than that, you created her.”

Stephen’s face turned a puzzle. “I created VoV?”

“The name, and the… character, I suppose is the definitive word.”

“If what you say is true, and I am not saying it’s not, it’s a bit troubling, because this massive festering mess of looming dementia in my head may be mutating, and getting ready to march.”

“You don’t recall creating a character named VoV, and abandoning her? Long, long ago. Very early in your career, perhaps?”

“VoV? VoV?”

“The Vs are capitals, making it a perfect anagram, because it not only sounds the same, forward, and backward, it looks exactly the same.”

“So do MoM, ToT, and WoW. I’m sure we can find more, but what is this about, Kitty?”

For reasons she couldn’t understand, Kitty was getting annoyed, which became clear when she answered, “Evidently, Lance is not the only creature you created, and abandoned.” Stephen did not want anything to do with a discussion about his abandonment of his son. He would, with his son, when his son expressed an interest in talking it out, over a beer, or two at Stephen’s expense, but certainly not with Kitty, so he remained silent, and waited for more. Kitty accommodated him.

“When you first reached out to me, I started becoming vaguely aware of VoV. I had no idea who, or what she was, or that she was your creation, and she did not occupy much space in my mind, so I chose not to ruminate on it, having so many other pieces of this puzzle inside my head to try to put together. But when we saw her, in Duluth, I knew it was her. And she was there, at the border, when we crossed. She was waiting for us on this side of the border, but I knew she would be there, as soon as we saw her in Duluth. I knew she was there to protect us, especially me, as I was the one doing the dirty deeds.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“That’s so strange. I thought you had sent her. I thought you did not want to mention her in any of our communications prior to meeting, because you didn’t want anyone who might be intercepting our communications knowing anything about her. So, when we got here, I waited for you to bring her up.”

Stephen shrugged, and repeated, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. How old is she? What does she look like?”

“If she were human, she could be anywhere between fifty, and a hundred years old, I suppose. But, here’s something… Lance swore she was a he.”

That’s when the switch flicked in the massive, festering mess of looming dementia between Stephen’s ears. Kitty saw the light go on, sensed him rummaging around, grasping. Expectantly, she waited.

“VoV! Yes! VoV! My God, it’s been a million years. But she is a he. At least he would be, to me, but not to you.” The King of Horror groped around inside a cobweb covered data bank in his head. “Yes, VoV. Virtue over Vanity. Valor over Villainy. Vanity over Virtue. Villainy over Valor. The eternal struggle in humans, and humanity.”

He groped deeper, and deeper. “He took on whatever appearance people found pleasing. Male, female, any skin colour, and size or shape. But he, she, was young and beautiful.”

“Well, you left her alone, in the dark, for fifty years, so it’s understandable that she has withered. I suspect Ponce de Leon’s fabled fountain is not to be found in the darkness.”

“It just wasn’t working. I couldn’t fit him into any of my stories then, and my stories were selling, so I went with whatever was working.”

“Understandable. But now she’s back. She has survived the darkness, and come to the light, knowing that we are trying to create more light in the world, as darkness and confusion descends.”

“Or, is he here for revenge?”

“Is she capable of that?”

“As I created him, yes. The eternal human struggle; Virtue over Vanity. Valor over Villainy. Vanity over Virtue. Villainy over Valor. VoV. That struggle is the essence of VoV. Or was supposed to be. Or not. I wrestled with it. He tortured me.”

Indeed, VoV was torturing Stephen once more. “I stole the idea from a Star Trek episode; Let that be Your Last Battlefield. Two beings, brothers, locked in eternal battle. Their faces were half black, half white. Kirk thought they were exactly the same, but they were exact opposites. The rigt side of one brother’s face was black, the rigt side of the other brother’s face was white. Completely at odds with each other. Forever battling each other. I wanted to bring both of them together in one character, which was VoV.”

“My God, the internal torment she must have endured.”

“Yes. That’s what I wrestled with. I couldn’t find a way through the insanity of it all. I couldn’t make sense of it, and it was making me crazy, just contemplating it.”

“I can see how. So, she can be dangerous?”

“Not to anyone but me, I assume. I’m the one who abandoned her, after all. None of that has anything to do with you, or Lance, or Madonna, Margot, the Staals, or anyone else who joins this crusade.”

“No… but I’m the one walking into the dark tunnel with you, to meet an international dealer of shade, who goes by the name Gotcha, tomorrow.”

“I can see how that can cause some consternation. But what’s this about tomorrow?”

“Why not? Once Margot comes back, and tells us what we need to know about exactly how the tunnel works, if it’s more complicated than just walk in, walk out, we should all get on with it, no?”

“You’re rigt. So be it. On with the show.”




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