Author's Notes: Yes, this is a Superhero AU that happens alongside the canon plot of Dual Destinies, and I can't believe how far this idea has come since it started a little over two months ago. I was planning on getting this up on Justicykes day (April 17th), but I'm really glad I didn't and took my time with planning this whole thing out. My only regret about the plan is that Apollo's first appearance is not in the first few chapters due to plot reasons.
So the idea came about when I found my Phantom comic books, and read through their pages. What I thought was really interesting about this superhero is that he possessed no powers and no gadgets. He used his instincts, his abilities and his reputation as the 'The Ghost Who Walks' to fight his enemies. The most fascinating thing about The Phantom is that the identity is passed down from father to son to maintain the illusion that The Phantom is immortal and cannot be killed, hence why the Phantom can use his reputation as a weapon against his enemies.
A really big thanks goes out to ktabeau who majorly helped me with the design of the Lunar Eclipse (as you may see a little bit from the story icon) and brainstorming ideas with me. Also thanks to those who gave their support for this insane idea.
So, let's finally kick this off!
The Lunar Eclipse
Chapter 1: A New Legacy
"Wake up Athena!"
"C'mon Athena! You can't sleep in!"
The fiery haired girl groaned as she felt the hands of one of her cousins on her shoulder, attempting to shake her awake. The combination of voices and hands finally had her stirring. She shifted her weight off her shoulder, slowly opening her eyes. The sight of her two older cousins, grinning like idiots, had Athena chuckling.
"Can't I sleep in guys? It's my birthday today."
"Nope," said the oldest one, Carter, "Because you'll have an excuse to prioritise homework over spending time with your cousins."
"Besides, what's the harm playing a few hours of video games with us?" the younger one, Sigmund, said jovially.
Athena grunted, "I won't get enough sleep."
"C'mon, with your nap times after school and the way you sleep, you get more than enough. Do you know how hard it is to wake you up? Even with your special ears, you didn't flinch when I threatened to flush Widget down the toilet," Sigmund charged, punching her shoulder gently.
The older boy shot a glare at his younger brother, indicating one thing to the birthday girl. She sat up in her bed, keeping her blue eyes on her older blond haired cousin.
"Siggy, I hope you weren't serious about flushing Widget."
Sigmund looked over at Carter before his brown eyes rested on Athena. His Adam's apple bobbed noticeably, as he slowly scooted back.
And that was when he booked it out of her bedroom. His older brother quickly pursued him out. Athena laughed, but at the back of her mind she was worried if her cousins' shenanigans woke up her aunt.
Athena pushed her thick doona off. She suddenly felt wide awake and full of energy. After breakfast, perhaps she would take up her cousins' offer of playing video games with them. Her education took up most of her time, and she turned down her cousins a lot whenever it came to fun and games with them.
Today seemed like the best day to forget about her studies. At least for the morning.
This was the place. The street name and the numbers matched up with the address on the piece of paper. Finally, after almost two years of searching, he found where she lived.
He stepped out of his car in the afternoon sun, studying the house. It was a modest place in suburbia, usual for a family that settled down a long time ago. It was quite a peaceful area to live in too, where there was barely any noise from the busy roads surrounding the properties. No wonder why he didn't find this place earlier.
Apprehensively, the man strode towards the house. He wasn't sure if the person who answered the door would recognise him, it had been a long time since he had seen the family. The last time he saw them was almost thirteen years ago, when the entire family were in America to celebrate the birth of the newest addition in the family.
Then again, he stood out in this country. There weren't many people who were half Sri Lankan and had dark skin that lived here. Maybe he would be recognised, despite now sporting a thin moustache that tickled his skin.
Once he was at the door, he immediately knocked. There was no use hesitating. After all, he had waited for this moment for eleven years. To meet the person who was going to take the place of an extraordinary man.
The door was answered quickly, and he was met with the sight of a woman who he instantly recognised. Her fiery auburn hair and piercing green eyes always stood out whenever he gazed at her. She jumped seeing him, knowing what his appearance had meant.
"You're not taking either of my sons away." She scowled, and began to slam the door. The man snaked his hand between the door and the entryway, easily outmuscling her and pushing the door back wide open again.
"I'm not after any of your boys, Candice. I'm interested in your niece."
Candice released the doorknob in defeat. "Hmph. You realise what day it is today, don't you?"
"Yes. Today is her thirteenth birthday. Don't worry; she'll be back by dinner."
"It's not about that Ivan! You're forcing her to be involved in something dangerous! How could you put her on the same path that killed her father?"
"Then who will stop her father's murderers? If they aren't stopped, who knows what they'll do to this world if they were to wrestle it from the control of our leaders? We know she can stop them. It's in her blood."
"You must be desperate for wanting her. Traditionally, this position is supposed to be for firstborn sons." Candice chortled at the thought. How time had changed peopleover the last thirteen years, especially Ivan. "Otherwise, I would've been in my brother's place."
"Your father insisted that Theodore were to take his place. Besides, I don't have a choice. She's the last remaining heir, and she must take her father's place. Unless you want to volunteer one of your sons in her place, this noble tradition in the Selenic family can't die out."
Reluctantly, Candice opened the door wider. With a slight grunt, she responded, "Fine. Come in and speak to her. But don't you dare speak to my boys unless they speak to you. Understand?"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
It was the last room Ivan expected to find the girl in on her special day. She was in her bedroom doing her homework, entering inputs on her calculator and dotting down her answers. Why would any kid be completing maths equations on their birthday?
Ivan glanced at her aunt, wondering when the introductions would be made. Candice returned his gaze with an icy stare and left the room. Now how was he going to introduce himself to her? She didn't seem to notice his presence at all.
"Happy birthday Athena."
The girl was visibly startled by his foreign voice. But she recovered fast and turned herself around to see him. Ivan smiled as he could see her parents' features on her. She had her father's auburn hair and his electric blue eyes, and the beginnings of her mother's face. She was truly their daughter.
"I thought... I thought you were my aunt. Your footsteps either sound the same as hers or you were really quiet," Athena stated in confusion.
Ivan crossed his arms over his chest as he gradually walked towards her. "It's the latter. Through my training I've learned to silence my footfalls. You will be capable of the same feat some day."
"Who are you?"
The half Sri Lankan man extended his arm, presenting his open palm to Athena. "I'm Ivan Skinner, a family friend. I knew your mother quite well, and we were good friends."
Athena shook his hand, but her eyes avoided him. The man instantly regretted his incognito arrival. Perhaps he should've made his presence audibly known to the girl. That was likely how she processed the environment around her.
"I don't get something. With family friends, I thought I would see you at least once. Did something happen between you and Mum?"
Ivan bit his lip. He was glad the girl wasn't hung up on how he announced his presence, but he probably should've seen Athena more often when she lived in America. Then again, he had his reasons.
"It... wasn't like that. Besides, I have met you before, but you would've been too young to remember me."
"Oh. I wish you could've seen me more times, so I could remember you."
"Sorry Athena, but circumstances prevented those meetings. I hope my gift to you makes up for the time we have lost."
"Wow. You remembered my birthday after all these years? Thank you." Athena's eyes darted between his hands, expecting him to pull out a present from thin air. "So, where's the present?"
"It's not here, but I can take you to it."
"Shouldn't we ask for Aunt Candice's permission first?"
"I've already got her permission. We can leave whenever you're ready."
"Oh ok. Well, you lead the way."
Athena swore her day had gotten stranger from the moment Ivan parked the car before a large building, near the city. The building appeared at least three storeys tall, however it was circular and curvy than the other buildings in the area. Athena also noticed it had pretty gardens, where children played and jumped on top of the large rocks.
Ivan briskly walked towards the entrance, ignoring his surroundings. Athena found Ivan almost walked as fast as a jogger, surprised at his speed. She barely had time to take in anything else in order to catch up to him.
She managed to reach Ivan just as he opened the door for her. Athena thanked Ivan as she entered the building, and immediately she was awestruck. The building felt much bigger on the inside than the outside. It was a large hall, where she could see upstairs floor. With all the shelves, chock full of books, it was easy to tell what this place was meant to be. The teenager then began to wonder why she was brought here in the first place. Perhaps Ivan was aware she was almost at university and needed to access a lot of resources. Then again, she doubted that he would know that fact about her at a glance.
Again, she barely processed her surroundings as Ivan overtook her. This time, Athena tried to follow him closely, despite his breakneck walking speed. Before she knew it, Ivan stopped at a blocked off area, where one of the staff stood in front of a door.
When she was in earshot, she heard the employee question the reason for his visit. Ivan gestured towards Athena, and the employee was taken aback.
Ivan raised his index finger up to his lips and nodded slightly. The staff member understood, and faced Athena with a firmer expression.
"Right. Doctor Skinner, you and your special guest can enter. If you need any assistance please let me know."
"Doctor?" Athena stared at Ivan. He didn't appear much like a typical doctor she had seen. They were usually a lot older than Ivan, almost approaching retirement age.
Ivan looked at employee awkwardly through the corner of his eyes, and she avoided his deadly gaze. He turned his attention back to Athena, responding, "That's not important. What is important though is for me to show you your birthday present, okay?"
Athena nodded, remembering the purpose of their visit. The employee stepped out of their path, watching Ivan escort the young adolescent to the next room. The employee's lips evolved into a devious smile.
She knew that girl was going to be in for one hell of a birthday present.
Needless to say, Athena was surprised where the staff room lead her. Through a secret passageway, it tunnelled deep underground to a modern facility. It was quite an overwhelming sight for the teenager as she tried to comprehend how Ivan could keep such a large base concealed from the public. When she asked about this place, Ivan either ignored her or told her to be patient. Frustrated, she listened to Ivan's drawn out lectures of how each room contributes to the prosperity of the library. After a while, Athena wondered when this tour was ever going to end. The locations of certain places went over her head. It didn't help she was feeling dizzy and badly needed to rest.
Although she was curious about the purpose of the facility, as the only rooms she distinctly remembered were a laboratory, a hall with special equipment and living quarters. Just what did that mean? Unless she was allowed to stay in one of the living quarters if it was easier to travel to school, Athena didn't see much relevance to this whole tour of this facility.
Eventually, Athena and Ivan reached the end of the hallway, seeing two doors opposite each other. Ivan opened the door on the right, keeping it ajar for Athena. Hesitantly, she entered the room, expecting more of the same. However, she found herself pleasantly surprised. The place appeared much larger and more luxurious compared to the living quarters.
At first, Athena thought the place was Ivan's, considering it appeared that he was the owner of this establishment. However, the kitchen bench was spotless, and there wasn't a trace of dust resting on the furniture. It was easy to tell nobody was living here. Then was it maintained? And for how long?
She followed Ivan through another small hallway to a room at end. Upon entering, Athena was instantly amazed. It was a bedroom, but her eyes lit up at the sight of a second floor. However, there were only bookshelves. She then focused on the first floor, where the rest of the bedroom seemed very minimalistic. There was a double bed with a night table beside it, a desk and a wardrobe.
Curiously, the desk had a thick book with white gloves next to it. She approached it, only intending to see the author of the particular piece. Though, upon her closer inspection she discovered that this book was ancient. There was no author on title hard cover; instead there was only a title.
The Chronicles of Thomas Selenic, the First Lunar Eclipse.
"So, what do you think?" Ivan suddenly asked, with a hint of pride in his voice.
"It's a bit overwhelming. Who would need a bedroom this big?"
"I think you would. You are the most important person in this establishment."
Athena blinked. "Excuse me? I'm not important at all."
Ivan narrowed his eyes. He figured that was her reaction. So he immediately dug his hand into his pocket and drew out a photograph. With a swish of his wrist, he displayed the picture in the palm of his hand, making sure Athena had a good look.
Athena gazed at the photo. It featured a man who appeared to be in his mid-twenties. His eyes were identical to hers, and his hair colour was the same shade of red. His smile felt warm and familiar, almost as if she was in his embrace. Then it hit her.
"Yes, that is your father." Ivan confirmed. "His death came far too early than expected."
"Yeah. Mum told me he died in a car accident. I wish he was still alive. I... forgot how much I missed him."
"A car accident?" Ivan scoffed, "That is a great big sham. Your father was murdered, just like your mother."
The girl shuddered. Did her mother really lie to her about her father's death? If so, why couldn't she pick up the discord in her voice with her attuned hearing? She couldn't trust this man, even if he was a friend of her mother's.
"No... No way. How do you know that? Why should I believe you?"
"Have you ever visited your father's grave?"
Athena searched deep into her memories, but not a single one came to surface regarding her father. She only remembered her mother's funeral and gravestone, where she questioned why she wasn't buried next to her father. And at that thought, she knew the reason.
"Why... Why didn't Mum tell me?"
"I'm afraid I do not know her reasons. But I do know that your mother has been hiding something else from you."
The teenager opened her mouth, but stopped herself from lashing out. She wondered where she could begin, with questions whirling around in her mind. Fortunately, Ivan quickly answered one of her questions.
"Your father was murdered because he was forced to protect you and your mother from the people that were after you and your family. He made himself a diversion, while you and your mother escaped. Your mother found a place to live in your father's workplace, the GYAXA Space Centre, for your protection and safety from your father's murderers."
"To further protect you, your mother changed her last name back to her maiden name, Cykes, and your name was changed to Athena Cykes.
Athena was dumbfounded at this sudden reveal. She liked her name. Anytime anybody uttered the name 'Athena', she could hear the warmth in the voice. The very thought of Athena Cykes not being her true name was simply heartbreaking.
"Wait. My name was always Athena Cykes. Even my birth certificate has that- my name on it too."
Without skipping a beat, Ivan responded quickly, "That's a fabrication. Again, that name was designed to protect you. You weren't born with the name Athena Cykes. You were born Achelois Selenic. It was the name your father gave you."
"Why should I believe you?" Athena growled, "I told you I was always knew myself as Athena, and Mum always called me Athena, not Archi- Achelois."
"When I saw you when you were a baby, I remember seeing your mother smile after she said your name, Achelois, to me. It's the biggest I've ever seen her smile. And your father was so overjoyed when you came into this world. It was the happiest day of their lives." Ivan smiled at the memory, and staring at Athena almost felt like the moment happened yesterday, as she beared her mother's face and her father's eyes. But his expression suddenly hardened at the thought of her birth name, reminding him why he was giving her this explanation. "You are Achelois Selenic, no matter what name you bear, or prefer to be called. And as long as your father's murderers believe you're Achelois, your life is in danger."
"But... why did these people kill my Dad? And why are they after me?"
Ivan held his breath. Her questions weren't easy to answer, considering her reaction to these revelations was less than favourable. He hesitated with his response, wondering if he could face the consequences of his answer. Testing himself, he gazed intensely into Athena's eyes, imagining the girl as her father. He couldn't lie to the man he unconditionally respected and looked up to. Finally, he breathed out, revealing his answer.
"You... are the only direct heir in the Selenic line. Your father, and his father, and his father, in fact, your forefathers for eight hundred years; have assumed the identity of the Lunar Eclipse. The Lunar Eclipse protects innocents from all forms of violence and corruption in this world, without people ever knowing he exists, or he's just a figment of their imagination. Simply put, he's an ethereal creature."
It was the last answer she was expecting, yet she heard no discord in his voice. Athena felt her hands form into fists. The explanation made absolutely no sense to her.
"So, you're saying that the men in my family, for eight hundred years, become a real life superhero? Is that really why these people killed my Dad and are after me? That's unbelievable!"
"Yet it's true. The firstborn sons in your family have saved so many lives over the past eight hundred years. The main Selenic line has been carefully preserved, so if one Lunar Eclipse dies, the son takes his place as if the Lunar Eclipse never dropped off the face of the planet. This lasted for twenty six generations. Just before your father's death, a body of the English government recognised what the Lunar Eclipse had done for their country, and gave me funding to have this place constructed as a base of operations and safe house for the Lunar Eclipse as I was his... representative. Unfortunately it is not fully operational, but we have maintained it for your arrival."
"Me and the employees working in the library. They are more than just simple book keepers. Anyway, this was originally meant for your father and his possible son, but his untimely death left us with no one who could take his place... until I found you today."
Athena suddenly felt numb. This was her birthday present. She was to replace her father as the Lunar Eclipse, like every firstborn son of her family had done for the past eight hundred years, and become a real live superhero. As soon as the realisation hit, she suddenly felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. She only wanted to study to be a lawyer to save the man who was found guilty of murdering her mother, knowing he was innocent.
The traumatising experience she had in court, where everybody in the courtroom was deaf to her screams always lingered at the back of her mind. Since she lived with her aunt and cousins, she studied long hours, sacrificing time she could've spent taking her time making friends and finding a career that suited her interests. The teenager had a horrible feeling that the falsely accused murderer, Simon Blackquill, was sentenced to death, and that time was running out. It was the reason why she pushed herself to superhuman lengths. And being a superhero would directly interfere with her studies.
"No..." Athena uttered, stepping back from Ivan, "No! No no no no! I only want to be a lawyer, and that's it! I'm already trying to save somebody! I don't need this... job!"
"Your parents would be disappointed in you Athena. Think about it, since your father's death, your mother has been preparing you to succeed your father."
Athena's eyes widened. Flashing back to the space centre, she remembered how her mother imposed that she must wear her unusual pink headphones while she was awake. They were painful to wear, and she received strange looks from anybody who saw them. Was this the reason why she had to wear them? To groom her for this alter ego?
The girl shook her head, "I still won't accept. If this is what my mother wanted out of her research on me, I want no part of it."
"I've been searching for you since I heard your mother was killed!" Ivan exploded, "Becoming the Lunar Eclipse will protect you from these people. Do you want to throw away your life Achelois?"
"My name is Athena, not Achelois!" Athena snapped back.
Ivan covered his mouth, guilty for calling the birthday girl by her birth name. But he quickly recovered from his error.
"I'm sorry Athena, but it doesn't change the fact that your father's killers will still be after you. As long as you have your father's blood running through your veins, they want you dead! It doesn't matter that you're a girl, because your enemy doesn't know the rules and customs surrounding the Lunar Eclipse. All they know is that you are the daughter of the previous Lunar Eclipse, which means you, or your future son, could assume the identity. So please reconsider. One day, the people after you are going to find out that Achelois Selenic is Athena Cykes, and it would only be a matter of time before they track you down and murder you. I, and your parents, want you to have a long life."
The birthday girl glanced at the desk, uncertain of the choice presented before her. Her initial decision to reject this offer definitely lacked the information she had now, knowing full well her life was at risk if Ivan was telling the truth. Although, this could mean giving up everything she was working towards in order to protect herself.
She suddenly turned pale at the thought of sacrificing Simon's life to defend her own. If she decided to take up her father's mantle, it was like sentencing Simon to death. The thought spurred her to ask her next question.
"Will I have to drop my studies for this?" Athena hid the fear in her voice, terrified she would have to choose between her life and Simon's.
"No. In fact, it is part your family's traditions that the Lunar Eclipse must complete the levels of education required for hi- her day job. Your education will come before your training. You are only required to learn your family's traditions, and undergo rigorous training to become the Lunar Eclipse."
For the first time, Athena was grateful for her ancestors creating that custom. This decision now seemed too easy to make. But a tiny voice at the back of her mind, the child neglected in the courtroom, begging her to refuse. Visualising her younger self, her appearance hadn't changed much in the past two years. But since moving in with her relatives, she had grown more confident, expressive, and most importantly, she had the drive to follow her goals.
But her past self was a reminder why she was ploughing through high school in superhuman pace. She was only here to save one person – Simon Blackquill. The world could be burning around her, and she wouldn't even care. As long as that falsely accused man was saved from the jaws of death, she'd thought herself a hero.
She was about to give her answer when a single thought halted her. The tiny strand was enough to plant the seeds of curiosity, and its influence was felt through her body. It was at that very moment; Athena saw that this new identity was her only chance to feel connected to the people she wanted to love.
"All right. I'll be the Lunar Eclipse."
After those words escaped, Athena felt a bitter taste in her mouth. She thought that perhaps she made her choice too hastily, instead of thinking through that final thought thoroughly.
Ivan slapping a hand on her shoulder snapped her out of her brief daze. Looking up at the darker man, she saw him smile.
"Fantastic. If your parents were here, I bet they would be so proud of you."
Athena swallowed hard. She heard uncertainty in his voice, and the emotion seeped into her. She was afraid that she was on the precipice of an incredibly dangerous world.
And Athena Cykes would find herself at its very core.