Disclaimer: This is original non-profit fan work, intended solely for the entertainment of the readers, and in no way intends any infringement on any copyrights, trademarks, or licenses held by Dreamworks Animation SKG, Alan Schoolcroft, Brent Simons, or the holders of any other legal rights or licenses pertaining to Megamind.
Author's Note: I'm sorry that it's taken so long for me to finally begin this tale, but it took a lot of thinking and preparing and then deciding how I wanted to present it. It's probably going to come out more slowly than my other novels because the presentation I chose is going to be a bit tricky to pull off, but in the end, I think it'll be worth it. A side note: none of the bits and pieces of alien language and names used in this chapter are conscious imitations of any real languages. It's all from the fevered imagination of my Muse, who prior to this has constructed three entire original languages which I've used in both my original fiction and some of my fan fiction. What can I say, I've always enjoyed linguistics and etymology.
The present time part of this story (and the latter half of this chapter) picks up more or less directly after the epilogue of Getting Back to Business, so if you'd like to get a bit of a running start with what's going on in the here-and-now, you might want to read that first. (And the present day portion of this chapter begins during the November weekend referred to in "Summer Love.")
TINY WARNING: If you have issues with the discussion of genetics, this story won't be for you. It's not a clinical discussion beyond a paragraph or two, but while the biggest specific discussion of it is in this chapter, the importance of its ramifications for a certain person is a huge part of the story, the root of his personal legacy. I figure most people won't have a problem with this, but I thought I should mention it here at the start, just in case.
The Story Begins
"Mother, are you sure?"
At her daughter's question — which came with equal parts of amazement and fearful shock — Tayames Yareli nodded heavily and tapped the controls of the data nexus, set into the clear surface of a low table at the center of the sunken part of her office, where she would speak with both guests and those visiting on business. This occasion was one combining both, as the visitor was her daughter as well as a client who had come to hear the results of her recent pre-natal intensive genetic scan. Her touch summoned a three dimensional projection of the subject under discussion, the complex genetic structure of the child in her daughter's womb, just past his first quarter of gestation.
"As sure as any of us can be," Tayames said, attempting to remain professional in this matter. "These are the results of his tests, and they have been double checked by your own bondfather. Other exams may give inaccurate results, but the genes themselves do not lie. If he is carried to term and survives the critical postpartum phase, the son you carry will have the potential to become Natoshi'ana — a Great One."
Kyrel eym Thejhan swallowed thickly, looking out the window of her mother's office across the sparkling blue-green waters of the broad river that ran through the center of the city, making its way from the inland plains and mountains to the sea. She and her husband, Eliaan, had of course been thrilled when she had conceived; there was no such thing as an unwanted child on Ayalthis, not for hundreds of generations. The peace loving, creative and deeply curious people of this world had learned much over their fifty millennia of civilization, and only the scientists who specialized in such things could now say how long ago this aspect of their reproduction had first manifested.
But now, it was accepted for the reality it was. The dominant land dwelling species of the planet — the blue-skinned, large-headed humans — conceived only by the conscious choice of both full adult parents. This had not always been so, of course, but it had been the way of things for so long, only certain specialists in medicine and genetics and history gave it any thought. Kyrel and Eliaan both wished to begin raising a family now, and so she had conceived soon after they reached that decision.
They had known that the babe would be male since very soon after Kyrel became aware that she was with child, and they had discussed the possible names for him ever since. At the end of her first quarter, it was the custom for intensive genetic tests to be performed, to tell the parents certain things about their child. The exams could tell them much about how their son or daughter would develop physically and what latent gifts he or she might possess. After learning these things, it was tradition for the parents to then choose a name for their son or daughter. The days between the testing and the discovery of the results were a happy time for the expectant parents and their kin, as they all speculated about the unborn child's future, and myriad names were suggested.
Recently, there had been a fair amount of wild speculation about this little boy. Eliaan's family — the Thejhan, a clan more ancient than the Yareli and now Kyrel's clan by marriage — were quite certain that given the talents of his parents, the boy would certainly be a gifted engineer or ambassador. Kyrel's kin were equally positive that his talents would lean either to architecture or some field of biology. Her bondbrother Varaan was utterly certain that the boy would show strong aptitude in the arts. That they all suggested what were common professions and avocations in each of the two clans... Well, that was quite typical, and Kyrel and her husband had happily joined in the debates.
But now...! At the same time her heart soared, it also sank. Kyrel knew all too well what her mother, an accomplished geneticist and an Elder of their people, had said, and what it meant. High intelligence and creativity was normal for their kind, as were intense emotions. These things had been a valued part of their lives for so many generations, they were now in the very blood and bone of their race. But there were certain genes that were carried by most of their people, ones that very seldom expressed in combinations that would influence the child carrying them. Most commonly, only one or two of the six pairs that were part of this specific set would manifest, and when they did, they had little or no effect on the child. Rarely, three or more but not all of the critical pairs would manifest, and depending on which ones developed, the result could be a prodigy of several different kinds. But when all six were present...!
Almost invariably, the results were tragic. Because of the physical characteristics that were a part of this combination, the child seldom survived the first quarter of gestation. Nature recognized the unfortunate expression of genes that was only marginally viable, and usually did the merciful thing, causing a miscarriage well before the mother's life might become threatened, allowing her to recover quickly and try again, often before she even realized that she had conceived.
Of those who did survive beyond the first quarter, very few were carried through to the third quarter, and even fewer survived into the fourth. Of the very, very few who were actually carried to term and were born alive, most did not survive beyond the first three days. The last such child who had made it to a live birth — but lived only two days beyond — had been born nearly three centuries ago. And only one in a billion such conceptions produced a child healthy and strong enough to not only survive the physical manifestation of their genetic structure, but to flourish in its despite. The last who had survived beyond the critical post birth days — when the body, now separate from the mother, struggled to nourish the extraordinarily active and swiftly growing brain with less than ordinary physical resources — had been born over nine hundred years before.
But Sejillaas Lontyar, that survivor, had become what Ayalthan history called Natoshi'ana, an exceptionally intelligent and talented person, colloquially a Great One. Once in every thousand years or so, such a child was born to their people and not only survived but thrived, and always, their capacity for creativity and intelligence when they reached full maturation had changed the course of their world, for good.
Kyrel was stunned to hear the prognosis. "Are you certain there was no mistake?" she asked, a pointless question since she knew that with her mother, no conclusion was given to the parents until there was no doubting its accuracy. "No accidental confusion of records? A possibility that this might be some other child, not mine?"
Tayames nodded heavily as with a gesture, the key portions of the three-dimensional genetic display glowed a soft but brighter green. She did her best to speak as professional to client, not as a mother to her daughter. "No, this is your son's record, and the analysis is completely certain. The sequence of the six homozygous alleles is as distinctive as it is rare. I have seen many partial recessive sequences in my work in prenatal genetics. I have had two clients who carried children with different variations of the five alleles sequence, one quite recently. But never have I seen any with the full six outside of images in historical teaching records, until now."
The elder woman's eyes — a deep purple-blue that was almost as striking as her daughter's vivid green — looked from the display to her child, her expression one of great sadness as her professional veneer melted away. "As a geneticist, I have always wondered if I would ever see such a child. Now, I wish with all my heart that I never had. I know how much you and Eliaan were looking forward to this, Kyrel, and I would that I had better news to give you, something that wouldn't inevitably spell the end of your joy."
Kyrel understood her sympathy — but she couldn't bring herself to accept it, not yet. She knew the stark reality of the situation. The odds favored that her son would not be carried to term, that he would die long before he could be born, or at best would come into the world only to leave it very shortly thereafter, barely giving his parents enough time to properly greet him before saying goodbye. It was all but certain — and yet, there was a one in a billion chance that he would live and survive and flourish, and grow to become such a person as rarely graced their world, a person whose raw potential made him truly destined for greatness.
On another world, perhaps even to another person, this diagnosis would have been devastating news. But all Ayalthans held a powerful belief in Destiny, in the Universe working in ways both obvious and subtle that would lead everything in it toward some slowly unfolding and greater purpose. And Kyrel not only believed in Destiny, but she was possessed of an almost reckless optimism, as was Eliaan. Both she and her spouse could never believe that a thing was impossible when it seemed to them that it should not be, no matter what science and reason and existing evidence told them. There were always ways to achieve seemingly impossible goals, if one had the courage to persist. That had been a large part of what had first attracted the couple to one another, their mutual drive to always seek beyond the bounds of what was accepted fact, beyond the limits of what others claimed was possible. As often as it frustrated them, it brought them joy, for even the smallest victory was worth savoring.
In this case, much more than a small victory was at stake, and even as she felt the pain of what was a near certainty, her entire being calmed with a sense of stern and terrible resolve. Sometimes, when all the odds were against you, turning them in your favor was a matter of sheer will. She knew about these unfortunate unborn ones and why they so often miscarried. The genes that gave them their incredible potential in the form of an advanced brain which was an evolutionary leap beyond their people's current level of development always came paired with a body that had at best the ordinary resources of their kind, usually less. To survive, something needed to change that equation, to tip the odds in her son's favor.
Kyrel had read of geneticists who had tried to correct this particular imbalance while the child was still developing in the womb, but all those attempts had either failed and the miscarriage had still occurred, or the eventual birth had resulted in a child whose potential was crippled, even for the most ordinary of their kind. Such tampering had therefore been stopped, and the only pre-birth alterations that were allowed were ones to correct serious health conditions that many years of practice had showed were easily and safely accomplished.
Because of these ill-fated attempts at pre-birth "repair," the Elders and all their most skilled physicians had reasoned that the case of an unborn Natoshi'ana was not one of deformity or defect or disease. It was a rare combination that could result in an even more rare individual, and as such should not be tampered with. The very existence of Great Ones was a gift of the Universe itself, and such a gift was precious because of its extreme uniqueness, of its ability to live despite all the obstacles placed before it.
Kyrel could not change the working of Destiny; she knew it well. But she could do what was in her power to make it possible for Chance to find a way to become success. She could feel the life within her; she had been able to do so easily only a few days after her son had been conceived, and there was nothing weak or feeble or tentative about him. There was a strength in him that convinced her that he was indeed meant to live, beyond his time within her and beyond those first three days of life when his body and brain would struggle to find a balance and live. He only needed a chance, to somehow be given the extra support his tiny growing self required to have the time to survive, to develop his strength and beat the odds.
And she would give him that chance. Whatever her own body must do to sustain and nourish the life within her, it would do because she would will it to be so; if needs be, she would force it by whatever means were available to her. She would attune herself to the needs of that tiny life, make use of all the science their world possessed, and give her unborn son whatever he needed to grow and overcome the obstacles presented by his genetics — not by artificial means or external intervention, but by giving of her own resources to create within her the perfect environment her son needed, no matter the cost to herself.
Eliaan would hear this news, and he would believe exactly as his spouse did. As she thought this, a small smile crept across her face. They had heard and discussed so many different names for their son, all following the traditions of their people. Most of those which their friends and relations had suggested reflected not what the child would be, but what future they wanted the boy to consider, or the path he might feel he was destined to follow because of his name. But after she had first felt the stirring of his life like a tiny but dazzling light within, Kyrel had been inclined to favor only one name, a name her husband had suggested one lovely evening when she'd mentioned these feelings while they watched the dance of the softly colored ribbon lights that often appeared in the skies of their region during the cold months of the year.
"Then we will have to begin preparations for him now, Mother," she declared with absolute certainty. "Because this was no mere chance; it is the hand of Destiny. My son will survive, and thrive, and carry with him the future of our world and our people. Mykaal is destined for greatness, and he will live to achieve that destiny."
"Whoa, hold on, wait just one second! Are you telling me that you were — are — were — are supposed to be some kind of once in God-only-knows-how-many lifetimes prodigy — and that you should've died a long time before you even had a chance to be born?"
Megamind — as excited and wired as anyone had seen him in... well, perhaps forever — blinked at Roxanne from across the breakfast table, where he'd started to tell her and Minion the tale he had just learned after four hours of direct-to-his-brain input from the sleep teaching device he'd found in his escape pod, following the recorded directions of his own long dead father. After he'd wakened from the session, he had just laid there on the library sofa, reviewing with astonishment everything now in his brain, both the detailed story of how he had come to be sent to Earth, and certain other necessary bits of information, like a partial history of his homeworld — Ayalthis — and his native language. That had taken another two hours, and when he'd suddenly snapped into focus again, he couldn't wait to run to tell Roxanne and Minion all that he'd discovered.
Fortunately, that had been almost seven hours after Roxanne had gone to sleep, and just about the time Minion usually got up to get breakfast started and check the patrol monitors to see if their aid was needed anywhere in the city. He was up a little earlier than usual today because he needed to be downtown to take his place as the grand marshal of the city's annual holiday parade by ten o'clock. Though Roxanne would've liked another hour or two to sleep in, it was Saturday, she was off work until the time came to record Wayne's big interview tomorrow, and if she wanted to take a nap in the afternoon, no one would stop her. From Minion's report about the status monitors, unless some fiend decided to crash the holiday parade, it was shaping up to be a dull Saturday in Metro City.
Or she'd thought as much when she'd agreed to get out of bed to hear what had her husband so excited. When he'd told her the "experiment" had worked, she'd barely been able to remember him getting up in the middle of the night to go test their idea for how he might squeeze a bit of new information from the data sphere that contained recorded messages from his parents. When he hadn't returned soon, either sad or ecstatic, she'd figured that when he finally did come to waken her, she would find that it had either taken all night to dig up anything, or what new information was there to be found hadn't been terribly enlightening. Now, after an hour of non-stop babbling from him, she realized that this might not turn out to be such a quiet and boring Saturday, after all.
After giving her and Minion a comparatively brief synopsis of what he'd found and learned, Megamind had been talking almost without pause for a breath, recounting the story that had been imparted to him via the sleep teacher, a tale with images so vivid, it had almost been like watching events take place before him.
Now, the hero's big green eyes favored his wife with the most puzzled yet excited expression. "Yes, of course that's what I'm telling you! Isn't it fascinating? I've always wondered, you know, why I was the only one sent off to safety — or that's what I'd presumed, since the only other pod to come to Earth was Wayne's, not another child from my planet. Ayalthis!" His entire face lit up with brilliant delight. "It has a name, Roxanne, not just the Blue Planet or whatever it was I'd been exposed to during the short time I was there! But that's why they sent me, don't you see? Because what I was was so uncommon, someone they thought had been born for a reason, a very important reason! My parents loved me and had done everything they could to make sure that I was born alive and healthy, and everyone else — well, I can't say for sure that it was everyone else, there were probably some people who didn't agree, but you see, my mother's mother and my father's father were both... ah, I think Elders would be the closest titles, not that they were older than everyone else,but that they had respected status as highly educated and exceptionally wise members of their clans, as well as their professions, and so were elected to the governing body of the planet — which actually included members of Minion's species, too, since they were also highly intelligent and civilized, working with—"
"Sir," the ichthyoid interrupted before Megamind could get totally out of hand in his enthusiastic ramblings, "you can't tell us everything at once!"
Roxanne gave the fish a grateful look for his timely support. "That's right, sweetie," she told her husband. "Let's try to stick to one story at a time. So two of your grandparents were highly respected and had a kind of political clout, is that it?"
The big blue head nodded vigorously at the same time he tried to wet his throat with a swallow of coffee, which ended with him going completely purple-faced from coughing as some of the hot liquid went down his windpipe. Roxanne tried to help with some gentle pats to his back while Minion fetched a glass of plain water for his ward to sip and a dishrag to wipe up what he'd coughed out. Neither he nor the reporter minded, since it forced the ex-villain to slow down for a minute to catch his breath and get his voice back.
"Yes," he finally croaked out. "They had political positions, though they only used them to get my parents' request to save me heard, not to force their wishes on others. They did know that the planet was in danger of being destroyed, you see, and they found out... oh, I think it was almost half a year before I was born."
"I always thought that was the case," Minion said thoughtfully as he wiped the spatters of coffee from the table. "You know I'm a little older than you are, sir, and I do have some vague memories from before we left — nothing as clear as yours, of course, but I seem to remember my own parents one day coming home very, very sad and worried, as if something terrible had happened. I didn't understand that the bad thing hadn't happened yet until I was put in the pod with you and sent away."
Megamind nodded again, this time less vigorously. "That's just what happened. You know, your parents and mine—"
"Just hold on, there," Roxanne cut in, not wanting to get completely lost in a tangle of half-told tales. "Let's try to keep things in order, okay? So way before you were actually born, your parents and grandparents all knew you were going to be some kind of exceptional..." She hesitated, biting her lip as she searched for the right way to put it. "I don't want to call it a mutation, that has kinda bad vibes to it, but..."
But Megamind was completely unoffended — actually excited. "No, no, that's exactly right! That's what happens when the gene sequence has those six homozygous alleles, the matching recessive pairs. It causes a kind of mutation, but a very predictable one — a typically unviable one, too, unfortunately. If they survive, all the children born with those genes will develop a high level of intelligence and creative ability, but they can't wholly manifest those traits until the brain and body are completely mature, and even then, they need special guidance and training in order to develop their full potential."
His animated face suddenly fell, his excitement dimming like a bright candle doused with half the water in Lake Michigan. "I never had any of that," he admitted softly, sadly. "And it's my own fault. If I hadn't decided I had to be a villain when I was six because of one obnoxious superpowered bully, I might've been able to go to real shkools, could've gone to a university or some place where they had facilities that didn't have to be scrounged together from salvage or bought on the black market. Even if they couldn't actually teach me any subjects I didn't already know from my own studies and the correspondence courses they had me take in prison, I might've at least learned some kind of intellectual discipline. Now, I'm starting at square one, with nothing...!"
Both his wife and his piscine friend were moved by his abrupt shift into sad remorse. Roxanne reached out and took the nearer of his hands. "Hey, don't put yourself down like that," she chided gently. "You aren't exactly starting from scratch! Yes, you might not have had the formal kind of educational discipline, but look at how much you've managed to accomplish even without it!"
"That's right, sir!" Minion added most supportively. "Why, you started out with nothing at all and still managed to do and create things some of the best scientists in the world think are impossible! Besides, if you hadn't caused trouble so that they wanted you kept in prison, you might've wound up locked up in a very different kind of institution — on display in some sort of museum or zoo, or in the kind of facility most people don't believe actually exists."
Megamind shivered at the very thought, and Roxanne understood completely. Though he had never been subjected to the unscrupulous scrutiny of people wanting to examine or exploit him, the blue genius was now all too aware of how narrowly he had escaped such a fate.
It was something he had always wondered about, how he, an obvious extraterrestrial, had managed to avoid becoming either a lab rat for curious vivisectionist scientists or an enslaved genius for those who wanted to use his talents for their own profit. As a powerless and defenseless child, he couldn't have fought them — so Warden Thurmer had fought for him. Even before anyone outside the prison had known the blue baby existed, he'd called in favors to get proper birth certificates made for the foundling, and had himself appointed as the baby's legal guardian. When the first news of an alien child living in Metro City's prison had leaked, Thurmer and his guards had been there, ready to block any access to him.
The now-retired warden and former Officer Davis had told Megamind the entire tale of their conspiracy on the Monday after the wedding, while Roxanne had been catching up with her own family and friends at the breakfast they'd all shared before the guests headed home. The alien had been a little shocked to discover just how much they'd deliberately kept from him. Even sending him to the L'il Gifted School had been a carefully calculated risk, possible only because the school had been so close to the prison — and thus to the vigilant eyes of the prison guards — and because with the superpowered and super-wealthy Scott boy as one of the students, security was tight, and no stranger could approach the place or the students without being spotted and turned away as a danger to them all.
Megamind truly hadn't known how often people from various government agencies or civilian research labs had come around, either begging to have access to the boy "just for testing," or demanding that he be released to their agencies "for the greater good" or "for national security." Soon after young Blue's existence had become common knowledge —following the paint bomb incident that had ended his seven months in kindergarten — it had been at least a monthly thing, fighting off the people who wanted the alien either dead and dissected to assuage their curiosity and provide fodder for papers to further their own careers, or who wanted to harness his clever brain for their own ignoble purposes. When he'd reached puberty, the scientists had become even more interested in either taking him apart or having him undergo "breeding tests" to find out if he was reproductively compatible with Earth humans, or with other Terran primates. The very thought of being forced into mating like some kind of animal chilled the blue hero to his very marrow.
But Thurmer and his men had stood fast against them all, armed with the legal weapons that came with the warden's complete formal guardianship of the boy. Any move made to grab him by outsiders, even government agents, was blocked in legal channels. The warden had even gone so far as to call in the help of friends who sat on the state's supreme court and in Congress to help him wield the weapons he had in the laws that protected minors from abuse of any kind. The only outsiders he'd allowed near young Mykaal had been three doctors, all part of a private medical school's research staff headed by Officer Davis' own brother. The tests they'd conducted had been for the boy's sake, in case Mykaal ever became ill or injured and required medical help. When Mykaal was in his early teens and had become interested in his own genetics, Thurmer had allowed Davis' brother to handle the research. Once the tests had been completed and the findings recorded, all tissue samples had been destroyed so that they wouldn't fall into the hands of the unscrupulous.
When the boy — now calling himself Megamind — had grown into a juvenile delinquent, he had saddened Thurmer and those who'd grown fond of him, but he'd also made it easier for them to protect him until he reached eighteen and became an adult citizen in his own right, fully protected by all the laws of the land. And by then, even without the discipline of school behind him, Megamind had learned how to protect himself, to avoid capture by anyone but his superpowered nemesis, whose sense of justice and fair play wouldn't allow him to hand the defeated villain over to anyone but the prison authorities. It hadn't been a perfect solution, but it had made the best of a potentially horrifying situation, and in the end, it had worked. If he'd behaved himself and had been sent off to an ordinary college or university, Megamind might have learned academic discipline, but he would also have failed to learn the skills to protect himself from being abducted and abused when Thurmer could no longer fight for him.
It was a strange irony, and one that Roxanne never failed to both notice and appreciate. "I could wish you hadn't learned all about the methods and pitfalls of kidnapping by practicing on me," she said with as much good humor as she could fit into the words without laughing. "But at least learning how to avoid it yourself before you first tried it with me taught you how not to put me in danger every time you kidnapped me. No ordinary school would've taught you that, and since you needed to understand these things in order to protect yourself, it's just as well that you stayed out of them."
"I suppose that's true," the reformed criminal reflected after taking another swallow of his cooled coffee. "It could've turned out that the only thing I learned from shkool was how terrible they were when it came to keeping the students safe."
"I'll say. If even by the standards of your own people you had the potential to be some kind of extraordinary supergenius, I shudder to think what some unscrupulous military type bent on finding real ultimate weapons of mass destruction would've done with you if you'd been sent into a normal school environment where there aren't armed guards and reinforced walls and heavy security systems between them and you. You would've been grabbed in a heartbeat on your first day of school!"
Megamind nodded slowly, his faint smile crooked and wistful. "I know. I used to think that growing up in prison was the worst life imaginable, but I'm coming to understand that it really could have been much, much worse. If Destiny really did have something to do with where my pod landed, it made the right choice. It sent me to a place with people who cared enough to want to protect me until I could protect myself, and who had extraordinary means of doing so."
Roxanne agreed. "And don't forget that going to school might not have made any difference at all until you finally reached full maturity. That's what you said, isn't it? That people with your genetic condition couldn't really make the best use of their natural gifts until their brain was completely developed?"
Now, his nod was more enthusiastic. "Yes, exactly! That's why I couldn't get any new information from the data sphere until last night. I needed to have reached the right state of both physical — specifically cerebral — and emotional maturity, otherwise things wouldn't work properly. And my parents wanted it to work, they spent months making all the plans and preparations and arrangements. It's actually quite amazing how much effort was put into this. Into saving me." He said the last three words softly, with great and unashamed awe.
The room was quiet for a moment. When Minion broke the silence, he did so just a bit hesitantly. "Was saving me just an afterthought, then?" he wondered, not wanting to sound hurt but not quite able to hide it. "Was I just a fish in a ball your parents picked up to keep you company on the trip?"
Megamind shook off the reverie that was distancing him from the here and now. "An afterthought? Oh, no, Minion, of course not, not at all! That was something else I learned last night, about how my people and yours were both intelligent civilizations sharing the same world, one originating on the land and the other in the seas. Mine just called themselves Ayalthans, inhabitants of the world, and yours were called the Potrell — the minya'aun dosi, the Protectors of the Waters..."
To be continued...