There were a number of approaches to this situation, some of which were smart and others not so much.
Unfortunately, Calvin had only managed to restrain his anger up until he’d left his grandfather’s office. He was seeing red as he stomped up the stairs, each step reverberating with eight years worth of packed in rage.
This was the unintelligent route, he said to himself as he threw open the door to Sirenia’s office without abandon.
But it felt good. He needed this anger right now. It was a release that made him understand exactly why Kim acted the way she did so often.
Even as Calvin made his loud entrance, the typing inside his sister’s office didn’t cease; from neither her nor her Sentonals on either side of her.
Instead, she looked up, fixed her glasses, and sounded somewhat unsurprised.
“Please don’t tell me you’re mad now. Grandfather is up and fine, as you may have so plainly seen.”
Calvin’s chest heaved at the sound of her words. Her every utterance was akin to poison now that he knew she was the cause of his life’s every inconvenience.
He stopped just at the foot of her desk, staring down at her. Despite the anger written so clearly on his face and now practically leaking into the air, his sister gave him the same disaffected stare that seemed to become her trademark.
Without thinking, Calvin slammed his hands down on her desk. Her array of pen-holders and upright files shook and tumbled over upon impact.
Only now did Sirenia cease her typing. Her Sentonals continued in relative silence as she now put her full attention towards Calvin. Once her organization was threatened, that might very well be enough to make her care.
“Something the matter, brother? It’s good you’ve come by. Now that everything’s calmed down, I thought we might discuss handing over the Ensemble today. I hate to see you so affected by stress.” she told him, her tone unchanging.
Calvin’s eyes shifted, and he slowly noticed a small stack of papers sitting on the right side of this perfect, geometric desk. He scanned them quickly, ignoring all details beyond the line for a signature at the bottom. Above that empty space, he could see what appeared to be his sister’s handwriting; calculated precision obvious in her prose.
Slowly but surely, anger on Calvin’s face was replaced by shocked realization. He fell back into one of the seats, sighing deeply as he stared down with wide eyes.
“I’m a complete sucker. I should have seen it. I should have seen all of this coming.”
Sirenia raised an eyebrow behind behind her glasses. “Seen what coming? I’m afraid I don’t fully understand, Calvin.”
He furrowed his eyebrows, agitated again by the mere sound of her voice. “Drop the act, sis. I figured it out. I know why there’s so much I could never remember.”
That fake look of concern was gone from his sister’s face in but a second. She stayed in position, and it was now that her Sentonals finally stopped their typing. They both looked forward, heeding her mental commands to now remain on standby.
“So let me just get this all straight.” Calvin began, staying in his seat but his muscles still tense and ready for a fight nonetheless. “You clearly needed to get rid of me, so you figure you’d just eject me from here and wipe all my memories just to be safe? What’s your guarantee that I’d even remember by own name, or how to walk, or how to even breathe?”
He crossed his arms. “And all so you could have this place to yourself. And you did a great job with grandfather. I can’t imagine how many times you’ve put him through your little neuralyzer by now.”
He laughed sarcastically. It was Calvin’s attempt to try and quell the intense mood. “You know, I always heard that Zero Beat had some Music Masters who could memory wipe, but I never thought I’d have to mess with them. Turns out I should have worried more about my own family stabbing me in the back instead.”
Sirenia shook her head, laughing under her breath. “Memory alteration isn’t perfect. I can’t complain at winning the song effect lottery after so much searching. It served its purpose, and that’s all that music needs to do. Only stupid Music Masters would think otherwise.”
She put her hand out across the desk as if beckoning her brother to take it. “But now you’re back home, where you belong. Whatever I’ve done, you and I both know you want none of the responsibility that comes with leading the PureBeats. Let’s make this easy for the both of us.
Calvin eyed her, noting the black quill pen in between her fingers. With her other hand, she’d pushed forward the documents that would seal the Ensemble permanently to her.
“I’m assuming you think I have no choice in all this?” Calvin declared, but his sister just laughed to herself again.
It was unsettling to see this much emotion coming from her, Calvin thought. She clearly had been keeping a lot bottled in.
“Oh, you have a choice.” she replied. “You sign over the Ensemble to me, or you don’t.”
Calvin knew a bad deal when he saw one. For now though, it seemed his sister wasn’t about to jump him yet, despite her still summoned Sentonals. “So let’s say I’m generous enough to allow you to take the reins from here.”
“Generous is a strong way of putting it, younger brother.” Sirenia pointed out. “You couldn’t lead a conga line.”
Carefully, she placed the pen down on the desk in front of Calvin as she continued. “I’ll tell you what. You give the Ensemble to me, and I’ll make it more than worth your while.”
Sitting back, Sirenia reached for the tiny remote resting just a few inches away. Two clicks, and her choice song played in the air as both of her Sentonals vanished in the process.
Calvin didn’t move an inch, instead too frozen by the familiarity of this song that he was one hundred percent sure he’d heard before. He remained this way as Sirenia breathed the musical essence in the air, once again giving birth to the tiny suit-wearing cobra that had taken Iberius’s memories only a day earlier.
Created from Once In A Lifetime, her Sentonal slithered up her arm an onto her shoulder, hissing lightly as it reveled in its master’s warmth.
“One signature, and I will give you back every tiny memory that my little assistant here has taken away.” she assured her brother, and in response, her Sentonal wagged its audio jack tail as if to further sweeten the deal. “Of course, you’ll be staying here as long as you wish. It is still your home. That would never change. And in a year, once you’re of age and your word is legally binding, I will lead the PureBeats into a better future.”
Calvin gulped to himself. What scared him more than anything, more than being responsible for Michael’s death, or more than losing Aeris forever, was that he was actually considering his sister’s proposal.
If only for a moment. Only an idiot would assume there wasn’t some sort of catch to this.
“What’s the other side of the coin?” he asked bluntly. Sirenia’s Sentonal made a loud hiss at the question.
“Well, if you’re going to use such a boring analogy for it.” she said, petting her the tiny cobra to calm it down. “If you decide to not sign, then in a year, you’ll become the official heir and leader to all of the PureBeats. So many choices will rest on your shoulders. Maybe I’ll assist you, and maybe I won’t.”
She narrowed her eyes seriously now, her tone shifting. “But let me assure you of one thing should you choose that route. Beyond the paintings in this house, you will never know neither mother or father’s face for as long as you live. So think about that before you do anything rash.”
“Holding my life hostage, huh?” Calvin told her. “Very classy, sis.”
Sirenia shifted in her seat, if only slightly. Then she reached for her glasses, taking them off and proceeding to clean them as she stared down her brother with clear eyes.
They were a piercing turquoise, and he could now see a wrinkle of stress that was often hidden behind her black triangular frames.
“I would say it’s nothing personal, but that would be a lie. I’m sure you understand by now how much grandfather adores you. I imagine given enough time, mother and father would have been the same. I’m prepared to change things so no one in this family has to suffer a life like I have. Consider your memory loss a gift; you never had to remember their faces and then realize that they were still absent from your world forever.”
Calvin shook his head, not so much taking in her words but seeing the bigger picture for once.
“You’ve got some endgame to all this. Either way, I’m gonna get screwed. I know it.”
Sirenia smiled wide. Her words were beyond sarcastic as impatience began to get to her. “You’re becoming quite paranoid, Calvin. Please be reasonable. Do this for me, and you’ll get to stay here for the rest of your life. All the luxury you could ever ask for. Really, what else is waiting out there for you? Some afro-headed child who you were so easily quick to abandon?”
Calvin mouthed the name he had tried to hard to forget, his voice low as he did so. “Michael. He was my friend.”
Sirenia nodded. “Yes, Zero Beat went on and on about him. They wanted to scare the upstarts, of course. Did you know he’s supposed to be dead? But I’ll let you in on a little secret. It seems that the Pop 5 have some loyalty issues, and your former friend might be in better health than everyone thinks.”
“But what does it matter in the end? They’ll get to him and his uncle eventually. Forget about the past, and think about the present. It’s time to make an intelligent decision, younger brother.”
Her words echoed in his mind. They were all unimportant in the end.
His mind settled only on the thought of Michael. He tried to push it away, to brush it aside, but it seemed for once that his thoughts were adamant on keeping him grounded.
Calvin looked forward, his sister waiting for an answer.
This was the deal he’d been waiting for all his life. He didn’t want to be responsible for all the bureaucracy that came with leading an entire Ensemble of Music Masters. That was something far better suited for her. All he had to do now was sign it all away, and he could get his memories back and keep this pleasant life he’d so suddenly grown accustomed to.
It all seemed so perfect. Perfect enough, he could almost ignore his sister’s duplicity. It was a trait they shared through their blood, it seemed.
But what if Michael was actually alive? Perhaps there was then a chance for forgiveness, and not just from him.
Calvin found his mouth dry as he mulled it over. He found himself wanting again for that camaraderie and companionship that he’d had when he was once counted himself among the ranks of the Audio Knights.
Because even before cowardice had gotten the better of Calvin, Michael’s character had proven that even the likes of the Pop 5 were far from unbeatable. Kim was always tough as nails; made of sterner stuff than Calvin could ever hope to be.
And finally, there was Aeris. She was the bright light in his world, a cute face that had separated itself from all those others he’d known over the years. She was strong, kind, and most of all, she believed in him when everyone else didn’t. She believed in him even when he gave her every reason not to.
After all this time, Calvin could feel that slight heat on his forehead from her fist. He could still feel the warmth of her touch, and the memory struck him like a lightning bolt borne from This Fragile Breath.
Calvin opened his mouth to say something further. As his sister slowly smiled, he could feel himself almost wanting to agree to her terms; to just sign away the PureBeats and live the comfortable life he’d wished for since he was just a child.
But the words that came out were something else entirely. They shocked his sister so much, that she was uncharacteristically slow to react as he tapped his new music player hidden in his jacket pocket, and started up a song.
“You know what, Sirenia? I think I’ll pick option number three.” he quipped, standing up as this new song began to play in the air, channeled through the surprisingly loud speakers of his shiny new device.
Sirenia’s Sentonal darted forward as soon as she realized the danger, its sinuous mass covering the distance of the table in only a few seconds.
Unfortunately, it was nowhere near enough. It still went for the bite, however, throwing its body towards Calvin even as a guitar-heavy trance beat pulsed in the air.
The tiny suit-wearing cobra now found itself in the grasp of something that only vaguely looked like Calvin. It snapped at the air, searching for bare skin but soon discovering only smooth metal which could not be pierced.
Sirenia shielded her eyes, as the now changed Calvin stood defiantly before her. His entire body was sheathed in a mix of neon yellow and red plating, his blond locks now weaved with red wiring as his eyes glared aggressively towards his sister.
With one focused motion, Calvin crushed her Sentonal into nothingness, before pointing the same free hand towards her. A hum of gathering energy was all she needed to hear to realize what he was doing.
Of all the situations she’d planned for, she had neglected to think he’d be fast enough for her to find herself in this particular one. Sirenia waited patiently, hands clasped together as she stared straight forward to face the inevitable.
Calvin just said nothing under the influence of Angel In The Night. Red energy brightened in his hand as he prepared to fire.
A second passed, and then his wrist snapped. A ball of neon death flew forward, burning the air with its screeching approach.
One blast vaporized everything in front of it. Splintered wood and plaster fell apart in its wake, and the Everclade’s outside wall was no more. Sunlight poured in for the first time since the building had been constructed almost a century ago.
Sirenia just looked above, seeing the gaping hole in her office wall that Calvin had created. She then stared back at him, but he was still silent as he put two fingers to his forehead and saluted her for the last time.
Then, with sudden speed, red energy boomed from the bottom of his feet. He blasted off like a rocket, red and yellow streaks following him as flew up and out and towards the blue sky above.
A few seconds later, and Calvin was long gone. His sister craned her neck upwards to see if she could get any glimpse of him, before putting a hand on her face as her calculated demeanor finally began to break.
Her idiot brother had done the unthinkable. He’d picked the stupidest of choices.
Sirenia was still caught in her own disbelief as Iberius made his way into her office, panting as he rushed towards her.
“My god, what was that noise? Where’s Cal-”
He stopped beside his granddaughter, jaw loose at the sight of the gaping hole opening up Sirenia’s private office for all the world to see. Iberius put a hand on his forehead, unsure of what to even say.
Thankfully, Sirenia had an answer. It was quick, and she laughed to herself as she words tumbled out.
Perhaps she was laughing at the idiocy of the situation. Or, more likely, her own idiocy.
“He’s gone, grandfather. Just up and gone. And I imagine we won’t be seeing him for some time.”
Sirenia’s hands fell to her side. She had failed to see this outcome.
Behind her, she could already feel the oppressive glare of her parents looking down from their towering painting. She did not dare turn around.
Their disappointment was something that she’d often been tempted to make herself forget.
And if Calvin hadn’t destroyed her Sentonal for the time being, then she might have finally done just that.