“Jane,” sighs her brother Martin. “Why are you listening to the radio without your cynicism goggles?”
Jane blushes brightly. She forgot to put them on! That explains her unrealistically innocent attitude. She quickly slips them onto her face. “Oh, my,” she says. “Oh. That’s bad.”
Martin nods wearily. He never takes his goggles off. Not even for winking! He’s a dedicated cynic.
Jane’s had a lot of brothers in her time. She made them out of emptiness and the hero’s image, and it never worked that well.
At least, not back then.
There was Daniel, who flew away; and Alan, whom the monster slew. There was Bob, the labyrinthine god. Frederick. Manuel. Steven.
The list went on and on.
And then one day, there was Martin.
She didn’t make him out of emptiness. He made himself. He decided to make himself out of nothing, one day, to prove that suffering transfigures. To prove that the thing to do in life isn’t to somehow get away from pain, but to use it as the fuel to become something better.
People die. People die in droves. There’s horror and cruelty and hunger and disease. Little children laying in piles with hands twitching. Dogs locked up in basements until they starve. And sitting pretty in the midst and middle of it all is Central. It’s monstrous and inhumane and wrong. It’s worth stopping. It ought to be stopped. But also it is a chrysalis, a slimy clinging shell, that nurtures something beautiful.
And this, Martin says, is Martin’s story:
He’s the smith. He’s the test. He’s the maker. He made himself from nothing and turned Jenna into Jane. He’s thirteen years old but that’s mostly for convenience; he’s got the mojo to be younger than a penny or older than hen’s teeth if he wants to be, born the day before yesterday or older than stars. He’s the guy who’s going to fix this vale of tears and make it right.
He has a special power.
Some gods do.
Here’s his: he can answer questions.
He has to figure them out first. He can’t just say, oh, you’re a disembodied brain in a trolley, go left. But the world’s torn apart by unanswered questions, and he can answer them; and when he’s figured those answers out?
He can make them stick.