“But giving up on Janie… it feels like the start of a bad habit,” Bast said. “You know?”
“So you feel that if you fail to reform this one villainess… chosen arbitrarily from among all the other people we encounter who have made poor choices with their lives… then as a consequence our daughter will grow up to choose evil?” Thoth asked her.
“I didn’t say ‘as a consequence’,” Bast said, scowling at him.
“Fine. She’ll grow up evil coincidentally, then.”
“You said you trusted my intuition,” Bast said. “Anyway, I think Janie can be saved.”
“Rehabilitated, maybe,” Thoth said. “But there are steps that come before that. However much of yourself you see in her, she is not you… what she’s done goes beyond thrill-seeking and into some pretty violent territory. She’s a serious criminal.”
“Wait, how’d you know…”
“You are not the only one with intuition, love,” he said.
“Alright,” Bast confessed. “She does remind me of myself… a little. That was the main reason I tried to dissuade her from following in my footsteps. I put on my first mask for all the wrong reasons, and I’ve almost died more times than I’d care to count since then.”
“And I suppose that’s why you were suddenly in favor of letting the children train, when we’d both expressed misgivings,” Thoth said.
“I tried talking Janie into giving it up, and she just ended up becoming a costumed criminal instead,” Bast said. “If I’d done things differently…”
Thoth swiveled his chair around to face his wife fully.
“The folly of the ‘what if’, my dear, is that we can only know for certain what did happen. Speculating on what might have happened is not the same thing as knowing what would have happened,” Thoth said. “You didn’t know that Janie would have been so determined, and you couldn’t have known she’d have just enough skill and force of will to make herself useful as a criminal. You might look back now and think that you could have molded her instead into an effective force for good, but she might just as easily have been the sort of person who would be corrupted to evil by that sort of success… or the sort of person who would get herself killed in a real fight. A child came to you in a homemade mask and cape asking your permission to risk her life in your name. What you did next was exactly the right thing to do in that situation.”
“Then why did it all go so wrong?”
“Because of unforeseeable events,” Thoth said. He rose to his feet and put his hands on her shoulders. “Now, our children are not wholly unknown quantities, but still we cannot predict what they will do, nor can we control them… the most we can do is to be there for them, guide them… but not steer them.”
He turned back to the screen, and Bast thought that would be the end of the conversation, but he turned it off.
“Will continue to run with or without my scrutiny,” he said. “I don’t have high hopes for success with the data I have available, anyway… but let’s let Webmistress and Rhyme take care of each other for now. What do you say about picking up our wayward daughter and doing something fun?”
“Now?” Bast asked.
“Yes, now,” Thoth said. “There’s no time like the present… I’m sure the school will release her to her parents.”
“Alright,” Bast said. She smiled. “We’ll check there first.”
37: Saving Jane 39: Whistle While You Work » »
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