Close calls are a kind of blood inheratance for Darius Lee. Maren was more danger than sensibility, the daredevil off to galavant through the world and find truth in the past. Orphaned at a young age herself, she didn't know anything more than doing for herself. Including indulgence and celebrations, like the one she had with Brion that, nine months later, brought her the biggest adventure of her young life. Darius Jeno Lee, the young gift of life and light, carrying names of her family before her and the hope for all her futures. It taught the young boy a number of truths from the first day he could learn and understand. History was subjective — often not only circular but tangled into knots no one could ever undo. This, too, became his actual life. A tangle of knots, turned into circles and burned in honey and sunlight.
He was a boy, and his father was a man and that was nearly as much information as there ever was. Which was troublesome, sometimes, sure. But Darius never really lacked in things to learn anyway. The Pyramids and ancient cultures; mythologies and religion; language and people. What hooked him the most, even as a child, was the logic of it all; the science, the hard math, the numbers. He was putting together presentations with his mother as soon as he could pretend to write (a task that made most of his presentations heiroglyphs and images cut out and put together on backs of boxes) and knew, by six, that he was going to build a great pyramid himself one day. But a larger one. With a proper shape — triangles were old, now, and people could make something that made sense while also being cool!
Maren knew the why — that craving for attention, for validation — but she never discouraged his dreams. As long as they weren't verbally about wanting his father, then she had no reason to try and do anything but encourage her son. When he wanted to get on television, she got him auditions and landed roles in commercials. When he wanted to do digs, she brought him around to let him learn hands on. When he wanted to play with his cards and toys and read his comics (which he really only understood through the art), she let him; he was a boy with vivid will and bold imagination and Maren fostered it, endlessly.
What Darius remembers best about it are their lessons. Their homes changed too often, and the faces around them drifted in and out of focus. Cairo, Argentina, Peru, Iraq — he'd lived out of suitcases more than bedrooms by the time he lost his mother. But Maren had given him so many lessons by then. How to cook enough to survive. How to fight, when he had to. How to resist even her mental prowess. Her boy was a human, like his father, but he would never be unprepared. She may have seen the troubles coming in her own way but she never clued Darius in on that; he was just her little brave boy, her warrior, her kind king. And he held onto that, even when their temporary home was blown in and gunshots deafened him in the middle of the night.
Darius doesn't remember much. The screaming, the gunshots. He remembers seeing a head hit the ground and watching as the blood left a trail while it rolled away. Maren's fall to the ground when they got their serums in her — the fire that started to burn the dresser she had locked him in, the neighbors clammoring after... he doesn't remember any of it. Doctors said, later, it was something to do with trauma and smoke inhalation. Darius knew better, though. Maren had tried her best, even in her fading conscious, to get her son out and away; because that was all there was to it, when she was gone and they tried to put him into homes. There was running.
There was the brave boy, and the warrior, and the broken king.
One of the blessings of Cairo is the sheer number of orphans living on the street. Getting lost in crowds of children, even as a little Eurasian boy whose skin wasn't quite sandstone yet, was easy. One of the curses of Ciaro was the same — the sheer number of orphans. Trying to survive at 8 years old is not easy, or simple. Trying to compete with other children makes it even less so. So, Darius did what he felt was the only thing to do; he stepped up to try and be an adult, organizing any of the gentler, nicer street children to make a little sect that could work together. They became the pesky children of Capricornus — the little Goats of the Nile. And under Darius, at least some children who had no other options were able to make a family and survive. For years, they functioned, moving the nights that Darius felt a little something in his mind saying it was better to; they lived in abandoned buildings, they cooked on makeshift fires and they bathed with whatever water they could find. Sometimes, Jeno even told them stories, showing off the few things he kept from being taken after the fire had been put out. Playing cards and little comic books; toys and trinkets he'd collected from around the world.
It wasn't much but, in a world forgetting them, Darius was good at trying to make them seem like more than they could ever be.
Then came the night of the fires. Their entire building — an abandoned construction they were using for one week too long — went in a blaze. Darius tried to get everyone out, the screaming, the fighting. It was a woman next door who came running through to help, Rehema Thabet. She'd always been kind to them all, no matter where they stayed, any time she saw the Goat kids running around the streets. It was the only reason Darius didn't question her, or her insistence on what alleys to take. In a panic and frenzy, the nearly 11 year old boy did what the kind woman said.
For over a year, he paid dearly on that mistake.
A.I.M. was the kind of organization that was made into horror stories, especially for kids of the street. They were people who made you disappear. With no family to care for them, the orphans of Cairo (of which there are nearly 3 million, in orphanages or on the streets) were prime picking. The rest of the continent was no safer, of course, but AIM kept their focus in the Northern edges of the lands. Something about the landing of rocks, and the rich soil of old world cultivation. None of this mattered beyond being glimpses of conversations Darius would hear from the place they kept him. Not a cage, really, but a chamber all the same, he floated in some kind of thick gel that kept him from being able to fight, or thrash. He could shout and curse and bite but the scientists, all they did was laugh; he was inaudible, shrouded in something that kept him alive like the others in their chambers near, but didn't let anything else happen.
Days turned into weeks and, in time, Darius learned to stop questioning where his family was. They weren't family to the scum who gave them injections, or kept them alive on the barest of minimums.
Half dead is better, they'd say.
It proves her power. In the blind rage of youth, in the unknowing of a child, Darius always assumed they met Rehema. For months he was kept alive with whatever the gel that shrouded him was; it kept him fed, it put him to sleep, it gave him odd dreams of violence and learning and quizzes. Darius started to dream in ways that let him take control: he could change the end of each dream, could fight and make new survivals. Nightmares that became attempts at salvation he couldn't give now, even as he heard the screaming and the torture before death finally took hold of those taken away.
What came to be the truth was much stranger than that. The day they felt he was finally old enough to be taken to the rooms where all the screaming rose then fell apart, Darius struggled like a light that refused to die. But whatever his nightmares had painted, and whatever he had imagined in the worst of him was nowhere near what actually hit. Instead of torture devices and strange machinery, Darius was brought to a shower; then, he was given new clothes, tight fit attire that seemed to stretch no matter what moves he made. He was even given a meal much too large for any child to devour; his anger kept him from eating, however, and let him grab at whatever he could to try and fight with. None of it mattered when the walls were lifted away and Darius was presented with one glowing black box before him as dozens of men and women stared down at him from skybox seats.
Then, she made sense, when Darius heard the box open under a command.
Pandora Procedure: Pilot. All-Gifted he knew, backing away from the tar that rose out of the box. All-Gifting, a voice replied, familiar but old now, lost to another terrible night long before the hundreds he'd had already. He thought of his mother and hiding scared and something — something broke like a promise and Darius didn't scream, or fight; the scientists above applauded as Darius grabbed at Pandora and held it like a prize. And then, the way it melted over him, crawled down his arm and burrowed into his mouth. He would have screamed then, he thought, if it hadn't been for the way he blacked out at the sight of Rehema through bulletproof glass.
Things, then, went stranger than strange. The boy had dreams of a world on fire: hues of burning heat, and lightning, and bolting shapes. And his own hands turned to weapons, to blades, kiling and slashing through it all. Feeling the tear of flesh and bone. Nightmares that were not nightmares; reality, brought to him oddly, strangely. When Darius finally realized what was happening, two weeks had passed.
A success! they called it, cheering among themselves as they harnessed the boy into another chamber and thought it safe. But Pandora was growing, then; Pandora, inside of Darius, was a real success. Another lost hope, another star that refused to die no matter how much darkness stole its light. It found Darius' sadness and learned its own sorrow; it touched his anger and felt rage. The power of his will, of his determination and his intensity, it gave Pandora a clear understanding beyond the screaming and pain that had come before Darius. It became him, in all his highs and lows, and it couldn't have been at a worse time for A.I.M. or the soldiers along the train carrying Darius back to Cairo. The 15th of January, 2013: Two dozen died, hundreds more left maimed and broken in his wake, as Pandora gave Darius all its gifts: not her, or him, but nameless. It endowed Darius with glory and right, and the train itself was knocked off its tracks as he searched for the woman who had the answers.
Rehema was gone, however, leaving only enough behind to try and trace truths. Truths that Pandora translated for Darius; the sorrow that could be repaired, as connections to Maren were loud and clear. They knew about Darius because of it. They knew about how she had been tracing and sending him whatever pushes of mind she could. Little urges to run, or hide, or stay safe. They had used her... and him. The names and faces of the dead children he'd taken care of blared over him and — and it didn't take more than that for Darius to know he was hunting Maren down himself. Egypt left itself in tangled ruins, trying to make sense of the accident and making up whatever terrorist story they had to, while Darius made his way to Ural to find the building holding his mother hostage.
Just like the train in Cairo, Pandora gave Darius such a might that the incident became another coverup. The 15h of February, 2013: Casualties piled up higher this time around, with Darius' manifestations and fighting injuring 1,500 civilians on top of the officials and agents he killed; Leviathan Combinate is such a secret organization in their true endeavours that it was easier to mark up as a meteor and fearful explosion than to admit that government officials were in liege with American agents and acting as torture spies. It wasn't like any of it mattered to Darius anyway; it was only about getting Maren free, no matter who stood in the way. Norilsk Staliyevich was the man who tried to stop them, who called Maren his tool, and it made him the example; the others were only people who stood too close, or didn't run away fast enough. By the time Pandora and Darius were done, the boy could barely hold and cry to his mother.
For months, they ran together, trying to make their way anywhere they could try to be safe again. Darius kept Pandora under control as Maren tried to make sense of it all. She was weaker than Darius had ever remembered her, bits of her body broken beyond any kind of mortal repair. It was as if they had carved out of her soul now and all that was left was the heart of her; barely even her mind. In the end, that was what Darius blamed: that had Maren been left whole, stronger, she wouldn't have died trying to prove to her son that murder and revenge would never be as good as doing the right thing. The 14th of August, 2013: Maren and Darius made their way back to Cairo to try and connect with friends again, to try to build some net of safety. They had tried everywhere else and this was their last restort, to find some secrets she had stashed. Truths about Darius' father; things, she hoped that could bring her son back to the right side of the light. So, when security forces raided, Maren tried to put her money where her mouth was. But her power was weak, even for such a mighty homostia; while trying to disarm one unit of soldiers to save the families nearby, another sniped her from afar. With her brains still on his face, Darius fought back, only seeing anger and revenge and hate again.
It wasn't just the officers in the blasts of power. Some civilians were hurt, too, for trying to stop Darius, or ignoring Maren's dead body. When all was said and done, Darius was no longer a boy; he was a beast, a rage, and not much else. Until the strongest bold of power broke him down into a boy again and darkness swallowed all his senses.
Khiraen Sinapfong was a mighty little thing, when Darius finally woke from the induced slumber. And he did not hesitate to smack Darius right back into place — Pandora or not — while he spoke. Of being family. Of being found by Maren, and begged for help. Not her dying wish, Khiraen assured that, but a powerful one all the same. Powerful enough to keep her spirit latched unto Earth. It was that thought, maybe, that made Darius pay the most attention; imagining the tiny little man as his great, great, great grandmother was absurd. But his mother being stuck... Darius couldn't deal with it. So, he agreed to do whatever it took. Whatever he had to. To which Khiraen had the simplest solution: just live.
Guilt made it difficult, of course, but Khiraen gave Darius the kind of tools to really free himself from it all: to expand on his name, to make an identity that did not erase but build upon. An engineer of his own certainty and future, whole. New family. New friends. Power to control himself and protect others. For years, he grew, harvested everything that he could just to be worth it. Eventually, Maren's spirit should have left, but one last thing held her near, despite all that the boy now known as Jeno (his middle name, altered into a given name now: Jenorris) had done. And Khiraen solved even that.
When Brion came through to Eclipse, Jeno had a difficult day. Not because he had some nerves or expectations, but because he was unsure how to even handle a father. But then... he saw the way maren's spirit swelled, and he saw the way Brion was even more nervous than him. He didn't even flinch from the truth of Maren, or being able to communicate with her ghost on the grounds before she passed over to her final resting place; he called on his own, on weekends. He tried, more than Jeno could have expected. For two years, he had something he had never expected — another gift, after being merged with the All-Gifting. It was not enough to make Jeno forget his new family - his brothers, his mother-father, his gifted life - but it did give him reasons to learn, to explore, to even go to Ireland to see a real history to his bloodline and be accepted legally. He traveled, he studied, he even found it in him to be able to find other pieces of Pandora to make it feel less alone itself; both of them, finding their parts to try and become whole, one step at a time.
But even that got taken, in the end; Brion fell getting out of the shower and hit his head in such a way that he had an internal hemmorage and died before anyone could have ever done anything. He visited his son just once on the way out, to say goodbye, and Jeno was able to put he and Maren together in his father's last request. Which, perhaps, was the only reason he didn't break completely: dreams could still come true, and he had proven it. So, he thought of it all as he waited to finish his schooling so he could do the only right thing the world had for him to do.
He would become a Cazern, and protect enough lives to make up for all those he'd taken, lost, or been responsible for. And he'd try, with all his might, not to let the need to murder two more people overwhelm him from his duties.