He remembers the father.
Like a sore tooth — like an old injury — he remembers, and keeps those old memories close. They’re reminders of the pieces of himself he found unnecessary and excised, and now he can look back on that man and laugh. Once upon a time I was stupid, he says; once upon a time, I was idealistic and full of wide-eyed belief.
Then the world happened. He grew up.
See, here’s the thing: tyranny is as impractical as blind faith in the good of those around you. There is nothing inherently evil in military conquest — if you read back in your history books, you’ll see that civilization’s biography is comprised of a thousand wars stacked upon each other until it blends into a seamless whole. Given time, the conquered forget they were anything else.
It’s a pity, he thinks, that none of the others would have understood. Like their leader (o captain my captain), they believed so very much in the goodness of the world, of people — they forgot how conquering didn’t necessarily equate loss of free will, or that in the end, one leader is not so very different from the other. And all of them, every single last one, crumbled when theirs fell: oh, they fought him, they screamed curses and attacked with blind rage, but he’d broken something intrinsic in them by cutting out both head and heart in a single blow.
They remained blinded by their ideals until the bitter end, which was commendable, but still an end. You can’t change anything if you die, and look who’s still flying.
(“Just suppose,” he’d said one night, the two of them drinking and him pretending to be more drunk than he actually was, “just suppose–” and his captain laughing, shoving playfully at his shoulder; “you’re nuts, you know, that’d never work–“)
Oh yes, yes, he remembers the father. He makes sure to keep those memories alive, till he can taste those memories in the wind and feel them in the strong sure movement of his arm: look, he says with each day he lives, look at how I’m alive, look, look, look.
He looks at the son and sees the father and it’s a thrill that propels him forward, sends him after the boy time and again. The father’s ghost looks at him from behind the son’s eyes (even death didn’t kill that stupid blind enthusiasm) and he wants to say: I will show you, I’ll show you exactly how I was right and you were wrong, and then — and then —
Until then he watches the skies, he tracks those would-be Storm Hawks, and waits.