The Book of Fate: Who is Khalid Ben-Hassin? – Part IV

The Book of Fate: Who is Khalid Ben-Hassin? – Part IV

Strange that of all the places I would be wandering around it would be Gotham, but it plays a central part in my history, our history.  It’s not something that can be ignored or denied, but it was something that my family thought I should do, even my grandfather which most would find surprising.  He said it was something that I needed to know.  Something that I should understand.  Start at the beginning.

Though it’s not the true beginning not for our House, but it was the start of something different and new for the world.  Everything that I needed to understand about our family I’ve been taught by my family.  I have gone to the beginning there and tried to understand why everyone made the choices that they did. From my mother to my grandfather to my great-grandfather.

My grandmother encouraged me to explore all facets of my family, because they all bring something different to who I am.  She said that that there were many things I could learn and understand by looking into the family history.

It’s one of the things that we did when I went to visit her in Egypt. Learning about the different branches of the family. There were things to understand about the Nelson side of the family that I could only learn through reading my grandfather’s journals and visiting that part of the family and one of the things that Grandmother and others wanted me to understand was that family did not always mean blood.

The people in the pictures were more than friends they were family. They shared a bond that few could understand, few that could try.  Despite the difficult relationship that my grandfather had with who the person his father was there was no denying this was a part of his life. While he may have not accepted the station so to speak, he did accept that this was a part of his legacy.

Complicated.  That is how it was described on more than one occasion.  He had a complicated relationship with his father and the work they were both involved in.  What Grandfather observed could not be unseen.  That which he knew could not be unlearned. In short, he could not ignore all that was happening around him.  He could not overlook situations that required someone to act, but he could do his way.  He would not be guided unknowingly or unwillingly. He would decide how and when he would get involved and he would not do it alone or by trying to play puppet master.

“That is the way that your grandfather wished to engage the world he was a member of. He wanted to decide the man he was to become. He wanted a better life for me and for your mother and anyone that came after. He also wanted everyone to have a choice. He made his choice and he wanted your mother to have a choice. He made his position quite clear, but in the end, he understood that it would be her choice and her choice alone.”

As it would be mine, though there was something about the way she looked at me when she said it that made me feel that there was something more. It was like she knew what my choice was or perhaps the choice was already made. I won’t lie sometimes I feel like the choice was already made that it was already decided not by me or by him, but by something greater than us both, by the force our house was named after.

Regardless, it will not prevent me from continuing the journey.  It just gives me more to think about. Turning the corner my eyes glance up along the building in front of me. Unlike the previous building this one was definitely different.  People lived here.  People trained here. For a period of time this was one of the most important buildings in Gotham, in the world, for a time.

I wonder if I closed my eyes if I could see it, if I could hear it.  If I can imagine it as it was before.  The building isn’t in bad shape. It’s actually in quite good shape.  It was a museum for a while, but it was shuddered years ago. It hasn’t been utilized as a base of operations since before the dark times. There was a time when people wanted to see this building razed to the ground.

Superheroes were in vogue one moment and out the next.  People saw them as dangerous. The government saw them as resources to be controlled. Despite his differences with his father Grandfather understood the need to protect what secrets he could. There were those that thought they knew better, but it usually led to situations that are graver than they should have been.  Even worse awakening or gaining the notice of those that they should hope to avoid.

There were some that the government or others could be entrusted with secrets and artifacts, to keep them safe.  Then there were those that believed they weren’t capable. It usually led to problems, conflicts and then you had those that were caught in the middle, those trying to do what they could to keep everyone safe and sometimes making the hard choices that others couldn’t even if it wasn’t someone’s desired outcome.  Happily, ever after wasn’t always the goal and right now this building reminded me that there were a lot of grim endings for the heroes. Grim endings that some want to avoid repeating…if they can.

“Such a bright up the Justice Society of America was, until it wasn’t.”

The Book of Fate: Who is Khalid Ben-Hassin? – Part IV

The Book of Fate: Who is Khalid Ben-Hassin? – Part II

What does that mean?  I really can’t tell you what it means to you.  You must decide what it means to you. Being a member of our family meant different things to all of us.  I can tell you that we love one another.  That we care about one another, but it was never easy being a member of this family and many times it had nothing to do with the enemies of our House and I say our House, because sometimes it’s better to think of that way. 

I think I had a good idea who he was referring to.  There was a force that had become intrinsically connected to our family that sought to be its guiding hand, good or bad.  I won’t go as far to say that it was a guiding star, because I know for a fact that my grandfather did not think of him that way.  In a lot of ways my grandfather saw him as the enemy, because of who and what he took from him.

Rather than stop I continue.  I read on letting my grandfather share with me what he wanted.   He took time to write it all down. It was information meant for me.  I know this is one of many journals, but it was the first one that I was meant to read.  The others could be read out of order, but this one, this one needed to come first.  In truth it was one of two.

The first one was just every day things that my grandfather wanted me to know.  Lessons that I needed to learn.  He said that our family had certain aptitudes.  One of them being archaeology.  It was our family’s trade whether people believe it or not, the first one that stretched back to my great-great grandfather Sven.

My great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather began as an archaeologist, but he transitioned to medicine eventually becoming a physician.  My mother, as I had told Becky, studied archaeology.  She knew more about than most respected individuals in the field.  My mother didn’t limit herself to the study of relics of the past she was also curious about people and societies and how they interacted with one another.  She spread her thirst for knowledge to anthropology. I can’t say whether or not it was meant to be, but her educational pursuits brought her to the world of medicine.

Perhaps we’re drawn to it, perhaps its what w know. Perhaps it was just something that was destined to happen.   Hard to say, but despite her collective studies she decided to attend medical school. It was a story I knew well, one that I had been told many times, by father, by my grandmother and eventually my mother.  She wanted me to know that we could have pursuits that lie outside of the family business.   We could find a balance if we wanted to.

Her peers in her chosen fields of study said she was gifted.  She was unlike anyone that had ever met.  She had a way of blending the modern and the ancient, finding remedies to aid in the most complicated of cases.  Some new, some long forgotten.

When I asked my mother about she often told me that she learned from the best.  She learned from her grandfather.  Now this isn’t to say that my mother had an easy life.  It was hardly a case of her getting everything she wanted.  She worked hard for the life she forged for herself.

She gave up a lot and she lost a lot, but where my grandfather let it consume him, she found her own way, she was able to make choices that he was not.  Still, there was no denying that she was gifted.

I find that to be both amazing and frustrating all at once.  At least I did.  When she past to the next life I wondered for a good while, why me and not her. It took me a long time to understand, too remember what she had always told me, that she had chosen the life that she wished to live.  She did just enough, enough for her and enough for the world, no more no less.

She said part of her wanted to keep her promise to her father.  To be a better parent than he was to her. Her father was present, in her life, but not as much as he would have liked to be.  Work kept him busy. It was my grandfather’s one regret, that he was not able to spend as much time as he would’ve liked with my mother and my grandmother.

Shifting my eyes back to the written words on the page I couldn’t help, but wondered what the next passage would be bring, because I was always curious about this particular relationship.  When my grandmother spoke about my grandfather, there was no great deal of reverence in her voice.  Many times there was a hint of irritation, but irritation that comes from mutual respect. Also, a bit of annoyance that he wasn’t there for her to fuss at.

What was it that she told me once?  Death was a convenient way for him to escape my wrath…for now.  Grandmothers.  You gotta love them right?

Your grandmother.  What can I say about her? 

She was frustrating.   She could be quite diabolical when given the opportunity.  She was honest and free in a way I could never hope to be. 

She was an immovable force when she wanted to be.  A warm embrace when she needed to be.   A power to be reckoned with.  Your grandmother was far smarter than I, and far more patient with me than I probably deserved.  She was my wife and the love of my life.  She was everything that I needed in a partner and rival. It was our way. 

Your grandmother questioned everything I did, while supporting me in every endeavor.   She was far more skilled in magic.  She had a natural talent that I envied. I often wondered if I truly embraced all that I was. I won’t say that it came easy to her, but where she embraced it, I chose to erect a wall before me.  

Magic was in my blood.  It was in my life, but I did not want my father’s life.   I understood sacrifice, but there were some things that I could not live without.  She and your mother were people I could not live without.

They were my life and I would do everything I could to protect them. From the world.  From everything in it. From the shadows that lurked the halls of the government, the monsters that crept from above and below.  Most of all I would protect them from him…from both of them.

My grandmother.  When I think about her I smile. She told me once that my grandfather could have been the greatest sorcerer of his generation, but he chose family first. At least as much as he could there were some events that could not be avoided.   He made the choice that his father had never been given. She told me that I would have loved my grandfather.  Once she told me that if she did possess any regrets it was that my mother did not know more of him, but she was grateful for the time that they did share with one another no matter how brief it was.

I visit her when I can.  She stayed with us for a time after we had settled in Michigan.  When she felt I was old enough she returned home, she went back to Egypt.  She said it called to her.  It’s where she was needed.  However, she was only a phone call away, but it was better this way.  My mother was settling into the role she decided to take on and she had my father to support her, but things were changing, my grandmother could see it, she could feel it.

It was my grandmother that instructed me on how to control what I could do.  She taught me as she had taught my mother.  A well ordered and disciplined mind is required for the work that we do. There were lessons and drills every day as far back as I could remember.  I asked my mother once if she had been taught the same way.

She answered me, but there had been so many things she hadn’t said.  A great deal, I felt that she was holding something back.  Something that she wanted to share, but she told me that my grandmother teaches from a place of love, but also from a place of responsibility.  One must be accountable for their actions at all times.  Erratic thoughts could be dangerous when magic was involved and when it manifested itself.

An undisciplined mind could draw attention when none was wanted. It was both my mother’s answer and non-answer that told me all that I needed to know.  However, one night while I was practicing with my grandmother as she sought to know what talents I truly possessed she told me something.  Something that surprised me and now confirmed by my grandfather’s words.

She told me that I had to be better than my grandfather.   She told me that I had to accept that I could be more than one thing.  That it was possible.  That I could find the balance that had long been denied his father and he sought to find.  She said that my great-grandfather was many things, but he possessed innate talent for magic, one that had been passed onto my grandfather who passed it to my mother, who passed it on to me.

It takes different forms.   My mother could read minds.  She was quite skilled at it.  I won’t lie. I hated it.   My grandmother told me that my grandfather could move things like his father.  She told me that he was not as skilled with it as his father partly, because he did not want to be his father despite the love that he had for him.  He felt it would draw a specter to him. See him as a replacement.

Something my grandfather never aspired or desired to be.

The Book of Fate: Who is Khalid Ben-Hassin? – Part IV

The Book of Fate: Who is Khalid Ben-Hassin? – Part I

Standing in front of the building I thought about everything happened before.  Talking with my mother, meeting Becky, and the illness.   It burned me up that I couldn’t tell much more at the moment.  That would require a little more on my end, but before I could act there I had to…there were two places that I needed to go to first.  I took a cab several blocks away walked the rest of the way.   Not something that you usually wanted to do at this time of night in Gotham, but there was little for me to worry about.

Anyone that came towards me with ill intent would feel a certain sense of foreboding the closer they got.  The closer the came the more they would start to feel as if their lives were in danger, it was enough of a deterrent that it would send them in the opposite direction.  It was a simple enough spell.  It increased one’s sense of dread.

I didn’t want any trouble.  Not right now as I stood in of building that held a special significance.  It was a simple of enough building.  Walking towards the entrance tipping my head to the side I looked at how it appeared.  One would think it was slated to come down, but it wasn’t.  It wouldn’t.

Removing a key from my pocket I stepped around to the back unlocking the door that appeared to be boarded up followed by another.  Stepping inside I looked around flipping on a switch that immediately revealed the immaculate hall inside.

There was nothing particularly special about the hall, except that it looked like something out of a classic movie. Lights that hung from the ceiling one fixture after another, a floor with tile that formed a checker board pattern.   The only thing that was remarkable was how clean the hall was.

Walking down the hall I slipped the key back into my pocket walking towards the elevator I was told that it was still in working order.   It was well maintained, serviced as needed.  The halls and everything was cleaned at least once a week.

Reaching the elevator, I removed the key from my pocket again.  This was different perhaps newish.  Slipping the key into the key hole I turned it watching as the doors slide open.  Stepping inside I looked around and presse the button that I had been instructed to.

Pressing the button, the elevator took me in the approach direction opening open to another immaculate hall.  Slipping the key into my pocket I traveled down the hall glancing around at the doors that had no name but appeared to be offices.  Upon reaching the end of the hall I reached for the door knob and gave it a turn.  It opened to an outer office where a secretary would sit.

None was there, but a typewriter was hidden beneath a typewriter cover.  There was a steno pad, a phone and a few other office items.  It appeared like someone could come right in and start typing. Running my fingers along the file cabinets then the desk I walked towards the second door.  Reaching out for the door knob I gave it a turn pushing the door open.  Instead of striding forward I hung back giving myself a moment.  Wetting my lips, I walked inside shutting the door behind me.

When I told Becky that I had a place I wasn’t lying.  I wasn’t trying to avoid going to her crypt.  I had a place I could go.  This wasn’t it, but it was close to it in a sense.  Stepping towards the desk I looked down at the nameplate that was on the desk.  Reaching for it I ran my fingers along the letters of the name upon it.

“Smythe.”   The desk like the one outside was made of wood and had a type writer off to the side.  There was Dictaphone nearby along with a few smaller file cabinets.  There was a couch that looked like it had been slept on many a night or days.   There were also two phones, one on the desk and one off to the side.

Then there was the wall.  The wall that held a map of the world, and it wasn’t current.  The configuration of some countries was different and there were lines upon it in certain places.  Upon the adjacent wall there was a picture of the president, not Luthor, but an older one, Roosevelt.

It stood there alone overlooking everything in the office, but it was on the opposite wall that I found what I was looking for.  There was a picture of Smythe with two people one was dressed in mask and a cape.  The second man had a helmet on with wings.

“Hermes’ Helmet.”  On the picture was a small metal label. “Smythe and the Mystery Men.”

Walking towards the desk I set my satchel down upon it and took a seat.  Reaching inside I pulled from it a leather-bound book, a journal opening it to the place where I left off at.  Looking at the blank pages I whispered a few words watching as the words revealed themselves to me.

My father told me that there was one just like this for my mother.  However, she only read parts of it.  Her father was there for her to tell her the history, about the past and about our legacy.  She told me what she could, but she told me that there was more, that there would come a time where she would share more.  That she would give me the book that her father wanted me to have.

She asked him to write it so I would have something of his, something that was meant for me.  Something that had his voice, his essence.  It’s not that she knew that would never meet at least not in this life, it was more like she wanted me to know him the way she knew him.  She could tell me things, but there were things that only he could share with me.

This was one of them.  She told me, but she said it was best if I heard it from him.  I knew this could be a possibility, but how often was I going to be in Gotham?  With everything going on I knew that I needed to take a moment and see it for myself.

There was another picture on the wall I glimpsed it, but perhaps it was best if I read what my grandfather had to say before I studied the picture.

I knew enough to know that this is where it began.  “Mystery Men.  Metahumans before people knew what metahumans were.   Those two men were old friends, friends of my great-grandfather.  They knew my father well, knew my great-grandfather even more.  It was here that the Justice Society of America was born.   Summoned by an agent of President Roosevelt to enter the war on America’s behalf in secret.

To help put an end to a threat before it could begin to talk hold.  This was the beginning of the first age of superheroes. It began with two heroes and grew to three and moved on from there until the Justice Society was officially sanctioned.  It began here in Gotham City of all places.

Looking down at the at the pages in front of me I find my place again after the map.

Never become trapped in the past, but you should know it.  Learn from it.  Understand what it means.  That is what he said before, but before I got much further he told me that for me to understand for the words to have meaning that I needed to come here, see this place and know the story.

That I am the child of Farrah Nassour.  Farrah Nassour is daughter of Kent Nelson Jr.  Kent Nelson is son of Kent Nelson.  Kent Nelson is the son of Sven Nelson.  Together we are the House of Masir, the House of Fate.