"What I'm going to tell you," he said to the kid, "it's something you need to know. It's a story about a choice."
The room was bare, except for a pair of metal chairs and a table, on which Detective Jack Bastard rested the book. Normally, it was used for interrogations - the kind no one taped - but Jack had requisitioned it for the kid.
"Nobody told me this. I had to figure it out myself. Like doing a run-up on a suspect, except in this case the bastard was me...or, I guess, my family."
He opened the book; a scrap of vellum was taped in there.
"The first of us to take the name Bastard was Erik, said to have been the son of a Viking killed for stealing or fucking one too many sheep - the soured aren't really clear on which - and the favorite local prostitute. Erik the Bastard grew up to be a thief and thief-taker, and apparently once claimed he sold a hundred Irish into slavery. He eventually went to prison for his debts and was killed by his fellow prisoners while the guards watched. I doubt anybody loved him."
Jack stared the kid in the eye.
"It doesn't get better. A thousand years of petty crime, bad decisions, opportune betrayal, pissing the money away and leaving behind Bastards of their own. There's even a town...but you don't want to go there. The thing is, he one thing about Erik that set him apart from all the other whoresons of his age - he owned it. He owned being a bastard. And every other Bastard since, they owned it too. They didn't have to be Bastards. They could have picked some other name, some other life."
Jack stared into that one perfect blue eye.
"And that's the decision you need to make, Jenny. You've already had a harder life than most kids. I would have spared you that, if I knew, if your mom had told me. But she didn't, and I can't promise I'll...I don't know if I can be what you need me to be. So I'm going to leave it up to you, what you want to be. I can get you with a foster family. A good one. Or...you can be be a Bastard. So what's it going to be?"