Author’s Note: Warning, this chapter contains scenes that might be emotionally difficult.
As Rosie, Kellen and I made our way out of Acinert, I was terrified that Jay would see us. But we managed to get out safely and once we piled into Kellen’s car, I began explaining to him what had happened.
After getting to work in the morning, I went straight to my computer and searched for Lloyd’s name. I found his page and saw with horror that it said he was dead. I buried my face in my hands, wondering why he was dead although I had my suspicions.
After shaking the feeling off, I called up the list of Ancora villagers who had died. Lloyd’s name was not up yet, but I quickly began scanning the list. This list just had names, dates of birth, and dates of death. Anyone who had died at a young age I inspected–and there were several of them. Most of them had their demise listed as ‘accident’ which was what Lloyd’s was. Bianca and Verna had theirs listed as ‘medical’. I saw that a lot of those who had died young were either ‘accident’ or ‘medical’ and I wondered which ones were even the truth. I also noticed that some of them had stars next to their names and I began clicking those specifically.
The stars all said the same thing. ‘Project D’. Wondering what that was, I tried to find something in common with all the people who had stars next to their names. I couldn’t really find anything and as I got close to the end of the list, I went ahead and texted Kellen. I was not going to work here anymore, and neither was he. I had the feeling that anyone who chose to leave didn’t really leave. They were… disposed of.
Kellen texted back, but I was too busy staring at the screen at that point. It was one of the last names on the list with a star next to the name. Wisteria Collins. She looked just like my mother. When I checked the date of death, I saw that it was just a year or two before my parents were born. Who was she? I touched the screen, staring into her eyes. She looked so much like Mom…
My hand jolted back. Mom had been given to Dad as a present from the Reddings. What if…? But no! That was insane. How could…? Why? I quickly tried to find any information on Project D but couldn’t find anything, which didn’t surprise me. Though I suspected I knew where I could find information: Jay’s office, inside those filing cabinets.
I got up and remembered the text Kellen had sent back. I barely looked at it before replying back, then turning off my phone. I didn’t want it going off while I was down there.
Feeling very shaky, I made my way to the lower level and to her office. The lights were off and I couldn’t hear anything. She was gone. So how could I get in? Oh jeez, I thought, rubbing my forehead and then trooping back up the stairs to Kay’s office. I knocked and was surprised when he told me to come in.
As I stepped inside, I tried thinking of something to say. I needed to find his extra pass-card (I knew he had one) but with him right there… how would I get it? So I put a fake smile on my face and said in the most convincing tone I could muster, “There is someone above ground who wants to see someone in charge. Something about an ex-employee filing charges.”
Kay frowned and he stood up. “Wh-what? Is it a p-p-police officer?”
I shrugged. “I don’t think so, looks more like a private investigator but it might be an undercover cop. I don’t know. Should I tell him to go away?”
“N-no,” he stammered. “I–I’ll d-deal w-with this…”
I went out into the hall with him, pretending to shut the door as he headed to the stairs. As soon as he disappeared from view, I went back into his office and flew to the desk. I began opening all the drawers, searching desperately, hoping that I could find it. I had no clue how else to get into Jay’s office and this would be my only chance. If that Wisteria Collins was related to my mother then I needed to know what Project D was all about.
“A-ha!” I said, pulling out his extra card. I left his office, shutting the door, sliding the card into my coat pocket. Barely ten seconds later, Kay returned.
“Th-there w-wasn’t anyone out th-there!” he said, looking confused.
I rolled my eyes. “Probably some bozo playing a trick, or prank. I’m sorry. I should have just sent him off myself.”
“It’s ok-kay,” he assured me and then went back into his office. I casually strolled down the hall, towards the other set of stairs. I felt a bit confident now that I pulled that off.
I swiped the card, and the door unlocked. I hoped that Jay wasn’t just taking a nap in there as I opened the door. I couldn’t see anything and after I shut the door, I flicked on the lights with a wince. There was nothing. No one yelling at me. I opened one eye and saw no sign of anyone.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I went over to the filing cabinets only to find them locked. Locked! I touched the keyholes and then turned to her desk, hoping the key was there. I searched the drawers and found everything was neat and very organized–but no key. Frowning, I began searching the top of the desk. I looked in the pencil holder, under the phone, and finally found a little key under the computer keyboard. When I set the board back down I accidentally jiggled the mouse and the computer screen snapped to life. It had been in sleep mode, and now I saw that she was logged into her account.
My jaw dropped. No way. No way! I set the key down and carefully moved the mouse, clicking on a random file. Reports came up, access to places I couldn’t get to on my own account. Maybe there’d be more files here, I thought and I brought up a search for ‘Project D’. It came up, and I could see what it was about right away.
The dolls. What my mother used to be. Imaginary friend, as my dad jokingly called it. I stared at the screen for a moment then began looking at the lists. I didn’t even know where to start, until I saw ‘Successfully Transformed Experiments’. That took me to a list, and it wasn’t far down that I saw ‘Danevbie’. I clicked on that and saw pictures of my parents, my mother as a doll and–near the bottom of the page–the name Wisteria Collins. I clicked on that and the same picture came up, along with a paragraph that made me sick to read.
Collins, Wisteria; mixed breed Rainbow. Mother: Collins, Koamaru (Blue); Father: Collins, Windsor, (Purple-pink, half-breed) Deceased. Comments: W. Collins is willful and stubborn. Disagrees with vision of Ancora’s progress. Stirring up trouble along with G. Loveless, M. McIntyre, and E. Hart. Request transfer to Project D. Further Comments: Application sent back, refused. Further submission needed. Final Comment: Submission refused. Forced agreement needed. Do not tell K.
Collins, Wisteria: Terminal illness discovered, no cure. Deceased.
Collins, Wisteria: Soul transfer success. Third success. Test subject needed.
Collins, Wisteria: Delivered to C. Danevbie. Estimated likelihood of successful transformation back to human form: 3.7%
Collins, Wisteria: Successful transformation back to human form. First success. Further research needed.
I sat back in the chair, rubbing my eyes. Wisteria was my mother. Penny. They were the same person. This–this rainbow was my mother. ‘Half-breed’. ‘Willful’. She was killed. By Jay. Because she was a willful half-breed.
Anger bubbled up inside of me and I grabbed the computer console, wanting to bash it against the wall. But my fingers loosened their grip and I sat back, taking in several gulps of air. My hands started to shake and my vision got blurry from the tears. I quickly wiped the tears away and started to X out of the report when I thought of something. I searched for my sister’s name within the Project D file, and soon found it.
Jay had kidnapped Tempest, or at least had others do it for her. I didn’t want to look at the rest of the file, I didn’t want to read what Jay wrote, and certainly didn’t want to see the pictures of my sister. I felt even sicker than before, and quickly grabbed the wastebasket so I could throw up.
So much for not leaving a trace, I thought, wiping off my mouth with the back of my hand. I wanted to leave, I knew I should leave… but I wanted to know a few more things. I grabbed a tissue and wiped off my hand so I could get back to work.
I looked up Ancora and started reading Jay’s notes on it. I had been right about Bianca and Verna. Both had ‘consorted’ with someone ‘not of their own color’. Bianca with a red sim of a familiar name (I soon realized it was someone related to Ross), and Verna with Lloyd. I also found medical jargon that indicated their deaths were no accident.
All the rainbows who had filed requests to leave, I found their names and found them all on the deceased list. I wanted to throw up again. What kind of monster would dream of doing this? Why on earth would anyone even…
Jay is not human, I decided, turning my head. Had Kay known about this? I couldn’t imagine him to agreeing to all this. Brother or not, Kay was very different from Jay. I decided that he didn’t know of any of this.
I kept looking, trying to figure out what all these little experiments we had been running had to do with all this death and sickening rules. After digging around a few minutes I found a file that revealed the truth about Ancora and Acinert. I felt so stupid. The name, Acinert. Anthropological Coexistence. Ancora was just one big experiment on people living peacefully in a self-sufficient ‘perfect’ society away from the modern world.
Utopia, I realized, pressing my fingertips lightly against my forehead. People living in harmony with strict rules for the best. Something that I strongly disagreed with. I didn’t disagree with a peaceful society, but a Utopian one was a little too close to… well, this! People having to live strictly and being killed if they consorted with someone of the wrong color, or killed if they wanted to leave. Things happening for the best. Everyone was different and that was the truth. What was for the best for me was not for the best for someone else.
And… what was for the best for my kids… was not me working here. But being there for them. I pushed my glasses aside and covered my face. I had been acting in accordance to what I assumed was ‘for the best’ for my children but, I realized miserably, I had been acting in accordance to what I wanted. To work here. To invent things, to study things, to research things and to discover the secret. Which I now did, and it caused me more grief than I could ever imagine.