So I decided to try the “not as many pictures” thing in this chapter, so let me know if it’s too much text between pictures or if this is okay.
Mom just kinda stared at me with wide eyes, feelin’ real confused. I knew he had heard my question clearly, but was he expectin’ me to repeat it as if he hadn’t? But finally he set down the clothes basket he had been carrying and rubbed his forehead. I felt a bit guilty about the sinking feeling he was gettin’ but Hen was right, I needed to talk to him about this. It was part of me, even if it was part of me I didn’t want.
“Why don’t we go in the other room?” my maternal daddy finally said, heading towards his room. I followed him though the bedroom and into the small writin’ room. There was only one chair which he offered to me but I shook my head. He hesitated, but didn’t take it himself. “Your biological father,” he murmured. “Well–I… there’s not much I can really say about him. What… part… do you w-want to know? The, um, emotion thing?” He turned his gaze to me and I nodded. “I’m afraid I don’t really know much about it. I only found out about it after I was… um, taken. Even then I didn’t find out much.”
He moved over towards the desk and ran his fingers over it. He felt so depressed, I wanted to apologize an’ take it all back but I couldn’t, and I couldn’t just leave it at this. “I know it’s difficult, Mom,” I whispered, reaching out to touch his arm. “But I need to know everything. My… abilities aren’t going away. I need to… do my best to live with them and that means–“
“I know,” he said, turning around. “I know, sweetie, and it’s okay. I’ll tell you everything I know. Just bear with me.” He smiled at me and I forced a smile back. “He, um, gained his abilities through, uhh, experimentation.“
“With drugs?” I inquired, suddenly worried.
Mom shook his head. “No, I mean scientific experimentation. He himself was an experiment.” He ran his fingers through his hair and turned back towards the desk. “There were these two scientists. I’ve been wondering if I should tell you about them but they promised to leave you alone…”
“Leave me alone?” I took a step closer as a shiver of fear went down my spine. “Wh-why on earth would they bother me?”
“The guy didn’t,” Mom said quickly. “He forced the female–his sister–to agree not to bother you. She… wanted…” He trailed off and ran his tongue over his teeth. “She seemed to be a bit intent on what was going on. The experiments, I mean. Apparently D… Doug… your, um, biological father… was one of the, um, strongest of their experiments with whatever it was they were experimenting with. I guess a sort of… telepath, maybe? You know, your abilities. That’s what they were working on. I have no idea why though, she said something about ‘them’ having powers but I just really don’t know.”
Mom shrugged, pacing a bit before continuing. “I honestly don’t know, they never said. They thought–well, I guess… argh!” He pushed his fingers up under his glasses, rubbing his eyes. He felt kinda frustrated and very confused. Not as depressed as he had been, at least. “Okay, let me rewind here. I was taken by D-Doug to this sorta shack in the middle of no where and soon these two scientists showed up. The female first. She called herself Beverly Rood but I her real name is something like Jay Redding. She was mad at Doug for bringing me there…”
Slowly and very hesitantly, Mom told me some of what happened. He avoided that monster as much as he could, mostly focusin’ on the scientists. I could see why he was a bit frustrated, it did sound confusing. ‘Specially when he said something about the scientists sayin’ something about my great-great-great-great grandparent (or something like that) and how it had to do with the fact Doug (and me, I assumed) had a stronger connection to my maternal daddy.
“He could have been lying,” Mom added near the end of the story. “He was dying and just wanted me to stay with him. He could have just been babbling on about anything to keep me there but… Well, I sort of understood it. Especially since you confirmed everything when you said you felt more connected to both me and your grandmother. Hold–hold on.”
Mom left the room and I sat down on the edge of the desk, rubbin’ my temples and trying to make sense of everything that had been said. I remembered when my abilities got stronger, when I went through puberty. Thinking I was inhuman, a monster. I might not have been a monster but was I human? How could I be completely human if my biological father was… what, born out of a test tube? Or did those scientists do something to him when his mother was pregnant? Did he even have parents?
What did they want to achieve, and who’s… ‘them’? I wondered, staring at the door as my maternal daddy headed back to the room. He had something in his hands and he immediately handed it to me. It was wrapped in cloth and he nodded at me. I removed the cloth and saw some sort of… plaque. It was old, it was very old. The letters were pretty worn but I could still make out the name Jacob Danevbie.
“I don’t know if it has to do with that,” Mom said softly. “Your grandmother gave it to me when I turned eighteen. Her father gave it to her. And he got it from his father, Jacob. I think Doug was telling the truth about the scientists thinking there was something that we got from him, from Jacob. Out of everyone in the family you could be connected to… it just seems a bit coincidental that it’s me, who was given that award, and your grandmother, who was also given that. Oh, and… now… I want you to have it.”
I touched the metal, not wanting to touch the letters in case more of them faded. “How old is this?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. It must be somewhere like… a hundred and fifty? He… Jacob, I mean, was the first man to get pregnant. Publicly, I mean. There must have been others before him that the media never found out about.” Mom sat down against the edge of the desk, next to me. “Kay Redding suspected it–the connection Doug had with me–had something to do with that. With Jacob, I mean. I don’t know what that means, but it’s been so long I doubt I’ll ever find out.”
“How come the scientists know about Jacob in the first place?” I asked, staring up at him.
“Er, apparently they can somehow defy age or something,” Mom mumbled. “I don’t know how old they are, but Kay Redding is my great-grandfather at the least. I did a bit of research after finding out that and also asked your grandmother. She confirmed that they were involved with the–with what went on, with Jacob and confirmed that we’re descended from them as well.”
My fingers curled against the battered, worn wood of the plaque. Defy age. Young. Healthy? “What do you mean, defy age?” I asked, not looking at him now. “They were like, young-young? Healthy?”
“As far as I could tell,” Mom said slowly. “Why?”
“N-no reason!” I snapped my head up and smiled. “Just curious. It all sounds very confusing, though.” I tried to sort out the facts in my head. Jacob. Connections. The plaque. Experiments. “So the scientists–the Reddings–would know more about my abilities?”
Mom stiffened and then reached over, taking my hand. “Yes but don’t get it into your head to go find them. The guy, Kay, seemed okay. He was going to try and help me escape and he made his sister promise not to go after you. But if you go after them then she might take that as she could have free reign over you. She might try to experiment with you.”
“I know finding out more about them is important to you but don’t you dare think it’s worth risking your life and freedom!” Mom pulled the plaque out of my fingers so he could clutch at both hands, staring into my face. “I don’t trust the female. I don’t trust what she might do to you.”
Well, that put a damper on my next question. I wanted to ask where I could possibly find them but I knew now my maternal daddy would not tell me. Who else would know? Grandma? If she worked with them at one point, maybe she knew something. Besides, if they defied age maybe they could… and if they could do things like that monster, or other wild experiments, maybe they could possibly–fix–cure–help Henri.
“WHAT?!” Grandma spun around and stared at me in utter disbelief. There was a flare of complete and utter pissed-off-ness that I never expected to feel in my grandma. “Why are you asking about them?” she demanded, narrowing her eyes now. “Did your grandfather say something?”
“No, no!” I promised. “Grandpa was asleep when I checked him. I heard about the Reddings from my mom. I was asking about my powers and stuff, and found out that it was cause Doug was an experiment.”
Mom blinked at me then moved to the sofa, slowly sitting down. “Dear, can you please repeat that last bit?” she asked and when I did, she went pale. “So that’s how Sebastian found out so much about the Reddings.”
Oh, crap, I thought. Did Grandma not know everything? Uh-oh. I hoped that Mom wouldn’t be too upset with me for this. “So, um, yeah, I w-was just wondering if there was any way to contact them.” I stood near her, wringing my hands and feelin’ real nervous.
Grandma shot a glare at me. “No. No way to contact them and don’t you ever try. Professor Redding is fine, he is nice. He is decent. But she is a——” It was very unsettling hearing my grandmother cuss. It wasn’t natural. Grandparents shouldn’t know or use words like that. “All right?” Grandma asked once she was done.
“If th-they know s-something about my p-p-powers then sh-shouldn’t I t-try to find out more?” I stammered, feeling scared she’d start going off on a tirade or something. I didn’t know WHAT to expect after that!
“Why don’t you sit down and tell me more of what is going on.” She pat the couch and I sank down, mumbling some of what I had been told. I had no clue what all she knew but judgin’ by her reactions she mostly didn’t know the Reddings had been involved with my biological father. When I asked her, she said that she knew my maternal dad had found out about the Reddings somehow but was never really sure exactly how. “I assumed he did research or something… I never knew…”
“Why are they so bad?” I asked. “I know–that my biological father was horrible, but it couldn’t be their fault his personality turned out that way. And if they were the ones to discover how guys can be pregnant, isn’t that good?”
Grandma gave me a weary look. “Oh, sweetheart, things… just aren’t as black and white as that. The Reddings have done some good things but that doesn’t make them good. Just like they have done bad things, and that doesn’t make them bad. They… are definitely in the grey area of life. He… more on the good side, and she more on the not-so-good side.”
“Why?” I asked, persisting with knowing as much as I could find out.
“She… does not care… about much,” Grandma said carefully. “Jay Redding. She does not care who she steps over and pushes down on the way to get what she wants. She–” Grandma sighed and took her glasses off, rubbing the lens with her shirt. “She has willingly killed people to keep her secrets. She tried to kill me. Where I once worked, I found out many secrets and she was going to let me die because of that. Two… two very good people did die that day, because she decided she was done with the main experiment. She is a very particular person and I don’t want you thinking she’d help you with what’s going on, because she wouldn’t. I don’t think she would. If she knew you had your powers she would lock you up somewhere and probably experiment on you like she did my s–“
Grandma stopped and looked away. “Like… what?” I whispered.
“My sister,” she replied, gulping. “My mother was not… a normal human. And what made her so different, my sister inherited.”
“Great-aunt Tempest?” I asked, trying to think. I didn’t know much about her, since she had moved away ages ago.
“Yes,” Grandma confirmed. “And when she was young, she was kidnapped by the Reddings–at least, by Jay Redding, and experimented on. She was younger than you when that happened, Serenity. She was just snatched off the streets.” Grandma leaned in and put an arm around me, putting her face in my hair. “No matter how many good things Jay has done, she will always have the evil deeds on her hands. Including murder.” Now she pulled away, letting go of me and sitting back, staring at the wall. “I don’t want you to have anything to do with them.” Her voice was low and a bit raspy. “Please.”
I was tryin’ not to cry. Mostly because she was trying not to cry. But how could I promise not to have anythin’ to do with them when they were the ones with the answers to my questions about my powers?
As the months went by I tried to find the Reddings via the internet. I couldn’t find anythin’ of importance though. There were reports about the deaths of Doctor and Professor Redding, way back eighty years ago. I checked the Roods (as Mom knew them by) and the Deargs (as Grandma knew them by) and found reports of deaths for them. After discovering both ‘Dearg’ and ‘Rood’ meant ‘red’ I tried to find anything on a Doctor/Professor combo involving words that meant ‘red’. I found tons of results but none of them panned out. Everything seemed like a dead end and I wondered if I’d ever get answers for my powers or–even more importantly–possible help for Henri.
Today was the day Duncan was leavin’ for school. Not a regular college, actually, but a police academy. He had surprised us all on his eighteenth birthday when he announced his decision to go into the force. He hadn’t indicated any desire before… but he acted happy about it. It wasn’t until later that night that I found out the truth–I also knew he didn’t tell anyone else the real reason.
He had told me that he wanted to put scum like that monster behind bars. He was worried others would just see his decision to join the police as a sort of vengeance but I understood his feelings completely. We couldn’t do anything about Doug, but I was proud that Duncan was going to put others like him away. Or at least, do his best.
“You know,” he said that night, “you should think about joining, too.”
“What?” I laughed. “Why should I join the police?”
“Your abilities.” He looked seriously into my face. “You could tell when someone is lying, or stuff like that. You’d be a great policeman. Er, policewoman.”
I just shook my head. No way was I going to do anything like that. He had a point but I just couldn’t go through with everything else. The training, the risk… “You’re braver than me,” I told him, punchin’ his arm lightly. “Just don’t take any risks, okay?”
He could have gone to any college really and then entered the force after, but there was a really good college specifically for those planning on entering law. It would give him all the training he needed in addition to the scholarly side of college. Unfortunately, it was in Bridgeport. So he’d be moving away from Sunset Valley for four years.
“I have no idea how my parents went through losing all three of us, if this is how it feels,” Mom was sayin’ to Duncan when I reached the first floor. “You better call.”
“I will, Seb,” Duncan promised. Shortly before his eighteenth birthday, he started calling our parents by their names. He said it was just too weird calling a man ‘mom’ anymore. “I’ll call tons, and visit tons. Especially if I get a car?”
“Hey, we’re helping pay for your new apartment, don’t push your luck,” Dad joked.
Everyone was saying their goodbyes and I gave Duncan a big hug before givin’ him the wrapped present. “Open it when you get there, not before,” I said. “But only after you call so we know you got there safely.”
“Don’t be such a worried old lady,” Duncan said, sticking his tongue out. “Jeff’s a better driver than I am. Er, not that I’m a bad driver,” he added, looking guiltily at our parents.
“Speak of the devil,” Mom said as Duncan’s friend pulled up in front of the house. With all of us helping carry stuff out, it didn’t take long to pack Duncan’s stuff in the van. I tried to avoid Jeff since I didn’t exactly like him, but as soon as I came outside he trotted over to me and began his usual routine of flirtin’. He also exclaimed loudly that he’d miss me most of all and then tried to kiss the back of my hand, except Duncan grabbed him and yanked him away from me.
“I don’t even like the fact her boyfriend puts his lips on her, what makes you think I’m gonna let you?” he said, half-joking, half-serious. Ah, thank Watcher for older brothers.
All seven of us stayed outside and waved as the two of them drove off until we couldn’t see the van anymore. Then there was some awkward silence as everyone felt quite sad, except for Simon since Duncan being gone meant Simon would get the ‘better’ bed in the room. Then Dad suggested going out to eat and I was happy when he said we could take Henri and Matthew, Matthew being Kaylee’s beau.
The outing took a lot out of Henri, as most outings did now. As soon as we were done eating, my parents let me take the second car to take Henri home. He looked very pale and tired, and it made me feel sick and worried. I reached over and held his hand for most the trip, knowing that time was ticking down. Dr. Laroche was spending more and more time at the hospital (at first that annoyed me till I realized he was doing research for Hen) so I was spendin’ a lot of time at the Laroches, keeping Hen company.
We were going to be seventeen soon. We were down to about two years.