The Blyther

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Chapter Two (Part Two)

Arms folded across his chest, Declan Wade, Chief of Science, watched the porters hoist the mangled blyther bodies into the deconstruction chamber, where they would be reduced to fertilizer. Cremation was only for the obedient; these rogues would be made an example of.

“Sir.”

A muscle in his jaw twitched. He turned sharply at Attorney General Easton’s voice.

The tall black man approached with purposeful strides. He handed Declan a green sack the size of a pillowcase. “My men discovered this at a campsite five miles south of the crash. The outlier they found there was brought in for questioning, but he claims he was out fishing and saw nothing.”

Declan shoved a hand inside the pouch and pulled out a three-piece suit. Milo’s suit. It was cold to the touch. Custom tailored using the finest woven wool, with each article of clothing specifically designed to accommodate his figure as the baby grew. Declan’s baby. Frustration ripped through him. He clutched the burgundy fabric so hard that his knuckles turned white.

“The dogs latched onto the scent immediately,” Easton continued, nodding to the suit. “They led the enforcers two more miles south before turning west, but they lost it at about fifteen miles.”

Declan’s nostrils flared. “They… lost it?”

“At the river. He must have travelled by water to throw off the trail.”

Declan hurled the suit at the general’s chest. Anger seethed through him like poison, burning him, paralyzing him, turning his every muscle to stone. “Of course he did! Just because blythers are subservient doesn’t mean they’re idiots! Hence why we implant them with built-in tracking devices and euthanasia chips.”

Easton cleared his throat. “Blither 4px8 has neither, sir, per your instructions—”

“Because I didn’t want him to feel threatened,” Declan spat. “He’s more important than all the others. I never wanted to give him reason to run.” He squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the space between them. Easton didn’t know the stakes. No one did. Composing himself, he moved toward the general, the heels of his oxfords clacking on the metal grated floor. “I’m going home. Inject that campsite vagrant with truth serum and let me know what he says. If he never saw 4px8 as he claims, kill him. If he did, lock him up and call me immediately.”

“Yes, sir.” Easton straightened. “We will find the missing blyther.”

“And when you do,” Declan stopped at the man’s shoulder and turned toward his ear, “you had best pray he’s alive and unharmed, for your sake.”

He stormed down the steps of the facility to the first level, ignoring the stares of those in bio suits as he blared a slew of curses. What a nightmare. Two hundred years of blyther servitude without a hiccup—and now, a catastrophic train crash under Declan’s watch. He couldn’t believe Milo was gone. It had been a grave mistake, making him travel to the city with the “newborn” blythers aboard the Hermes instead of Declan’s private car.

Blinding sunlight assaulted him as he stepped outside the building. The security team ushered him into the back of the Argo 500 and the autopilot activated. Declan dragged a hand down his face, looking across the long vehicle at his husband. President Cormac Lozier’s stare was stone cold and assessed him frankly.

“Oh, enough already,” he grumbled, shrugging off his white lab coat. “It’s been four damn days of your hostility, and I’m sick of it.”

An icy air of command hung about the President. Everyone feared him, but not Declan.

“Hostility?” Cormac raised his chin, his sleek bald head and angular features giving him a handsome, powerful countenance. “Five thousand brand new blythers are destroyed. The Hermes crash is plastered all over the news, and I’ve been answering calls non-stop with questions I don’t have the answers to. I can be hostile towards you for as long as I fucking want.”

With a scoff, Declan reached for a bottle of scotch and a glass from the vehicle’s bar. He plopped an ice sphere inside the glass and poured himself a drink.

“This is your fault, Declan.” The man’s patronizing tone was like a hammer to the head, mocking Declan’s intelligence, pounding him into the dirt. “Imagine if, for a second, word of that escaped blyther reaches public ears. The entire nation will wonder how it happened under my leadership. They’re already questioning the safety of their own blythers. You’ve made a fool of me.”

The vehicle’s wheels turned sideways, and it began to hover. Leaning back in his seat, Declan took a sip of his drink. “I’ve already made a public statement to cover up the accident. There will be no intelligence leaks. Nobody will find out.”

“If the missing blyther isn’t found by the end of the week, call off the search.”

“I can’t do that. He’s too valuable.”

“And why is that, Declan?” Narrowing striking amber eyes, Cormac folded his arms across his chest. His mouth tightened a fraction more. “Why didn’t he explode like the others trying to escape? And why can’t you track him down?”

Declan swirled his glass, turning to look out the window.

“You did it on purpose, didn’t you? How many others have you tampered with?”

“None, except for him.” He dug his fingernails into his thigh. The cityscape loomed in the distance across lake Winnepeg, like a flaming beacon in the late afternoon, the way the sunlight glared off the shiny buildings. Anger, guilt, and regret swirled inside him like a powerful potion. Why had he made it personal? Why had he taken it so far? He should have used Milo for pleasure and nothing else. When he’d first laid eyes upon blyther 4px8, he knew he had to have him…

“Declan.” Cormac’s voice sliced into his thoughts. Declan turned. A flash of insecurity flickered across his husband’s face. After fifteen years of marriage, Declan had learned to identify that one, rare look. “Did you fuck him?”

Declan tightened his grip on the glass. “A blyther? Don’t be ridiculous,” he lied.

Cormac leaned forward. His silver tie dangled from his neck like a blade. “Then tell me what you’re hiding.”

Declan tossed his head back, gulping down the entire drink. Then he pulled his palm projector from his jacket pocket. “I’d arranged for him to travel on the Hermes to the capitol city, where I had a room reserved for him at the Rutledge Hotel. I was planning on telling you once he was settled in.”

Cradling the round device in the middle of his hand, he pushed the projection button. A hologram of Milo floated above, along with a series of genetic code and anatomic mock-ups. “Blyther 4px8 is the first phase of an eighty-year-long project developed by Europrasian scientists. He was specially designed for an apocalypse—a way to keep humans going at double the rate, if another threat to our existence should arise.” He fought to keep his tone even. When it came to science, passion often got the better of him. “Imagine if not one, but both sexes could naturally become pregnant, carry, and deliver a child? It could mean the very difference between success and extinction.”

Cormac furrowed his well-groomed, salt and pepper brows, studying the images with an unimpressed frown.

Brushing it off, Declan changed the image to a rotating diagram of Milo’s internal anatomy. “Again, blyther 4px8 is phase one, meaning he was developed possessing only a womb and birth canal. He still lacks ovaries and female hormones. Europrasian scientists gifted 4px8 to us ten years ago when their research hit a standstill. They were eager to collaborate, but Dr. Aelis wasn’t interested—”

Cormac stopped him with a raised palm. “Spare me the details and get to the point.”

Declan glared. He loathed when Cormac cut him off, and his husband knew it. “Fine. I was unaware of 4px8’s existence until Dr. Aelis retired last year. He’d been storing all the experimental blythers unsuited for public service in a private wing of the northern facility.”

“So, when you took over his position, you wanted to try your hand at what Aelis had rejected.”

“Dr. Aelis was stuck in the past and never had the vision I do. I want to resurrect this project and succeed where Europrasia failed. I want to successfully create phase two, after testing phase one. To learn about our capabilities through blyther experimentation, without jeopardizing our own humanity—””

“Declan...” Shutting his eyes, Cormac pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled. “Aelis was experienced and smart. He knew we were already playing with fire by growing genetically engineered servants in artificial wombs. See what happens when your ego gets in the way? Look what it led to.”

“I’ve been designing and growing blythers for the past twenty years,” Declan hissed. Acid anger rose like undigested food from his gut. He was sick of feeling inferior. Of being the “weaker link.” “Do I go around criticizing your political decisions, or compare you to past leaders?”

“We have enough to worry about here on our soil. Blithers aren’t real people. They’re not supposed to procreate.” Cormac narrowed his eyes. “Just as they’re not supposed to be violent.”

“They’re not violent, and they never will be. Their hypothalamus and limbic structures have been altered to make aggression impossible. The train crash was an accident.”

Cormac glanced out the window, his thin lips twisting into an icy countenance. “We’ll never know, will we? They’re all destroyed now, save for one.”

“All the more reason to find him.”

Cormac looked at him. “Has this blyther already been experimented on?”

Declan straightened, meeting his husband’s gaze head on. His heart pounded, but he refused to look vulnerable under the man’s critical squint. A few seconds of silence passed, save for the soft, almost inaudible hum of Mozart coming from the vehicle’s speakers. Cormac nodded in understanding.

“So, that’s why you can’t track him,” he said quietly, as if to himself. “You implanted this 4px8 with an embryo. You didn’t want to risk damage from the radioactive waves in a tracker chip.”

“It’s imperative we find him.”

Declan’s words were met with a contemptuous scoff. “Who knew a blither embryo was so important?”

Declan hesitated. “It… wasn’t a blither embryo.”

“What was it then?”

Another gruesome feeling of regret washed over him. “I never should have told him I intended to take the baby away. That’s why he ran.”

“Baby?” Cormac asked with a deceptive calm. “A human baby?”

“Yes, a human fucking baby.”

“Why would you do that?”

Declan shut off the hologram. “Because for years, we’ve discussed the idea of having children…”

“But we never followed through with any of those discussions, Declan.” Cormac’s voice rose in both volume and pitch. “That’s what they were—discussions! You just assumed I’d accept the result of this outrageous blyther science experiment as my successor with open arms?”

“We aren’t getting any younger. Everyone will think we hired a surrogate—”

“It’s a blyther for fuck’s sake!”

“But it’s a human child!”

“I’m calling off the search.”

“No! You can’t. We’re both bound to that child by blood.”

Cormac raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What does that mean?”

Declan looked away, unsure of how to go on. He braced himself for an inevitable eruption.

“Declan, what have you done?” Cormac pressed in the silence.

For the first time in a long time, Declan felt a twinge of fear gnaw at his spine. With a slow, deliberate inhale, he turned back toward his husband. Cormac’s gaze burned with such intensity Declan felt his soul shiver. It took but a second for it to click… and Cormac went pale.

“You didn’t!” he lunged with outstretched arms, grasping Declan by the throat. Declan slammed back against the vehicle door, trying to pry Cormac’s hands loose as he struggled to break free. “What have you done?” his husband bellowed.

Declan choked. “My sperm… with… your late sister’s… egg.”

“Esther?” Cormac’s eyes went ablaze. He released Declan’s neck, grabbed him by the collar, and yanked him up—bringing them face to face. “I’m going to kill you.”

Tearing himself free, Declan shoved Cormac back into to his seat with a hard kick. Cormac landed with his legs sprawled, staring across the vehicle in wild disbelief. A distant ambulance siren mingled with their heavy breathing, and neither man uttered a word. Cormac would come around. He always did. And when the time came, the search parties for Milo would triple.

Sitting up, Declan cleared his throat and tugged the wrinkles from his lab coat. “Congratulations,” he said with a ragged breath. “It’s a girl.”

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