I slipped noiselessly through the air vent. I was small and it was easy to wriggle through. My lips were tingling where I had kissed Caleb. My heart still pounding and my breath coming out in rapid huffs.
I moved slowly, my fingers gripping the metal shaft. The heat was outrageous and I was glad I’d taken off the jacket. My thoughts drifted back to Caleb every so often. Mostly memories of us, kissing or just laughing. He had always made me happy. I never understood how he did it, why couldn’t I make him happy? I knew he enjoyed being with me but I was sure I never made him feel as happy as he made me feel.
I was too carried away with my thoughts and memories I barely heard the voices. I stopped, holding my breath, I recognized one. James. But the other was a younger, more excited voice of a woman.
“But Chief if we don’t add another tank they might get through,” she insisted. I realized I was just below them. I moved a little closer to where I guessed they were standing.
“We had at least twenty tanks just outside San Francisco that night and they were unstoppable,” James answered bitterly.
“So you’re saying it’s no use even trying?” the lady demanded obviously annoyed.
“No,” he sighed. “Listen why don’t you decide? I can’t anymore,” I heard him moving away.
“But Chief! You’re the chief! You have to get them back!” the lady cried. “This was your plan! To lure them here, to trap them. The plan’s in place, you cannot stop now!”
“What if I don’t want to?” he sounded depressed. “It’s all wrong Becky. Do you realize what they’ve been put through? I’m their father! I can’t even protect them! Do you realize what you’re asking me to do here?” he was shouting. “You’re asking me to hunt down my daughters! Kill two of them, imprison and torture the last one! Becky, you have a daughter too. How can you not understand the pain I'm in?” he was still shouting. I could hear his footsteps as he moved rapidly towards Becky.
“At one my daughters were already getting a blood test every day, they were already locked up, they weren’t even touched. Becky, can you imagine your daughter in those circumstances? Don’t. It’ll give you nightmares,” I heard his footsteps as he started walking away again.
“So we let them go?” she called after him her voice cracked with emotion. My heart was beating in my chest but I didn’t even know why anymore. I had never realized how my pain had ripped James apart, had gutted him. I could have been a happy kid, healthy, that what he wanted the whole time. I could have been kept away from civilization so I didn’t hurt anyone. Maybe if I had lived a normal life I wouldn’t be such a monster. James had realized this years before, maybe even when he was watching my mother grow up. I realized then that he had always been on my side, even when I was wrong. All he wanted was for me to be happy. My actions had hurt him more morally than physically.
“I want them to live happily Becky. They never will and they know it. Let them choose what they want to do,” he answered in barely more than a whisper. “They deserve at least that. Don’t you think? Anyway, we have no way of containing them,” his footsteps numbed out as he walked away.
“But…the chamber we had made? Chief, what about that?”
“I can’t do this any longer Becky. I’ve been doing this for too long. I just can’t.”
“Don’t give up now. You’ve given your life to this facility.”
“If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t come back,” he murmured. “Or I would have sabotaged the operation long ago. I should never have let this go on.”
“Chief, it’s not your fault.”
“I just can’t,” I heard him moving away. I waited until Becky moved away as well her high heels clicking. I took a deep breath of the musty air and continued.
After a while, the vent headed upwards. I sat at the bottom looking up at the straight shaft. There was no way I could climb it. I ran my fingers through my hair and scooted back to a grill I had passed before. It faced upwards into the hallway. I worked at the little screws with my fingernails then finally pushed it up. I slid it to the side and peeked my head up. The hallway was deserted. I slipped up and out then replaced the grill silently. It didn’t sit perfectly anymore because of the screws but you really had to look closely to see it. I stretched my arms out for a second then ran my fingers through my hair.
“Director Morgan’s office now,” I murmured staring down the hall. I had no idea if it was the right direction. The hallways were all identical. There weren’t even any signs. I just kept walking.
More than once I would hear a voice coming down the hall and I would squash myself again the wall. Most times they would spot me and most time their lives ended there. I forgot to ask for directions every time.
I passed flights of stairs that at least let me know what floor I was on. I understood that I was in an area where I hadn’t been before, I had passed a locker room and what looked like a dining room. I knew that even unconscious I had never been there before. It was weird seeing the place where I was raised yet not recognizing it. I recognized the walls and floors alright but where they led was a mystery.
I must have wandered around for at least ten minutes before I found a sign. All it told me was where the exit was. I followed it looking around. Soon I found what looked like a large office. There were a bunch of cubicles with computers each and photos on their little walls. Besides the messy cubicles, the room was empty. I spotted a large corkboard on the wall by a door. There were photos of Concordia, Vigidis and me. Old photos of us growing up and newer ones of us in town. I studied the ones with Caleb and me. They had known a long time ago about us. In most of them, I wore my hat and my sunglasses, we were holding hands. But we stood out so much from everyone else in the street. We hadn’t been hiding at all. There were photos of the murders as well, security cameras who had managed to take a photo of our killing. They barely showed us, but I recognized our build easily.
Then there were photos of Caleb. It seemed they had his whole life pinned up. There were photos of him just a baby, there were photos of him and his mother on the beach when he was very little. Then his mother disappeared off the photos, the beach disappeared and the photos seemed to have darkened with his expression. I guessed his father in a few photos. There were prom nights, girls kissing him. There were even his school report cards. His phone number, his addresses. His school, his family. Everything was up there. He was such an easy target for them.
There was also a map of San Francisco and a list of the people we’d killed. I approached the list slowly scanning down the names. There were so many of them, it was scary to think I had murdered over half. I didn’t recognize any of the names. There were more men on the list than women. I stared at the names. Taking them in. Trying to remember each person. I gave up after the tenth.
I heard a shuffling of feet behind me and whirled around. The bond lady from before stared at me with wide eyes her feet rooted to the ground only a few steps from the door. I returned her glance coldly.
“Number 5,” her voice was trembling. She was trembling all over with fear. My powers were flowing through my veins, bloodthirsty. I glared at her and took a step closer.
“I would have thought this place would be in lockdown, what with the plan to trap us and all," I snarled.
“We are in lockdown,” her brows furrowed. She was shaking with fear. She knew exactly what I was capable of. “It’s really you.”
“Were you starting to think I didn’t exist?” I snarled taking another step towards her. She cried out and stepped back tripping. She fell to the ground. I took two strides closer and leaned over her.
“Where can I find Director Morgan?” I demanded.
“In his office,” she breathed obediently.
“Do I look like I know where that is?” I barked my brows mashing together. She gazed up at me her eyes wide.
“Uh…I… I uh. It’s down the hall,” she blurted suddenly pointing. I stepped over her and glanced down the hall. At the very end, I spotted two large double doors made of steel. I glanced down at the young woman and blinked once.
“Please don’t kill me,” she begged. “I have a family. A daughter. Please,” I snorted.
“What about my mother? You kept me locked behind doors all my life Becky. You wanted to find us, to lock us up again. Do you think I have any pity for you or your daughter?” she was speechless.
“I didn’t know it was like that,” she breathed. I rolled my eyes.
“How did you think it was like? Locked up, tortured. Did you think I was some kind of animal? That I didn’t have feelings, that I couldn’t feel? I am human! I am half my mother, a broken teenager and half my father. I am as much him as I am a mutant.”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t understand. I was told you were almost lifeless most of the time,” she stayed silent bowing her head with shame. I gazed down at her gritting my teeth.
“Who told you that?” she bowed her head. “You were stupid enough to believe that a vegetable could escape from this prison, get a boyfriend and return to save him. Didn’t my father ever talk about us?”
“Never,” she bowed her head even more. “He always kept his feelings to himself.”
“And just now, when you were trying to convince my father to catch us again. Had you realized what it was like for us?” she was speechless. I shook my head slowly. “Of course you did. You’ve always known. Killing you would destroy a little girl’s life,” I muttered, she looked up at me her eyes wide with hope. “And personally I’m not into killing mothers. But hurting you wouldn’t make much of a difference to her,” my eyes flashed and she cried out as her leg snapped backwards. Tears rushed to her eyes and she bent over her leg hugging it and wailing. I felt her strength flowing into me. My powers pushed me to do more damage, to kill.
“What’s the pin. To get into the office. There must be a pin.”
“220196, your birthday,” she gasped.
“Considerer yourself lucky,” I snapped walking in wide strides towards the large doors at the end of the hallway.
Pressing my ear against them I could hear voices on the other side. None of them I recognized but I could tell the room was very crowded. Director Morgan had visitors it seemed. I pressed in the pin and the locks clicked open. The voices in the room shushed immediately. I stepped slowly to one side and playing with my powers, I was able to push the open doors to the floor. They fell towards me crashing against the ground shattering the tiles.
“Which one is it?” Director Morgan shouted. “Where is she?”
I peeked into the room slowly. The walls were lined with armed soldiers and a large tank sat in the middle of the room. It was a gigantic room with high ceilings and a big window facing the ocean at the back. The walls were white with pot plants and large pipes shooting up into the ceiling. There was a wide desk set to the side where Director Morgan sat glaring. He was an old man with grey hair and a fierce expression. I had never seen his face before, but I knew. I knew he was my master, my great great grandfather, the man who had tried so hard to destroy me. He was the director. He was my target. Such an easy target.
I stepped into the open tossing my hair back. Many whispered my name like it was a curse. Like I was a curse.
“You didn’t really think you could capture me, did you? Now that my powers have grown?” I uttered loudly.
My voice was the only thing heard in the room. Except for their quick breathing. The soldiers weren’t even holding their guns up. They were trembling with fear. Some were wetting their pants. They knew there weren’t getting out alive. They knew it was the end. And so did I.
My eyes flashed and all of the soldiers on the left side slipped to their death the floor covered in their blood. The thick metallic smell wafted in the air, the walls turned red. Their strength filled me, I felt myself glowing. I felt the air whispering, soon I would be able to fly again. The soldiers and Director Morgan were squinting at me.
“Number 5,” he muttered. He stepped around his desk so he could face me. He wore a suit, dark blue, with a tie. His shoes were shiny.
“So kind of you to visit me before you leave,” he continued, clearing his throat. He rubbed his dry hands together slowly.
There was a gleam in his black eyes, a sharpness to his nose. He had high cheekbones, a straight brow, things that my sisters and I had inherited. “It’s so nice to see you again. May I ask you something?” he took another step towards me. “Why are you fighting me? Why fight to live among the humans, the less advanced, the homo-sapiens, when you are so much more? Why do you desire to live like them, when they are so beneath you when you are so much more powerful?” he continued to walk towards me. Old, though it seemed, he was still strong. He didn’t use a cane, he walked with his back straight. He stopped in front of me. Taller, he stared down at me. Behind him, the soldiers held their breaths.
“I’m sorry for what happened in the testing labs, I truly am. But everything I did, I did for you. My queen. You are a goddess. I was helping you, to unlock your power, to make you, embrace it,” he lifted his hands slowly and placed them on my shoulders. He gripped them tightly, staring deep into my eyes. His eyes, I recognized them, how could I not? They were the same as mine. Black, almond-shaped, cold. When I tried to step back he held me firmer.
“Number 5, my queen, my goddess. You’ve come a long way from killing goats. I’m so proud of you. And you’re still discovering your powers. Flying. What more is there for you? You’re only scratching the surface. You are the most powerful being, the most beautiful on this earth. Can you just imagine, what we could do? Together.”
“Together?” my words came out as a whisper. He nodded vigorously. His arms slipped around me tightly and he drew me into a hug. When he released me, he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and held me against him. He turned us to face the wide windows with the view of the ocean.
“You don’t know how the facility was started Number 5. I shall tell you. The secret is simple. The human race is coming to an end. A new race is appearing. What you were never told Number 5, is that there are men, with the same mutation as you,” I stared at him wide-eyed.
“But I thought—”
“That you were the only ones? Oh my dear, not at all. In fact, there are other facilities around the world like this one. But this one is the most important. Because this one is where you were born. And you are the most powerful. You are the true queen of your species. You are the true Eve. The men, you see, that we have tested show the same cellular construction as you and your sisters. Including the extra chromosomes that make you more than just human. However, it’s sort of reversed for your species, the women hunt, gain power, defend their families, while the men, who cannot control objects with their minds, and who do not need to kill to survive, raise the children. As you know, the child is a daughter, kills the mother. If the child is a son, the mother lives.”
“But, I know have any uncles, brothers…” I trail off staring out the window at the waves rolling, tipping, playing.
“No, your family line has remained rather feminine. The men of your species were discovered in the other laboratories. But like your great, great grandmother, Sue, males of your species have come from a human couple. We have discovered quite a few, there are more men, than females in fact. They live their lives without ever knowing how different they are. Their daughters, however, are never like you. No, a creature of your power has to come from a mutant mother,” he squeezes my shoulder. “ I remember when I first discovered it. A science exam, in university, I volunteered for their testing, to make some money,” he smiled down at me. “I never would have expected the results they came back with. You see, I’m like you. I am a Chimeramortus! I am more than just human! Do you want to know why your family is so powerful? It’s because you are my descendant. Sue and I, both mutants, have created such a bloodline!” he leaned towards me, stroking his finger down my cheek. I felt his warm skin against mine. “ You are my queen. We are the future. This world could be ours. We can be the new Adam and Eve of a new human race! A new species, even more powerful! Number 5. Eris,” I stared up into his eyes. I found I was shaking. He held me tightly.
“Everything you did to me, has only made me stronger,” I murmured. “You made me the weapon, the monster I am today.”
“Not a monster! A queen! The mother of a new species! Such beauty!”
“You are my creator. Whatever I am, you made me.”
“You are so special.”
“I am wrong,” I pulled away from him. He stared at me wide-eyed.
“I don’t answer to that!” I snarled.
“Eris,” he reached towards me, but I spun out of the way.
“We are not the future! We are not here to erase the human race. We are mutants. And we must be destroyed,” I turned away from him and used my powers to dissect the tank and make it combust in the centre of the room. The fire shot forward as walls crumbled under my powers. The soldiers in the room were thrown out the glass window to their deaths. My powers grew. I caved the ceiling in, picked up the shattered glass from the window and killed the remaining soldiers.
Director Morgan stood in the middle of the room, I made large metal pipes wind around his frail body. They curved under my powers curling under his arms and around his waist. They jutted him up off the floor and sent him flying towards the ceiling. I stopped him before he crashed through. The pipes held him dangling in the air above me. I stared up at him. I was still trembling.
“I’d like you to feel, the way you have made me, my sisters, my mother, my father and all the other people in this world you’ve destroyed, feel when you cut into us, a rip us apart. Body and soul,” I admitted acing slowly. He trembled with fear above me. The fire still blazed in the centre of the room and the walls crumbled around me. But I was in no danger. I was in total control of everything in the room. I felt my powers burning underneath my skin, pushing me to destroy everything.
“But I’m not the same sort of monster as you,” I continued. “I’ll just have to kill you,” I shrugged one shoulder. Director Morgan’s eyes were wide with fear. I met them coolly.
One of his legs snapped the wrong way and he cried out. His strength was a shock to me. It was so powerful, like when I hurt Vigidis and Concordia, his pain gave me so much more power. He was telling the truth, he was also a mutant, a Chimeramortus. I backed away slowly my vision clouding.
“Number 5, Eris no! Please! We are the same!”
“I am nothing like you!” I screamed. The glass in the room lifted and flew towards him. I showered him with the shards, he screamed out in his pain, and his pain filled me with more powers. I could hear the wind, I lifted myself up into the air. He was squinting at me. His blood dripped from his body slowly onto the broken floor below.
“You’ve destroyed so many lives,” I whispered.
“I only wanted to make you stronger! I only wanted to make you see your true potential! You are perfect! You needed to know that! Look at you!”
A pipe detached itself from the wall, I used my powers to wind it around his neck.
“I can never forgive you for what you have done,” I whispered.
Explosions from below me broke my concentration. The pipe tightened. Director Morgan’s head snapped off and slipped to the ground. A quick death. I had wanted it to be long and painful. I heard the thud as it hit the already bloody carpet. I didn’t hesitate, I wheeled around and bolted out of the room making the wall crashed together behind me. The roof caved in as I ran. The hallway behind me was up in flames, crumbling. They couldn’t take us back anymore. They had to find a new director, they’d have to rebuild the lab.
As I raced down the stairs I brought the flames along behind me, I cracked the tiles and caved in the ceilings. The flames moved rapidly surrounding me, destroying everything in its path. And I wasn’t stopping it. I could hear shouts and running feet. Soldiers. They dropped to their deaths as I passed them. I raced towards an exit door and pushed against it. The door swung open easily, I could see it lead out to the forest. I leapt forward.
Suddenly a large hand shot out and slammed the door closed in my face locking the forest away. An arm wrapped around my waist and tugged me away. I struggled and kicked my eyes darkening.
“Eris! Calm down! It was a trap!” a deep voice hissed in my ear. I recognized it immediately.
“James?” I glanced back to the exit door.
“It was just an image of the forest. It was the inside of a chamber, to hold you. It was a trap,” he told me in a whisper holding me tightly. Aghast I glared at the closed door. They had almost captured me. I had almost fallen into their final trap, if not for James…
“Come on,” his grip faltered and I pushed away. I looked up into his wide eyes. Wide with worry more than fear. He was also crying.
“What are you doing here?” I scolded, for some reason, I couldn’t be angry.
“I’m saving you,” he answered bitterly. “I can’t see you hurt anymore. I’m taking you far away,” he grabbed my wrist and tugged me behind him.
I was surprised he touched me at all, after so many years where he wasn’t allowed, I thought he’d be scared to touch me. But he trusted me, trusted me not to kill him. I had to trust him as well.
He ran down a smoke-filled corridor and slipped into another. He knew the building off by heart even in the smoke and ruins. I followed silently my eyes wide. My heart pounded in my chest. He pushed through a door and scrambled out into the open. The forest stood before us the tops of the trees already on fire. James didn’t hesitate, he pulled me downhill, towards the beach.
“Where’s Caleb?” I cried trying to hold back. James kept pulling stronger than me.
“They’re safe,” he promised. I stared up into his eyes then nodded.
We ran down the large hill as the forest went up in flames. Explosions sounded behind us loudly. I ducked my head at the pieces of burning laboratory shot over us.
“This way,” James tugged me to the side taking a simple trail deep into the forest. The roots seemed to stand up trying to trip me, the branches hold me back. My silver hair flew behind us full of leaves and dirt. Our feet pounded loudly against the forest floor. I could hear James’ panting, he wasn’t so young anymore. I was catching up, running beside him. He glanced towards me, his eyes sparkling. All he had ever wanted was for us to live happily. His daughters and him.
We crashed onto the beach, the sand flew up into my eyes as I gasped in surprise at the sudden change of scenery. The sun glared down at me, I was panting.
“Eris!” I heard his voice and my head snapped up. Caleb stood on the other side of the beach.
“Caleb!” I cried bolting towards him my heart pounding in my chest.
He grinned as he rushed towards me. I threw myself into his waiting arms. They slid around me, holding up my weight easily as his lips searched for mine. He trailed burning kisses up my face, digging his fingers into my hips. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, running my finger through his dark hair, pulling him towards me. He kissed me hard and passionate, we had no time to think about breathing, I only wanted to consume him, and for him to consume me.
I didn’t break away until Concordia ripped me off him her eyes streaming. She wrapped her arms around me sobbing my name. I comforted her, holding her tight and laughing through my own tears. I didn’t even know why I was crying. Maybe because we were finally free and safe. We had Caleb and James. The director was dead. I hugged Vigidis next, holding her tightly against me, her tears soaking the light cloth shirt I wore.
“We thought you were going to die,” she wept.
“I was fine,” I assured her, running my fingers through my long hair and took a few sharp breaths of air.
“Eris. Let’s get out of here,” Caleb breathed kissing the side of my neck, his arms tightly wound around my waist. I smiled and leaned towards him.
“Yeah,” there was a low blue boat lying in the shallows. I glanced towards it then back at Caleb. His dark eyes shone. Vigidis and Concordia walked slowly towards it.
“Our boat was destroyed by the soldiers, this is James’s,” Vigidis explained stroking the blue boat fondly. I smiled.
“Look,” I murmured asking the air. It obeyed, I grasped Caleb’s hand and lifted us up in the air. He gasped in surprise, clutching my waist tightly. I laughed and kissed him. He squinted down at me. I made the air hold him like it was holding me. He wrapped his arms around me tightly.
“I always knew you were special,” he murmured nudging the base of my throat with his nose. “But I’m the only man in the entire world to have an actual angel as a girlfriend,” I laughed tipping my head back. I felt my powers fading slightly. I brought us back down to the earth. “You are so perfect,” Caleb told me kissing me.
“Hey lover boy, you know boats right? What happens if Vigidis presses the red button?” Concordia asked. Caleb grinned up at her.
“Just as long as she didn’t remove the petrol from the motor we should be good.”
“How was I supposed to know how this thing worked?” Vigidis muttered.
“Could you come to check it out?” Concordia mumbled. Caleb grinned, kissed my forehead and jogged over to help them.
“Oh my god! What have you done!” he cried.
“What’s wrong?” Vigidis asked her eyes wide. He laughed.
“Nothing. You just locked the engine,” he chuckled. I heard James mumbling to himself behind me but I ignored him. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. James marched past me and up to Concordia. He handed her an envelope. She glanced at it curiously.
“Money,” he answered. Then he turned back to me. “All the money I have made working here. I have a house in Alaska, my mother still lives there, your grandmother. Or there’s a house in Miami as well. You could live there, or sell it and move wherever. This is enough money for you to live comfortably for quite a few years. You could find jobs, go to college. There’s quite a lot to inherit after my mother passes as well. Caleb, I’m counting on you to help the girls, they don’t know the world. Teach them how it works. Help them survive. Become a doctor,” he nodded to himself.
“James,” Concordia handed the envelope to Vigidis quickly and took a few steps towards him. “Aren’t you coming with us? We need you!”
“You don’t need me,” he smiled. “You’ll survive just fine without me. I promise,” he turned to me slowly. "Eris,” I watched as moved towards me. He wrapped his arms around me tightly. He flipped me up suddenly, I gasped. He cradled me to his chest like a child.
“I’ve always loved you, I need you to know that,” I saw the tears streaking down his cheeks. I stared up at him with wide eyes.
“Your mother loved you to the last breath. We both really loved you. She would have been so proud of you as well. Escaping. Living in the world. I am proud of you too. I love you, all, so much,” I felt my tears welling up behind my eyes. I could hear Concordia and Vigidis sobbing gently. One treacherous tear slipped down my cheek.
“I always imagined my parents,” I whispered through my tears. “Locked up for years, I imagined them coming. Holding hands, smiling. They would be finally coming to get me. They would hold their hands out and tell me to join them, to live with them and my sisters. We would have a brother too. They would carry me out into the world and send me to school. It would all have been a very bad dream,” James bowed his head, his tears slipped off his face and onto mine.
“I’m so sorry. So sorry. It was all my fault. Love, a family, a home, safety, it’s my fault that you never had any of that. I was the one who took everything away from you.”
“What have we been living for? All these years? Why?”
“I should have taken responsibility long ago. It was just because you were my daughters, that I couldn’t. I’m so sorry,” he tears streaked down his face freely.
“James,” Concordia murmured. I turned my head to see her kneeling in the sand with Vigidis. Caleb stood behind them, watching us. His eyes met mine. Caleb.
“Caleb, Caleb,” I murmured.
“I loved you,” James repeats. A click sounded. James gasped then held me tighter. So tight I could not breathe. I buried my face into his chest and closed my eyes. Caleb.