After the Tilt: Book 2

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 29: The Science of Extortion

“I am sorry I cornered you like that yesterday, but you gave me no choice. Ever since we got here, you have been avoiding me.”

I had made it a point to go to breakfast late, consequently avoiding everyone. But Evian had obviously caught on and this morning, he was waiting for me.

“I’m not avoiding you. I’ve just been busy,” I said, trying to sound casual.

I grabbed a plate and tossed a piece of dry bread on it; I looked around for the jam.

“Here, the strawberry, it’s your favorite isn’t it?” said Evian while holding up the jar.

“You’re annoying, you know that.”

He smiled.

“That’s what little brothers are for.”

That irked me even more.

“So about last night. The fire. What did you think?” he asked.

“What am I supposed to think? I can absorb energy. I think we already knew that.” I was being rude and dismissive of course, but it was too early in the morning for this. I didn’t want to be near him. I didn’t want to talk about last night.

“You need to figure out how to use your Heighten Characteristic.”

“Why? So, I can become your human super weapon?”

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“Then why don’t you tell me about it? Why all these mysteries? Don’t you ever get tired of lying?”

“In this world, Fenn, knowing too much will get you killed.”

“So, in other words, you are just like Hana.”

He grumbled.

He changed the subject.

“Did Meyer give you the package?”

“He did.”

“Did you get the letter.”

“I did.”

“What about the reports?”

“I read them.”

To avoid answering any other questions, I took a bite from my bread and started chewing loudly.

“Meyer wasn’t donated to the Research Center on Life Design. He was surrendered. Before killing our father, I took a trip down his messed-up memories. I saw atrocities I wished I had never seen. Our father was a monster blinded by the righteousness of science. He had to be stopped. His madness had to be stopped. So, I took it upon myself to see it done.

Dr. Shan Li from Ortus University had one very vocal opponent. Dr. Hardi Eyer of Centralis University would openly criticize the ethics behind father’s research. It got to the point where their scientific feud became personal.

Father made it personal.

He managed to have Dr. Eyer’s son surreptitiously infected with aethereusian characteristics.

Father had long lost his funding. He was on the verge of losing everything.

When Dr. Eyer discovered that his beloved son, Charles Joseph Eyer, had unexpectedly and mysteriously developed aethereusian characteristics, he reached out to the only person that could help. He hated Shan Li, yet, he was willing to do anything for his son.

Unfortunately for Dr. Eyer though, it was all part of Dr. Li’s scheme. Shan readily agreed to perform the modification procedure, but he requested an absolute outrageous fee. Dr. Eyer saw right through him and refused to pay. His son was seized: But Charles Eyer was special. He was gifted. Dr. Eyer was able to obtain him a spot at Nova Summus Orphanage, thus keeping his beloved son close by.

This didn’t discourage our father. As a matter of fact, this was just the start of a very lucrative business for him! With the help of our mother, he began infecting with aethereusian characteristics more of the babies born at the University’s hospital. He would then extort money from the parents by agreeing to perform the modification procedure underground, for a hefty cost.

I had thus far in my life believed in father’s project. I believed in uniting humanity. I had come to see father’s act of defiance toward the government who had seized his research, as a heroic act of social justice. It was no secret; the government wanted to use his research to develop a human super weapon. Dad’s fight was for humanity. Or at least, I thought so.

But that was wrong. I was wrong. It was a fluke that I wandered into his memory. I was searching for Lianna. I wanted to find a way to connect with her. I wanted to save her. I wanted us to be a family again. But instead, what I found inside Shan’s mind was darkness. I couldn’t believe that the man who had dreamed of uniting humanity, was now living his life extorting money from helpless victims. Preying on the most innocent of all, babies and young children. But even more disgusting, many of these infected children were sent to orphanages after the parents refused or couldn’t afford the price of the procedure. I came to harbor a deep hatred for the man I had once idolized.

I confronted Lianna with my new-found knowledge, trying to secure an ally within the family. My plan was simple. Her and I, we’d run away from this mad house. We’d start our life again, somewhere else. Far from here. Maybe even outside Antarticum. I told her everything I knew about father’s research and his descent into exploitation.

I expected her to be angry.

I expected her to lash out for the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of our parents.

But instead, she defended them.

She saw it as pay back for the Melior’s way of treating Aethereusians like criminals. They were getting a taste of their own medicine. She rejoiced in it. I could understand her feelings. She had after all, paid the price heavily over the years, for being what she was. But the hatred she harbored was directed at the wrong people. These babies being infected had done nothing wrong. Many times, over, I tried to reason with her. We had to stop father.

With everyday that went by, more babies were infected and we became richer. I felt responsible, the guilt weighing heavily on my shoulders. I was 11, Lianna was 15. I was being consumed with the idea of putting and end to it. At the same time, my sister was going through a similar obsession, she wanted to make the world pay. But, for having ventured into her memories, I also knew that above all, she wanted to find you. She wanted to have a family. She wanted to be cared for and accepted. She wanted her mother’s love. And then there was mom’s new research…

I couldn’t force mom to love her, but I could find you. I devised a plan. I thought if I could just force her to pick between you and father, she would come around and realise the monstrosity he was and the sinister ideals he stood for.

She was kept in her room, locked, at all time. I stole the key and told her to follow me. Mom and dad were drinking their coffee in the piano room.

How long had it been since she had last been in there? I didn’t ask her. I pulled out from under my sweater, a gun that had been given to me on our last visit to the local military camp. I didn’t know how to use it, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t planning on using it. I just wanted to scare Lianna. The rest would be achieved through mind manipulation.

I brought her to the piano room, and I threatened her. I told her: “You pick one or I pick two.” I raised the gun to eye level and aimed it straight at father.

“Who will it be? Fenix or our parents?” I asked.

It was clear to me, as long as our parents lived, there was no hope of redemption. I wanted her to realise that. I wanted her to leave with me. I wanted her to help me find you. I wanted her to pick you. Had she picked you, our story would have been so much different.

But she didn’t. She refused to pick. She stood silently, staring at her piano.

I wanted to scare her, I wanted to test her. I wanted her to hate mom and dad. But I was 11 years old and my plan was poorly thought out. Poorly executed too. I had no plan B. In a moment of panic, I pulled the trigger. The bullet flew out. There was no turning back. I watched as mom lunged forward and took the shot right in the head, protecting the husband she loved.

My hands started shaking, but I didn’t lower the gun. It was too late. Too late, I kept telling myself. I had gone this far. There was no turning back. I got into a heated argument with Lianna. She was hysterical. Yet, she didn’t try to stop me. Neither did Dad. He just sat in his chair, perfectly still, holding his coffee mug. I remember, I could see the steam coming off the hot liquid.

There was no turning back. If Lianna wouldn’t choose, then I would.

I chose you Fenn. I chose YOU! I chose you because you are special. You of all people can put an end to this! You are the other half of me. So, I shot dad.

I killed him.

It’s funny, I remember the sound of the ceramic mug exploding as it hit the marble floor. But I don’t remember the sound Shan made as he collapsed to the ground.

Lianna accused me of being the monster. I had destroyed the little she had. I had made orphans out of us. As I tried to cover up the crime scene, she walked away. I was left with no choice but to disappear. I had just killed the most decorated scientist the world had ever known.

But at 11 years of age, there was nowhere for me to go. To survive, I made a deal with the government. I had after all, inadvertently solved one of their ever-growing problems. Shan Li was a thorn in their side, and then there was mom’s research as well. They would pin the murders on Lianna and erase my existence on paper, but in exchange, I would have to work for them.”

“If you can’t beat them, join them,” I conceded.

“Yes… something like that…it was a good deal at the time. The best deal I could hope for. It gave me access to a wealth of information and brought me close to the continent’s leadership. It helped me establish a network within the confines of the government. Meyer became my eyes and ears, as I did everything in my power to keep Lianna safe.

The rest is her story.”

“I get it, Shan Li is a monster… but what of the Heighten Characteristics?”

“I’m sorry you got caught up in all of this. In our own ways, we both meant well.”

“Why does everyone keep talking about a human super weapon?”

“Because to Meliors, this is what we could be. You, Me, Eli and…. As you know, Heighten Characteristics are powerful. And some are even more powerful than others. Someone once said, with great power comes great responsibility. But it’s more than that, Fenn. Weapons can protect, however in the wrong hands, weapons destroy. To our knowledge, there are two of you who share the same Heighten Characteristic. The government used to own the both of you. We stood no chance. But now, with you in our camp, we have levelled the playing field.”

“This other person you are talking about… can he control his characteristic?”

“I haven’t seen him in a while, but I believe he can. You have a lot of catching up to do Fenn.”

“Can you teach me?”

“I don’t think anyone can teach you, this is the kind of thing you need to figure out for yourself. This is the kind of thing you must want.”

“I don’t want to kill people… anymore.”

“Fiori told me. But you know it’s inevitable.”

“I can render people unconscious. It doesn’t hurt them.”

Evian frowned.

“I’m getting really good at it,” I said trying to convince the both of us.

I wasn’t fooling anyone. I took another bite from my bread.

“Who are you practicing with,” he asked skeptically.

“Eli. I mean we haven’t practice in a while, but we’ve practiced before.”

He stared at me. He wasn’t buying it.

I took another bite.

He scratched his forehead.

“I’ll practice more. I promise.”

“You do that.”

I was done my piece of bread. The gap between us remained, consisting of mistrust and awkwardness.

We both stood there for a while. The conversation had ended but there was still so much left to be said. I got up, I put my plate away and grabbed an extra piece of bread on the way out.

Can I really render people unconscious? Quickly enough? At will? In battle?

There was only one way to find out. I stashed the extra piece of bread in my pocket and decided to pay Ashe a visit. Maybe she would let me train with her.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.