“I thought he was,” Adam says, still not looking at me. “That’s what they told me.”
“Who did?” Kenji asks. Catches himself. Winces. “Shit. Fine. Fine. I’m curious.”
Adam shrugs. “It’s all starting to come together now. All the things I didn’t understand. How messed up my life was with James. After my mom died, my dad was never around unless he wanted to get drunk and beat the crap out of someone. I guess he was living a completely different life somewhere else. That’s why he used to leave me and James alone all the time.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” Kenji says. “I mean, not the parts about your dad being a dick, but just, like, the whole scope of it. Because if you and Warner are brothers, and you’re eighteen, and Warner is nineteen, and Anderson has always been married to Warner’s mom—”
“My parents were never married,” Adam says, eyes widening as he speaks the last word.
“You were the love child?” Kenji says, disgusted. “I mean—you know, no offense to you—it’s just, I do not want to think about Anderson having some kind of passionate love affair. That is just sick.”
Adam looks like he’s been frozen solid. “Holy shit,” he whispers.
“But I mean, why even have a love affair?” Kenji asks. “I never understood that kind of crap. If you’re not happy, just leave. Don’t cheat. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that shit out. I mean”—he hesitates—“I’m assuming it was a love affair,” Kenji says, still driving and unable to see the look on Adam’s face. “Maybe it wasn’t a love affair. Maybe it was just another dude-being-a-jackass kind of th—” He catches himself, cringes. “Shit. See, this is why I do not talk to people about their personal problems—”
“It was,” Adam says, barely breathing now. “I have no idea why he never married her, but I know he loved my mom. He never gave a damn about the rest of us,” he says. “Just her. It was always about her. Everything was about her. The few times a month he was ever at home, I was always supposed to stay in my room. I was supposed to be very quiet. I had to knock on my own door and get permission before I could come out, even just to use the bathroom. And he used to get pissed whenever my mom would let me out. He didn’t want to see me unless he had to. My mom had to sneak me my dinner just so he wouldn’t go nuts about how she was feeding me too much and not saving anything for herself,” he says. He shakes his head. “And he was even worse when James was born.”
Adam blinks like he’s going blind.
“And then when she died,” he says, taking a deep breath, “when she died all he ever did was blame me for her death. He always told me it was my fault she got sick, and it was my fault she died. That I needed too much, that she didn’t eat enough, that she got weak because she was too busy taking care of us, giving food to us, giving … everything to us. To me and James.” His eyebrows pull together. “And I believed him for so long. I figured that was why he left all the time. I thought it was some kind of punishment. I thought I deserved it.”
I’m too horrified to speak.
“And then he just … I mean he was never around when I was growing up,” Adam says, “and he was always an asshole. But after she died he just … lost his mind. He used to come by just to get piss-drunk. He used to force me to stand in front of him so he could throw his empty bottles at me. And if I flinched—if I flinched—”
He swallows, hard.
“That’s all he ever did,” Adam says, his voice quieter now. “He would come over. Get drunk. Beat the shit out of me. I was fourteen when he stopped coming back.” Adam stares at his hands, palms up. “He sent some money every month for us to survive on and then—” A pause. “Two years later I got a letter from our brand-new government telling me my father was dead. I figured he probably got wasted again and did something stupid. Got hit by a car. Fell into the ocean. Whatever. It didn’t matter. I was happy he was dead, but I had to drop out of school. I enlisted because the money was gone and I had to take care of James and I knew I wouldn’t find another job.”
Adam shakes his head. “He left us with nothing, not a single penny, not even a piece of meat to live off of, and now I’m sitting here, in this tank, running from a global war my own father has helped orchestrate”—he laughs a hard, hollow laugh—“and the one other worthless person on this planet is lying unconscious in my lap.” Adam is actually laughing now, laughing hard, disbelieving, his hand caught in his hair, tugging at the roots, gripping his skull. “And he’s my brother. My own flesh and blood.
“My father had an entirely separate life I didn’t know about and instead of being dead like he should be, he gave me a brother who almost tortured me to death in a slaughterhouse—” He runs an unsteady hand over the length of his face, suddenly cracking, suddenly slipping, suddenly losing control and his hands are shaking and he has to curl them into fists and he presses them against his forehead and says, “He has to die.”
And I’m not breathing, not even a little bit, not even at all, when he says,
“My father,” he says, “I have to kill him.”
I’m going to tell you a secret.
I don’t regret what I did. I’m not sorry at all.
In fact, if I had a chance to do it again I know this time I’d do it right. I’d shoot Anderson right through the heart.
And I would enjoy it.
I don’t even know where to begin.
Adam’s pain is like a handful of straw shoved down my throat. He has no parents but a father who beat him, abused him, abandoned him only to ruin the rest of the world and left him a brand-new brother who is exactly his opposite in every possible way.
Warner whose first name is no longer a mystery, Adam whose last name isn’t actually Kent.
Kent is his middle name, Adam said to me. He said he didn’t want to have anything to do with his father and never told people his real last name. He has that much, at least, in common with his brother.
That, and the fact that both of them have some kind of immunity to my touch.
Adam and Aaron Anderson.
I’m sitting in my room, sitting in the dark, struggling to reconcile Adam with his new sibling who is really nothing more than a boy, a child who hates his father and as a result, a child who made a series of very unfortunate decisions in life. 2 brothers. 2 very different sets of choices.
2 very different lives.
Castle came to me this morning—now that all the injured have been set up in the medical wing and the insanity has subsided—he came to me and he said, “Ms. Ferrars, you were very brave yesterday. I wanted to extend my gratitude to you, and thank you for what you did—for showing your support. I don’t know that we would’ve made it out of there without you.”
I smiled, struggled to swallow the compliment and assumed he was finished but then he said, “In fact, I’m so impressed that I’d like to offer you your first official assignment at Omega Point.”
My first official assignment.
“Are you interested?” he asked.
I said yes yes yes of course I was interested, I was definitely interested, I was so very, very interested to finally have something to do—something to accomplish—and he smiled and he said, “I’m so happy to hear it. Because I can’t think of anyone better suited to this particular position than you.”
The sun and the moon and the stars called and said, “Turn down the beaming, please, because you’re making it hard for us to see,” and I didn’t listen, I just kept on beaming. And then I asked Castle for the details of my official assignment. The one perfectly suited to me.
And he said
“I’d like you to be in charge of maintaining and interrogating our new visitor.”
And I stopped beaming.
I stared at Castle.
“I will, of course, be overseeing the entire process,” Castle continued, “so feel free to come to me with questions and concerns. But we’ll need to take advantage of his presence here, and that means trying to get him to speak.” Castle was quiet a moment. “He … seems to have an odd sort of attachment to you, Ms. Ferrars, and—forgive me—but I think it would behoove us to exploit it. I don’t think we can afford the luxury of ignoring any possible advantages available to us. Anything he can tell us about his father’s plans, or where our hostages might be, will be invaluable to our efforts. And we don’t have much time,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ll need you to get started right away.”
And I asked the world to open up, I said, world, please open up, because I’d love to fall into a river of magma and die, just a little bit, but the world couldn’t hear me because Castle was still talking and he said, “Perhaps you can talk some sense into him? Tell him we’re not interested in hurting him? Convince him to help us get our remaining hostages back?”
I said, “Oh,” I said surely, “he’s in some kind of holding cell? Behind bars or something?”
But Castle laughed, amused by my sudden, unexpected hilarity and said don’t be silly, Ms. Ferrars, “We don’t have anything like that here. I never thought we’d need to keep anyone captive at Omega Point. But yes, he’s in his own room, and yes, the door is locked.”
“So you want me to go inside of his room?” I asked. “With him? Alone?”
Calm! Of course I was calm. I was definitely absolutely everything that is the opposite of calm.
But then Castle’s forehead tightened, concerned. “Is that a problem?” he asked me. “I thought—because he can’t touch you—I actually thought you might not feel as threatened by him as the others do. He’s aware of your abilities, is he not? I imagine he would be wise to stay away from you for his own benefit.”
And it was funny, because there it was: a vat of ice, all over my head, dripping leaking seeping into my bones, and actually no, it wasn’t funny at all, because I had to say, “Yes. Right. Yes, of course. I almost forgot. Of course he wouldn’t be able to touch me,” you’re quite right, Mr. Castle, sir, what on earth was I thinking.
Castle was relieved, so relieved, as if he’d taken a dip in a warm pool he was sure would be frozen.
And now I’m here, sitting in exactly the same position I was in 2 hours ago and I’m beginning to wonder
how much longer
I can keep this secret to myself.
This is the door.
This one, right in front of me, this is where Warner is staying. There are no windows and there is no way to see inside of his room and I’m starting to think that this situation is the exact antonym of excellent.
I am going to walk into his room, completely unarmed, because the guns are buried deep down in the armory and because I’m lethal, so why would I need a gun? No one in their right mind would lay a hand on me, no one but Warner, of course, whose half-crazed attempt at stopping me from escaping out of my window resulted in this discovery, his discovery that he can touch me without harming himself.