by Tamara Wilhite
"Oh, that kid is hot
stuff," Nielsen said, a broad smile in his voice.
"Are you sure the kid is a
pyro?" Laramie asked, watching as the emergency staff assembled for a worst case scenario.
Nielsen slid a pair of protective
gloves on as he prepared to enter the holding cell. "Our recent discoveries makes it fairly certain." Nielsen went through
the secure door and heard the barrier close behind him.
The boy whimpered softly,
fear starting to take over. He screamed loudly in protest as Nielsen stabbed the tissue sampler into the child’s bare
leg. The results were beamed to those waiting behind the barriers, and then to Nielsen himself. The DNA test was conclusive;
child was a pyro, but his inborn talents were likely not to be active until he was older. If the child’s talent were
active already, Nielsen would have seen sparks flying already. He patted the screaming infant’s back, glad that his
protective suit protected him from both the conventional and unconventional dangers of children as the baby threw up. He carried
the child into the main building, eager for the more detailed DNA results.
Laramie took the baby from
him and began the more conventional tests. As she weighed the child, she whispered, "He looks so normal." The baby’s
squalls died back to whimpers as it took in the nurse’s motherly looking face. Her instant appeal to babies was one
reason she had her job in the first place.
"The few whose physical appearance
was dramatically warped have never managed to breed. At least, none that we know of."
"Perhaps they’re keeping
the strange looking ones to themselves."
"Or the strange looking ones
that are born die long before we see them."
"If you don’t go in
to find out for certain, how can you come to that conclusion?"
"Because most of the ones
doing the breeding look as normal as that child does, at least before their Talents kicked in. That goes for telepaths, telekinetics,
and pyrokinetics. None of the teleporters survived the revolt, so we don’t know what the long term physical effects
of their use of their abilities would have been. Most of students still looked normal when they rebelled. And everyone wants
their children to be like them. In this case, looking normal and having abnormal abilities. Most of my students would have
freaked out if their baby looked like one of the freaks."
"How do you know it is your
students having the breeding?"
"The DNA tests tell us who
the parents are."
"You could have freaks having
normal looking children who change with time –"
"We have all the DNA tests
of the first generation. We made them, remember? The only unknowns are what natural genetic recombination will do."
"There could still be freaks
"Oh, certainly. They had the
strongest abilities, and hence were the most valuable in the revolt. They were the most likely to join as well as to stay
in it. And the least likely to try to reconcile, since they were always the outcasts. The guestimate says a few dozen of the
extreme ones are still alive."
"Unless they’re buried
in anonymous graves out in that wilderness by the normal looking ones," Laramie replied.
"I thought you were sticking
to the worst case scenario," Nielsen retorted.
"I just can’t imagine
the freaks and the normal looking ones still sticking together. There were personality clashes in the revolt –"
"And the ones who wanted to
reconcile were allowed to come back – and then promptly incarcerated and sterilized. The die-hard fanatics are the ones
who stayed out there. The ones who thought of themselves as more human than not mostly tried to rejoin humans. The ones who
thought of themselves as talents first and partly human secondarily usually saw the freaks as more evolved or mere versions
of themselves. The ones who went out there and stayed out there see themselves and the freaks as one kind. It’s hard
to imagine, but the psyche profiles make it the most likely scenario."
"I can’t imagine it,"
Laramie muttered as she slipped a diaper on the baby.
"That child’s parents
chose to go out there. That child’s parents chose to stay out there. That’s what they most likely think, based
on the psyche profile."
"That child’s parents
also chose to abandon it at the way station here. What do you think they think about that?"
"A lot of pyro kids in the
Project burned themselves up after their talent started manifesting. More of them caused major accidents while learning to
control their abilities. The parents probably panicked when they realized they had a pyro on their hands and decided to leave
it here before it got them or anyone else killed."
"Do you see a lot of pyros
"Yes. Most of them have the
same father, though, so it may not be a genetic advantage pyros may have."
"Who would breed with a pyro?"
"Oh, the main culprit responsible
was handsome and fairly witty. If you met him, you’d think of him as a ladies’ man and a smooth talker. You would
only know he was one of them if he lit up a trash can for show - or via DNA test."
"He looks entirely human,
"Acts it, too. The others
were initially reluctant to even think about sex. Duncan was adamant about getting in touch with at least that particular
aspect of his nature."
"DCN1. He called himself Duncan."
"What did this one’s
mother call itself?"
Nielsen reviewed the genetic
"I can see the alphanumeric
designation. What was her name?"
"I don’t know."
"I thought you knew them all."
"I did. But the boys I could
relate to. I was a father figure to them. They often shared the names they gave themselves with me. The girls typically did
not relate personal feelings to me. The dorm mother usually had that confidence with them."
"Can you ask her?"
"The dorm mother? Oh, no,
she died in the revolt."
"How did she die?"
"Like most of the others,
she was killed by the students."
"That was the easiest, most
lethal talent any of the kids had. In her case, I believe it was a telepath."
"Telepathy can’t kill.
They can only read minds, not manipulate them."
"Feed on someone’s paranoia,
push all their buttons, drive them insane or to distraction that they do not watch where they are going – that can kill.
Unfortunately, it was also a mostly feminine talent. The telepaths also knew not to talk too much to the adults, when they
began to develop their abilities. That was one way they were able to plan the revolt without adults being too much the wiser."
Laramie added. "And to know
what we ultimately planned on doing to them." She absently held the child, keeping it calm as the MRI scanned them both. "Didn’t
a few telekinetics escape?"
"Yes, but they tended to think
of themselves as human. Most likely to come back, as well. Pyros are feared early on, they see the distrust of humans against
them, and immediately absorb it into their egos. Telepaths know what you think – or at least feel – and can feel
the difference even when they want to fit in. Telekinetics never experienced the visceral distrust of the teachers."
"They were the first to take
the offer and end up imprisoned."
"Lobotomized?" She asked.
"The neural structures are
different in Talents. It isn’t called a lobotomy."
"Yes. Close enough."
"This one’s mother is
"Yes, I’ve noticed that
about Duncan’s breeding. Almost all the children he’s fathered – that were dropped off here – are
"Why the preference?" Laramie
asked as she changed the child’s diaper.
"Supposedly, sex with a telepath
is quite … an experience."
"How would you know?"
"I wrote the reports."
"Based upon first hand accounts
or first hand experience?"
"They rebelled as teenagers.
What else do rebellious teenagers do?"
"I suppose that means that
if you had slept with one of your students, it would have been grounds for termination."
"Sleeping with one of my creations
would have been more akin to incest."
"Why? If you hardly attribute
humanity to them, how can you attribute family attitudes to them?"
"Despite my professional detachment,
the emotional imprint is there. I did help create and raise them in a familial structure."
"That makes them siblings."
"True. However, there were
over 100 who survived the revolt and fled. That is too large a family for the sibling incest instincts to take hold in. Given
the variance in appearance I programmed into them, they don’t all look like siblings."
"How did you arrange this?"
"What? The Project?"
"No, the drop-offs," Laramie
"They’d fled to the
caves and hillocks of the area, making search and seizure operations difficult. Place a few pyros at the entrances, and you
effectively prevent anyone from getting in. Add telepaths keeping watch and move from time to time through the cave networks,
and no one can catch you without storming the whole region."
"That explains why they haven’t
been retrieved. Why the drop-offs?"
"They started breeding immediately.
I suspect a few girls wanted to get pregnant and make babies of their own to create the feelings of love and bonding that
they experienced indirectly from mind reading but had never experienced themselves. "
"The capture of that nurse
in Mackenzie Point?"
"Yes. To take care of the
"Didn’t they kill her?"
"The heart attack may have
been from prolonged stress. If you were stuck in a cave system for months on end, watched over by the freaks, your every thought
monitored by telepathic girls and a hot brand of discipline, wouldn’t it raise your blood pressure?"
"That explains her death.
It doesn’t explain this one’s presence."
"There were births. A few
of them died in childbirth – mothers and children. The contact who arranged the drop off was quite honest in that regard.
A few babies died from bad genetic recombinations." Nielsen grimaced as the baby boy burped loudly around his bottle. "Then
again, we didn’t think they’d have had this fertility level to begin with. Anyway, many of children had talents
developing far earlier than their parents. I suspect that the activation genes matched up during recombination, accelerating
the development. If teenagers had trouble controlling their own Talents under the direction of a team of doctors and other
experts, what would young Talents do? They had no idea what to do with children experiencing something as radical as their
own abilities. And at such early ages, the children had even less control than the parents had, and were far less teachable."
"Weren’t you the one
who arranged the drop offs?"
"No. It was one of my assistants.
The Talents had children they could not control. They didn’t want to be killed by their own children, so they needed
a disposal method. And, I suspect, they wanted the only help available."
"You mentioned deaths among
"A toddler set the family
bed on fire in a tantrum killed at least three people total. That is why they get rid of babies they suspect are pyros. Telekinetic
children are only dropped off if the altered biochemistry is killing them; they care enough about their children to want them
to live, but only give them to us when the choice is seen as life or death. We’ve never had a telepathic child dropped
Laramie shuddered, "They may
be breeding a race of super-telepaths."
"And the pyros they are disposing
of will easily control them."
Laramie blinked in surprise.
"This one is going to be a
pyro and a telepath."
"I thought Talent was an either-or
"That’s what we thought
when they were made, as well. It is what the Talents in hiding probably think, as well. However, they – or their children
- have proven otherwise."
"Carrying the genetic markers
for two Talents shouldn’t result in dual talents."
"This one’s older half
siblings have already proven it is so."
"You’re allowing the
children to live?"
"That was a requirement of
the agreement. And it is one we are willing to keep."
"How would they know if the
children were killed?"
"I suspect that telepathic
mothers have an imprint on their offspring that let them know. I doubt they would have made the arrangement in the first place
if they didn’t have a way of monitoring it. They certainly wouldn’t have kept it up if they thought the worst
was happening. They know we are raising their children without treating them badly. They may even know how the children feel
"How could they monitor children
telepathically over the distance?"
"Awareness of the individual
was proven to take place over kilometers, even hundreds of kilometers. And the offspring are kept a few hundred kilometers
"What happens if they want
to retrieve the offspring?"
"Oh, we have sufficient guards
and non-human protective measures that anyone attempting to break through would be captured and contained."
Laramie stopped rocking the
child absently and placed it directly in the crib that Nielsen jokingly called the kid containment area. "How could they tell
which children are which talent if the talents don’t manifest until they are older?"
"One talent tends to be dominant
within dual Talents. Duncan’s offspring – those we received – are predominantly pyro. They can be trained
to use their telepathic ability, as well. Those that are predominantly telepathic must be sensed as telepaths somehow and
"How could you prevent this
one’s siblings from holding their own revolt?"
Nielsen smiled grimly. "We
take measures to ensure that."
"What do you do?"
"I try not to think about
"Why? Is it bad?"
"If I do not think about it,
a telepath could not potentially pick it up."
"I was merely curious," she
"It’s a human trait
I understand all too well," Nielsen stated empathically. "That was why the Project existed in the first place."
"I thought the Project was
to create the next stage in human evolution."
"It was to see how far it
could go. It was an exercise in curiosity."
"Why not hunt down the remaining
first generation, if that exercise got out of control?"
the experiment for us."
"I don’t understand."
"We intended to see what various
artificial genes would do. We’ve seen the result in the first generation. The next logical step would be to see what
combinations of those genes would do – testing the dual Talent hypothesis, for example. Since the Project was lost,
we could never get permission to attempt to create a potentially greater Talent pool that was even more dangerous. However,
by leaving them alone, they are giving us the data we want with minimal risk to ourselves."
"And the children you want."
"Inadvertently, of course."
Nielsen smiled down at the child as he burped. He looked very little like Duncan except for the shock of jet black hair. "And
we haven’t completely lost the parents. We can always recapture them via their children."
"A telepathic mother’s
bond would certainly alert them to abuse. And as good parents, they would seek to stop it. We would capture those who attempted
to retrieve their children."
"That would only bring in
"Yes. But torture the adults,
and the rest come running to make it stop. It’s a tangled web they weave, and it’s how we can catch thee." Dr.
Nielsen tickled the baby’s foot, watching the child kick his hand away in an effort to sleep peacefully.
"Could you do that?" Laramie
"When we were testing the
strength of that premise before the revolt, we confirmed that they instinctively try to protect their own. It was during one
of those tests that the revolt broke out."
"Wanting to protect your children.
Wanting to protect your friends. It’s so basic. It’s natural. It’s almost human."
"I know," Dr. Nielsen said
as he pulled booty onto the child’s bare feet. It immediately stuck a fist in its mouth and began to suck on it sleepily.
The child was cute and of calm disposition. It was almost perfect, except for the evil that lay within its genes. "It’s
their greatest weakness."
Nielsen noted the child’s
identity number in the records, DCN1- KLR5, cross breeding 3. He assigned a new alphanumeric number and tattooed the child,
its screams muted by Laramie’s practiced injection. Nielsen smiled at the child as unconsciousness claimed it. "Whether
you grow up to help me round up your errant parents, or your sound beating brings them bashing down my door, we’ll get
them back one day. Then the experiment will truly be over."
"You’ve planned it out
so thoroughly, so cleanly." Laramie murmured with more than a hint of praise.
"It’s an inborn