Chapter 4, Part 2
They crowded into Braxton’s SUV and Sam, still mistrustful, took the motorcycle. Abigail sat on Cassie’s lap, huddled in her arms. Images of Mariah’s limp form replayed over and over in Cassie’s numb mind. If she had been there, she could have helped. If she had called immediately, maybe they would have had some sort of warning. If she hadn’t stopped when Sam fell, she could have gotten there in time to save both of them. If only…
“Hey,” Josh’s voice interrupted softly. He watched her over Caleb’s head. “You can’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”
Cassie turned away. He didn’t understand. It wasn’t his family.
“It wasn’t, Cassie,” Caleb nudged her side.
She scrubbed her nose on her jacket shoulder and waited for Abigail to make herself comfortable again.
“Maybe, but I’m still responsible for all of you,” she nudged him back. “How come you never told me you had a brother?”
“Oh, well um…I thought he was dead.”
“And I thought he was back home in Canada,” Josh put an arm around his younger brother. Caleb grinned a little sheepishly.
“I guess we both have some explaining to do?”
“Something like that,” Josh grinned. Cassie watched them, just grateful something good had come out of this thoroughly miserable day.
They pulled back in front of the rental house after taking a long, winding detour to make sure nobody was following them. So far the coast was clear. Five minutes later, Cassie once again found herself at the kitchen table, her adopted family clustered close. Caleb sat a few inches away, caught between them and his blood brother.
“All right, um…does anyone want tea?” Dr. Braxton asked.
“Or something normal like soda,” Luke interrupted. Cassie saw Abigail and Caleb perk up at the mention of the beverage that was something of a luxury to them. Luke handed them both a can with a wink and got water for Cassie and Sam. Introductions were made all around. Abigail shared a shy wave and Sam simply nodded, keeping his hands shoved in his pockets. He was usually reticent to touch other people given his ability.
“Well, first things first,” Braxton said when things had settled back down. “I’ve found that explaining things up front usually avoids some confusion later on. I was one of the scientists that worked on the Novum project and had some contact with all of your parents.”
“All of ours?” Cassie was confused.
“Ah, yes. Abigail Parker?” Abby nodded wide-eyed, half convinced the doctor was a magician to have discovered her name.
“You see, all of you are connected by Novum which is why I think you have these abilities,” Dr. Braxton continued. “A few years ago, a Dr. Amelli, another scientist and actually a colonist, came to the military and saying he thought something dangerous had come back from the planet. He thought the alien “attacks” were all part of a plan to create a new species to help them attack Earth. He had some evidence but eventually got laughed out. Since then, he’s gone on to hire private security and assemble a team of researchers to try and figure out what exactly happened on Novum, or what produced your abilities. Since then, the military has asked me to look into it myself. They’ve put together a top secret team to research it and figure out if Amelli needs to be stopped.”
“What about my parents?” Cassie blurted.
“They’re not the only ones that have gone missing,” Dr. Braxton kindly explained. “Some of the other settlers have died but official rulings states there was nothing suspicious. We have a team looking into that as well as another keeping tabs on anyone who stepped foot on Novum.”
Cassie felt some relief. After she’d run away four years ago, she’d still go back and quietly check on her parents. Just because she was some kind of freak didn’t mean she didn’t care about them. But two years ago on a trip back, all she’d found was an abandoned house. They hadn’t packed or taken the cars. They were just gone. She couldn’t exactly tell the police either because they’d take her in as a runaway and place her with CPS- the last place she wanted to be.
Sam looked uncomfortable at the mention of parents and changed the subject.
“So you’re saying our…abilties…” he paused at the word, “are somehow connected to the planet?”
“Yes, I think so. After Dr. Amelli’s reports saying he thought something had been passed down to the children of the colonists, I started to look at any descendants. Then we found Luke and Josh and a few more data points were gathered to support the theory,” Braxton said.
“Data points,” Sam grumbled under his breath, not pleased with being labeled as such.
“So this Amelli person thinks we’re dangerous?” Cassie asked.
“I’m afraid so. In his reports, he advocated finding all of you and ah…well…” Braxton trailed off, leading to wild, and not positive, speculation in his guests’ imaginations.
“So what do you think?” Sam asked, defensively crossing his arms.
“I don’t think you’re dangerous at all. In fact my mind finds it all rather fascinating. The human genome is a wonderful thing and with preliminary research with Josh and Luke, I’ve discovered some fascinating changes. I’d love to…”
“Here he goes again,” Luke rolled his eyes. Braxton checked himself with a sheepish grin.
“Luke is quite interested in it himself although his attitude would suggest otherwise,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah,” Luke grinned. “So what can y’all do?” he addressed the newcomers eagerly. Cassie gave the OK and Caleb nervously stood.
“Probably easier if I showed you,” he glanced around before going over and picking up the stove. Josh’s eyes widened, somehow not grasping before now that his kid brother also had strange abilities.
“Dude! That’s awesome!” Luke fist-pumped the air. “Can you bench press me?”
“As long as you’re not more than 550 pounds,” Caleb smiled.
“I’m not that fat!”
“You can lift how much?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, what can you do?” Caleb demanded. Josh showed him and Abigail smiled, recalling how she had been saved from Amelli’s henchmen. Next Sam cautiously allowed his hand to produce some flame and then Abigail tried to explain her ability.
“And the other girl with you?” Braxton asked.
“Mariah can move through things,” Cassie hastily explained. “Does Amelli have her? Can we get her back? Will she be all right?” questions piled over one another.
“Yes, and we will do our very best to,” Braxton reassured them. “We’ll have to go back to our base. They’ll be better equipped to handle this kidnapping than the police will be, obviously. You four will need to come. Captain Armstrong will want to speak with you and I’d like to – if you don’t mind – do a few tests to help with my research.”
“So you’re somehow safer than this Amelli person?” Sam asked.
“I’d like to think so,” Braxton mildly remarked. “But I promise you this, once the team has recovered Mariah, they’ll help you relocate under protective custody or you can stay on with the team like Luke and Josh.”
“Get her back and then we’ll decide,” Cassie spoke for the family.
Sorry for the late post, but I started school this past Wednesday and have stayed busy since. And since I didn’t quite know what was going to happen in this post, it took me longer than usual to write it today. I gave y’all an extra long one to make up for it. 🙂 I’ll try to be more punctual next week!