Deep Red, Chapter Twelve
January 10, 1811: I believe I may have discovered how a hybrid might be possible. I recently translated some of my grandfather’s work, and discovered that some of the Residents have come to many of the same conclusions. In the old world, as opposed to this one, there was no blended inheritance. A child of a pure kindred and a pure volemic would be born with the characteristics of one or the other but never both. The placement of the soul, and therefore the determination of the primary species of the fetus as it developed in the womb. If the soul joined with the fetus at conception, the baby would be volemic, but the baby would be kindred if the soul joined with the child after birth. Only a kindred obstetrician with abilities like Mary with advanced medical equipment only available in the Otherworld would know the species of the baby before it was born. In more than 50% of cases, however, if the child of that original union bred with another volemic, the child would be volemic. In some cases, however, a kindred child has been born to two volemics, but only in the Otherworld. As yet, there have not been any recorded trans-species births in this reality. The changeling/volemic pairing was similar in like studies, but the baby’s species has to do with the nature of the soul rather than the placement. This is where my findings became interesting. With no possibility of interspecies breeding in this world, the dormant trait would not activate until a mistake of nature occurred. What we are waiting for is some kind of mistake. The Residents would call it a miracle….
excerpt from The Notes of Jacob Shinab, 1811, ed. by Jonah Shinab, 1849
When Marlo came to her office, Zoe rattled off some technical name for what the human used to drug her. It was a strong amphetamine mixed with a kind of rohipnol, which would likely have killed a human. The tone of Zoe’s explanation carried the same accusations as they had earlier that week, and the voice seemed to agree. He deserved it. Marlo waited for Zoe to tell her something about the other tests, but the doctor stopped after describing the effects of the drug.
“And that’s all you know right now?” Marlo asked.
“That’s all I can talk about. But we do need to discuss something.” Marlo looked at Zoe expectantly. “The full moon is arriving. It starts its three day cycle tomorrow, in fact. I can’t say that you will change for certain, but we can’t take the chance that you might do so in the house.”
“I thought that was what the locked doors were for, and the 24-hour escort of Drew.” Don’t you know that she wants you away, somewhere I can do the least damage? She won’t tell you, but you know. You know what I am. You know what you are.
“There is a place, off premises,” Zoe said, “where changelings go for their first changes. Most first changes are unpredictable and violent, but the children here are different. You will also be much different, if you change.” Marlo searched Zoe’s face, and decided she was hiding something.
Q’s words rang in Marlo’s head. “I tell you that you are the hybrid. You can acknowledge it or not.”
“When do I have to go?”
“Tomorrow morning. You could change any time within the three days. I’ve also remarked to Victoria about your declining weight. We’ve weighed you every day since you arrived, and you’ve lost approximately ten pounds. While you are at the cabin, we want to try you on a changeling diet.”
“Which entails what?”
“Fresh, raw meat.”
“Do I want to know where you’ll be getting this meat?” Marlo asked.
“Animals. Deer, mostly.”
“Not for you. We want to see how if you will react to animal meat first. You might have no reaction at all, and then we will need to confront your nutrition in some other way. We really have no idea what to expect at this point. I just need for you to try and remain patient.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Try not to think of it in terms of choices,” Zoe suggested.
Marlo paused and looked off into space and then focused her eyes on Zoe. “I tried. It didn’t work.”
Zoe looked down at the chart. “I want to help you, but you’re not making it easy.”
Marlo flashed Zoe a fake smile. “I’ll work harder.”
Zoe rolled her eyes. “Victoria wants to talk to you.”
“I’m sure Drew will have no trouble getting me there.”
When Marlo exited Zoe’s office, Katrina was waiting for her instead of Drew. Marlo smiled with relief. “Hey,” she said.
Katrina linked her arm through Marlo’s. “I told Drew he could take the day off.”
“Meaning that you’re the only person who can stand being around me right now.”
“You do seem to be pretty close to the edge right now. Anything you want to talk about?”
“I got back some more memories today, and I met Q.”
“I can’t think of which to ask you about first.”
“The memories were mostly of Adam. And one of Zoe. She’s always had that hard edge to her, I guess.”
“Competitive, yes. She can be really sweet, too.”
“I suppose that robots can be set to sweet,” Marlo said.
“That’s not really fair,” Katrina said. Marlo shrugged in response. “You’re getting a strange perspective of her with all this ‘to be the hybrid or not to be the hybrid,’ nonsense.”
Marlo smiled. “When did you study Shakespeare?”
“College, in Oregon. Go Ducks.” Katrina stuck out her tongue, and Marlo laughed. “I knew she was in there somewhere. You used to have the most wonderful laugh.”
“Used to?” Marlo gasped as felt a strange dropping sensation in her gut, and bent over to catch her breath.
“Should I go get Zoe?” Katrina asked.
“No. It’s just something I used to feel a lot. I just hadn’t felt it since I got here. It caught me off guard.”
“What sort of feeling?”
“It’s like vertigo or something. Nevermind.” Marlo tried to sound casual, but she didn’t feel casual. He’s here…. He who? she demanded. The voice did not respond.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to get Zoe?” Katrina asked.
“I’m sure. Let’s get to Victoria’s office before she sends out a search party.” The two had taken the longish route around the house. Marlo felt grateful for the Drew-less walk, though his absence was strange. She had almost grown used to him.
Katrina nodded, still frowning. “What happened with Q?” Katrina asked.
“He said I’m the hybrid,” Marlo said. “Yet no one else will tell me anything.”
Katrina’s eyes grew wider than usual. “I-I really don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything if it will get you into trouble.”
“I’m not worried about trouble,” Katrina said. ”I’m worried about you.”
Marlo nodded. “I wish people would stop treating me like a delicate flower. I tore a man in half, for god’s sake.”
“That’s not what I was talking about,” Katrina said, frowning. “And not everything’s about that, though, or you. Not even this. If people are keeping things from you, it might be because of some larger purpose. Or maybe they don’t want to unnecessarily burden you.”
Marlo felt like she had just lost one more ally. “We’re here.” Victoria’s office seemed to appear out of nowhere. Marlo didn’t look at Katrina as she shook off her touch.
“Do you want me to go in with you?” Katrina asked.
“No, you should go.” Marlo said.
“We don’t have to completely agree with one another in order to be friends,” Katrina said.
Marlo balked. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re trying to push me away, but I’m not your enemy. None of us are.”
Marlo sighed. “You’re right, of course, but you should go. It won’t do any good for you to be in there with me, friend or not. And you probably want to eat dinner with Zoe or something.”
“You do know how volemics eat, don’t you?” Marlo did, of course. She had forgotten. “I’ll wait out here for you,” Katrina said and Marlo nodded.
Inside, Victoria sat on the edge of her desk. Marlo recognized this pose as Victoria’s patented “Deep Talk” posture. Victoria had about twenty different poses, each meant to show just how understanding she could be. Marlo figured the last one out when Victoria came to pick her up at the Otherworld holding facility after Marlo was arrested. She never needed to use her “I’m-Disappointed-But-Still-Love-You” posture until that day. Being manipulated and knowing she was being manipulated felt very different to Marlo. She hadn’t seen Victoria in so long that she’d forgotten some of Victoria’s tactics. This one pushed her building anger and confusion over the edge.
“What do you want?” Marlo asked.
“Please sit,” Victoria said. Marlo crossed her arms and continued to stand. “Fine. Marlo, this anger of yours is getting pointless.”
“I think the fourteen years you spent disregarding my emotions was damaging and mean. You have your reality; let me have mine.”
“No matter what you may think, I only want what is best for you, and I would do anything to keep you safe.”
“Show me proof.”
“You’re here, Marlo. I am putting the lives of a hundred Haven students and staff at risk just by having you on the premises. You are unpredictable and likely dangerous. If the Counsel had their way, you and Zoe would be at the Counsel headquarters with you strapped down in some lab. I may not have Garrett’s ability to show it, but I love you. There are things that I can’t tell you, because I don’t know what they mean. And if you think I don’t care, then you really do not understand anything about me.”
Marlo’s mouth stood agape. She had never before heard Victoria raise her voice. Combined with Katrina’s words, reality began to sink in. Marlo had be a-typically agitated. Or maybe your real self is just shining through, finally. “I’m sorry,” Marlo said, feeling sick. “I’m just tired, and hungry.”
“It wasn’t me who told the Counsel about Isaak’s plans to return to the Otherworld.”
Marlo was surprised by the newest left turn. “I never thought it was.”
“Then give me some time. Let me earn your trust back.”
Marlo looked down and nodded. Still, something continued to nag inside her. If you trust her blindly, you’re an idiot. Marlo continued her posture of defeat, but agreed with the voice.
Victoria’s tone went back to business, and Marlo knew the voice had judged better than she had. “I’m glad you’ve finally come around,” Victoria said. “Tomorrow the new changeling students are going to visit the cabin, and you will be assigned to your quarters and your guardian.”
“Most of the young students are mentored by the older students who have a few years of changes behind them.” Marlo tried to imagine some teenager trying to help her. The kid would be all stammers and trembling, more hindrance than a help. Marlo knew what the children here said about her. “The group will leave the premises at nine a.m. Be on the back deck before then.”
“Thanks,” Marlo said. “May I go now?”
“You can go now.”
Marlo closed the door behind her, and remained silent all of the way back to her room, with Katrina silent beside her. Victoria’s emotional outburst was twenty years late and was probably at least fifty percent affect. In any case, it promised no change in her treatment of Marlo. You’d be better off if you just trusted me from the very beginning. Marlo shivered. The beginning of what?