Deep Red, Chapter Twenty-Two

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June 29, 1900

Dearest Constance,

The family is still in Chicago, and we plan to remain here, at least until the children are grown. Dorothy, Owen and Garrett’s child, Derek, are doing very well. Derek was weaned from his mother a year ago and now lives with us in our home. Garrett was allowed to take his child on one condition: that he provide the mother with a female child. Having done so, the woman has left town to parts unknown. You need to know that we harbor no resentment against you, but Owen has uncovered documents since our departure that are both disturbing and illuminating. The Counsel’s intentions for this dimension were never as benign as they would have had us believe. Once the hybrid emerges, they plan to bring over the remaining Otherworlders and either convert or wipe out the human race. Though Garrett, Walker and I live as one family, we are cut off from all Otherworld connections. We are raising our children in human society and are getting to know the Residents. Even the Mirrors we have encountered are not hostile or vicious. Those of us who were raised in the Counsel’s circle of lies now understand that the Mirrors have no wish to harm those of us who have rejected the Counsel’s plan. They only wish to protect the Residents by any means necessary. The century has just turned, for the third time since the Crossing. Isn’t it time that we begin to unravel the plan and lead normal lives in this reality? You are our only connection on the inside. The key to the survival of our race depends on you and what we can do to bring down the Counsel. Walker feels it keenly that conditions at Haven, as you have intimated, reverted to their previous order when we left. We will not let this stand any longer than we have to, but we have no other resources but you. Please write soon with any information that might help.

 Your devoted granddaughter,

Beth.

 excerpts from The Diary of Constance Cayce, 1900, trans. Bobbi Cayce, 1983

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Chapter Twenty-Two

 Nature of the Past

Jack took Marlo past Victoria’s office and on to the corner of the house where the dojo resided. He smiled when he felt Marlo’s surprise. He knew she didn’t like being in Victoria’s office. The place gave him an ominous feeling, too, but for different reasons. Though a few of the Counsel members had put a stop to corporal punishment of the students a while back, he still remembered, and he understood the hypocrisy of Victoria’s facade better than anyone. Her office was the physical representation of all her negative traits.

The dojo, on the other hand, had a better feeling to it, mostly because of the plants, which had been Rayne’s suggestion. Connection to nature, she had said, would make the dangerous Otherworld children feel more normal. He knew that worked for the kindred and changelings, but volemics benefited more from light than vegetation.

Marlo stopped about twenty feet before they reached the dojo, and her hesitancy pulled back on him. It was times like this that he wished their link had been severed. Marlo tended to cycle through emotions like Colorado mountain towns cycled through weather.

Jack looked back at her. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“There’s about ten people in there. What is this?”

Jack looked inside and, sure enough, Victoria, Alexis, Drew, Rayne, Q, Isabelle, Katrina, Zoe and Steve all stood where there should have been a class in session. Not quite ten, but more than what he was expecting.

“I don’t know,” Jack said. “Victoria didn’t say anything about this being a group meeting. From the people she’s gathered, though, it looks like all plans for your future are going to be put in motion today. That woman doesn’t waste time.” Jack began to walk again but stopped as he realized that Marlo remained frozen. “Don’t worry,” he said. “If Victoria believes you’re ready for the kind of training those people in there can give you, then she believes that you are mentally and physically stable.”

He didn’t quite believe the words, and he felt sure Marlo didn’t believe him, but he didn’t know what else to say. Victoria had asked Jack to prepare many for battle, both knowing most wouldn’t make it back alive. He hoped her investment in Marlo’s family would inspire the same care he planned to take with Marlo.

Jack stepped back toward Marlo and took her hand. He felt a mix of shock and warmth circle up his arm as she cocked her head, as if listening to something. Margaret used to do that. He wondered what her spirit was saying.

Her spirit must have said something encouraging, because Marlo squeezed his hand and let him lead her to the waiting crowd.

“You gave us quite a scare when you first changed, Marlo,” Victoria said once Marlo was standing before her and the others.

“Sorry to have worried you,” said Marlo.

“Well, we are happy to have you here and safe. There are some people I’d like you to meet.” Victoria indicated to the people around her as she introduced them. “You’ve met most everyone here. Alexis will be in charge of your combat training; Katrina, your physical therapy–should you need it. Zoe, your medical health. Isabelle, your daily calisthenics; Steve will direct your history lessons and computer training; Q, your magic training; Drew will continue to monitor your progress, as will Rayne.” He saw Marlo flinch when Victoria pointed to Rayne, but Marlo stayed silent during the entire transaction. “I’m pleased to say that, as of today, you will begin your first steps in becoming the woman you’re meant to be.” Marlo snorted, but still said nothing. Victoria frowned. “Jack? Anything to add?”

He knew precisely what he was supposed to add. Victoria told him that his encouragement would help Marlo trust the process, but he found that unlikely. “I think the 3 of 3 members should talk before we go any further.”

 “I appreciate your input,” Victoria said, though her tone indicated otherwise. “But Marlo needs to talk with Rayne before she begins her day.” Victoria ushered the others out of the room, and Jack along with them. He glanced back at Marlo. He felt her fear heighten.

Once they were outside, Victoria said to the others, “I’ll send Marlo to find each of you when it’s time.” As they left, Victoria kept a grip on Jack’s arm, and once every member of the group was out of earshot, Victoria whispered, “What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to help her feel more secure,” Jack said. “Is it your goal to make her feel as alone and scared as possible?” Victoria’s pursed silence made him sneer. “You never change.”

Victoria laughed. “I’m not the only one.” Her laugh reminded him of his protests when she decided to send Dorothy off to die. “There’s a reason I was put in charge here, Jack, and not you. The Counsel has their agenda, and I intend to see it through.”

Jack shook his head. “Play whatever games you like with the others, but don’t pull that shit with me. You set the Counsel’s agenda. Doesn’t the fact that Marlo is Lucy’s kin, Margaret’s kin, mean anything to you?”

“It means more to you than it does to me, of course, but I love the Cayces. I just don’t let that love get in the way of doing my job. Marlo is also Bobbi’s kin and Isaak’s kin, and I’d like her to live through this.”

If Marlo went against the plan, her life was forfeit. He had always known, but never had Victoria said it aloud, even vaguely,. Victoria smirked. “Fine,” Jack said. “But you can’t keep her separate from her peers forever, and the longer you keep her from them, the more it’s going to look like you have something to hide.”

“Was I wrong to put you in charge of Marlo’s well-being?” Victoria asked.

“You’re never wrong, Victoria. Not in the short-term,” Jack said.

“I’ve kept us alive this long, and I will continue to keep us alive. Marlo is the key. You know this. Otherwise, you would be rotting in a cell or dead.”

“As the humans say, Vic, ‘Learn a new song. That one’s gotten stale.’ You want me in a cell, put me there. You want me dead, kill me.” Victoria frowned. “I was a part of this before you, and just because I fell down a few times doesn’t mean that I’m not dedicated to the mission.”

“A few times?” Victoria said.

“I seem to remember you getting something out of some of my lowest points.” He laughed when that wiped the condescending, self-righteous look off her face. “I’ll wait here for Marlo,” Jack said. “I’ll keep telling her everything you want me to, but don’t imagine for a single moment I don’t know who you really are.”

Victoria turned on her heel and left him at the door of the dojo. He felt like he’d won something, but it was never enough.

Chapter Twenty-Three→