A Second Generation Whateley Academy Tale
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
October 5th, 2016
“Remember to pick up a present for your brother after school, Ada.”
“Yes, Mom,” Adavia Taylor said, rolling her eyes. As if she would forget that, her parents had been going on about her three year old brothers birthday all month. She loved the little guy, but it was getting a bit annoying.
“I'll pick you up from the main entrance of the mall at four thirty. That will be plenty of time to get a good present and spend some time with your friends,” her Mom said, putting the last of the breakfast dishes into the washing machine.
“Yes, Mom,” she said, putting her homework into her book bag.
“Did you remember your homework?”
“Yes, Mom,” she said, putting on her shoes.
“And you studied for that math quiz today?”
“Yes, Mom,” she said, running a hand through her long red hair to make sure it was nice.
“And you have to take the shark for a walk tonight.”
“Yes, Mom. Wait, what?” she asked in confusion, as her morning routine came to a crashing halt.
Laughing, her Mom asked, “Were you listening to a thing I told you?”
“Present. Mall four thirty. Homework. Math quiz. Right?”
“All right, you were listening. But if you could change your stock answer I'd appreciate it. You sounded like a broken record.”
“Yes, Mom,” she replied with a smirk.
Giving her Mom a hug and a kiss on the cheek, Ada hurried out to the driveway, where her Dad was helping her little brother get into the car. Climbing into the front seat, she pulled out her math notes, might as well get some extra studying done.
“Ada! We're gonna have pizza and cake tomorrow!” her brother shouted.
“Yeah, Felix! And all your friends are going to come over to,” she said, turning so he could see her grin. Her job of being an enthusiastic big sister done, she turned back to her notes.
“We're getting a bouncy house too!”
“YAY!” she replied, not paying much attention. “What was the equation for question five?” she mumbled to herself.
The ride to daycare was noisy, as Felix kept talking about his birthday party. She was used to it, saying the appropriate things at the right time while studying, and was feeling pretty confident about her quiz by the time her brother was safely handed over.
Her Dad pulled out of the parking lot, heading for her high school. “So the Halloween dance is coming up, will you be going?”
“I'm going with Chloe and Isla, we'll be meeting a couple of friends there.”
“Will there be any boys?”
For the second time that morning she rolled her eyes. “Dad it's a grade nine dance, of course there will be boys.”
“Will there be any boys you want to dance with?” he asked.
“Maybe. If a cute boy asks I won't say no.”
“And what do you do if he does something you don't like?”
“Knee or fist to the crotch, stomp on the foot, and maybe a right hook before getting outta of there,” she said.
He nodded, taking his eyes off the road long enough to smile at her. “Good girl. Any idea what you want to go as?”
“I've got a pattern for a cute nurse outfit. Don't worry, I ran it by Mom first,” she hastily added. “I'm going to pick up the fabric today, Mom and I will start working on it tomorrow.”
“Nice. You ready for the math quiz?”
“I am so dead!” Ada moaned, leaning on her friend's shoulder as they walked through the mall.
“You always say that, and you always pass with at least an eighty,” Isla said, patting her back.
“I know. But I know I screwed this one up.”
Chloe poked her. “You'd better hope you didn't. Micheal was talking about you today.”
Spinning around, she grabbed Chloe's shoulders. “What did he say?”
“Something about the Halloween dance and who might be going.”
“Oh!” Isla squealed “That's so cool. You have to wear something really sexy.”
She snorted. “My parents would flip if I tried. I can do cute, but that's it.”
“Cute is good,” Isla sad. “You're the second hottest girl in class. After me.”
“Hey! What about me?” Chloe demanded.
“Third, maybe fourth.”
“I'm not that good looking. May is a lot hotter than me,” Ada said.
“Stop putting yourself down so much. May is a dog.”
“Yeah,” Chloe agreed. “If you wanted to, you could date any boy in our grade.”
Ada blushed, her pale skin turning so red it could light up a dark room. “Here we are!” she said, pointing at a toy store. “I need to get something for Felix before I get the fabric.”
“Can't you just get him a gift card like everyone else does?” Isla asked.
“NO! He'll be four, he wouldn't know what to do with it.”
Chloe face palmed. “No wonder your family never goes to family reunions.”
“What? Gifts cards are awesome, and not as tacky as money.”
The ceiling exploded above them.
One second everything was normal, the next debris was raining down on their heads.
Blood splattered on Ada's cheek. Turning she looked at Isla, who was standing motionless, half her face torn away, her shoulder slumped unnaturally. Her mouth moved, her remaining eye was wide open, looking scared.
“Isla,” Ada said, reaching out to grab her friend.
The girl fell to the ground, landing on the chunk of debris that had killed her. Ada saw a pinkish grey lump of meat slide out of her friends skull into a quickly growing puddle of blood.
People started to scream. The sound of running feet reached her ears. Someone was pulling on her arm.
Isla,” she said again. Then she began to shriek.
A wave of heat scorched her skin. She couldn't move. Her friends blood reached her shoes, the dark red liquid stained the clean white sneakers. She screamed so loudly it hurt her throat. Someone shouted in her ear, pulling at her arm.
She needed to help Isla. CPR, that would keep her alive.
She needed to plug her friends nose and blow air into her mouth. She knew that much.
She just had to find her friends nose. It had to be somewhere nearby.
A man in a blue and white costume hit the floor beside her. The tiles cracked and shattered from the impact, pieces flew through the air like shrapnel. She was knocked off her feet, her leg burned.
Ada looked around. Chloe had grabbed her under the arms and was dragging her towards the toy shop. Blood was leaking out of her thigh, a piece of tile stuck out like a knife. A black dragon stood in the middle of the mall, fire poured out of its mouth like water. Bodies, burnt to charcoal, lay around it. It's horned head twisted to look at them.
The sight of the dragon was enough to break through her shock. Her legs pushed against the floor, trying to help Chloe who was screaming in her ear, still trying to pull her to safety. The tile sliced her flesh, more blood welled up, soaking her pants. She could feel it moving and sawing at her leg, but the pain wasn't there.
The dragon opened its mouth, the flames built up into a ball.
They were going to die.
The costumed man flew through the air, punching the dragon in the jaw. The impact sounded like thunder, knocking the massive head upwards, and caused the ball of fire to hit the ceiling. Flames began to spread along the ceiling. Sprinklers opened up, trying in vain to slow the spread of superheated flames.
Somehow Ada and Chloe reached the toy store,. Ducking behind a display, Chloe collapsed, rubbing her shaking arms. Ada grabbed her leg, crying as the pain made itself known. Dark red blood coated her hands, dripping to the floor, forming a puddle in the water. She began to whimper, the image of her dead friend filling her eyes.
“We have to get out of here,” Chloe said.
The mall shook.
Looking out though the falling water, the dragon was lying on its back, the costumed man stood on its broad chest, punching it as hard as he could. Thick scales broke under the impossibly strong blows. She recognized the superhero now, Fearless. He was supposed to be the strongest person in the city.
The dragon roared, spitting flame at Fearless. The man screamed in pain, as fire washed over him, hiding him from view. Ada flinched back from the heat that scorched her body.
A moment later the flames stopped. Fearless, his costume melted to his skin, the flesh of his face blackened and falling away in strips, was still kneeling on the dragon, somehow still pounding the dragon. Every blow causing blood to erupt around him.
Roaring, the dragon once more tried to rise. It's bulk heaved and shook, it's tail flailed crashing into a pillar, snapping it in half. The damaged ceiling began to crumble.
“Come on!” Chloe screamed. “We need to go.”
Ada tried to move, her injured leg refused to cooperate. The blood flowing from her wound started to spurt out. Spots appeared in her eyes. It felt like she was trying to move through jelly. She was floating away. “Go,” she said trying to shout. Her voice was weak, barely a whisper. “Can't move.”
“No. No. No.”
She pushed her friends hand away, lying down in the cool water. It felt good against her dry skin. Her body was so heavy.
“HELP!” Chloe screamed.
Fearless looked at them, his burnt face a mix of dead black flesh and bright pink muscle. The dragon took the momentary respite to hit him with its enormous clawed foot. The superhero flew through the air, crashing into a wall.
The dragon heaved itself to its feet, blood gushing from its chest. It placed a hand over its wound, hissed something that hurt Ada's ears, and the blood stopped flowing. It's wings began to beat and it took to the air, crashing through the ceiling.
Ada watched the mall start to collapse. She knew she should be scared, but she was too tired. Chloe was still screaming for help, trying to drag her away. Flames and smoke filled the air. Debris fell all around them.
Cracks appeared in the ceiling.
“Go,” she mouthed, trying to push Chloe away before they were both crushed. Her arm moved so slowly, like a nightmare where she was in slow motion. Falling water washed away the tears that feel from her eyes.
She watched a slab of concrete fall towards them.
Then a large man was on top of her, his bare chest pressed against her face. Ada twisted her neck and saw that Chloe was lying on the floor safely out of the way.
“Hold on,” the man said, blood dripping from his mouth. “I've got you.”
“OK,” she whispered.
Her stomach hurt.
Looking down, she saw a piece of rebar had pierced her and the man. They were pinned through the stomach, like a butterfly on display. She began to laugh, she should be a butterfly for Halloween.
Watching the blood drip down the metal, still laughing, she lost consciousness.
Kingston General Hospital
Sitting in the hospital waiting room, Neal Taylor held his wife, Rebecca, in his arms. The room was packed with people looking just as lost and scared as they were. The supervillain fight at the mall had left dozens injured and dead, his daughter was one of them.
A nurse came and called out a name. A young man, who couldn't be over twenty-five stepped up. They went down the hall, a minute later a heart broken wail echoed in the noisy corridor.
Rebecca wrapped her arms around him, her nails digging into his back. “It's going to be OK,” he said, kissing her forehead.
“Mr and Mrs. Taylor,” a nurse said.
They jumped to their feet, hurrying over to her.
“Come with me please,” the nurse said, her face unreadable.
Clutching each other, they followed her down the hall to a room that had a sign on the door, it read 'Biohazard risk'.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“You need to speak to Dr. Wong, he'll explain everything,” she said, opening the door.
Stepping inside, there was a young Asian man wearing a suit, standing beside the bed where Ada was sleeping, hooked up to a number of IV's and machines. Neal forced himself to breathe. Ada was alive, that was what mattered most.
“Hello Neal, Rebecca, I'm Dr. Wong,” the man said. “I'm from the Ministry of Supernatural Affairs, and a doctor of mutant physiology.”
“Ada's not a mutant,” Neal said.
Dr. Wong nodded. “True, but Fearless is, and he's a high level regenerator. Have you ever heard of regen cloning?”
Neal shook his head. “I've heard of it, but only the name.”
“Oh god!” Rebecca gasped. “Not that, please.”
“I'm sorry,” the doctor said. “During the fight, Fearless protected Ada from being crushed, using his body to block a heavy piece of debris. He and Ada were pierced by rebar, mixing their blood. She is showing signs of regeneration.”
Neal had to catch Rebecca as she fainted. Dr. Wong hit a button, then helped him put her in a chair. He watched helplessly as the doctor examined his wife. His eyes kept going from Rebecca to Ada, his instincts telling him to help them, but knowing he was utterly helpless.
A few minutes later, a nurse had taken Rebecca away on a gurney to rest in another room, leaving Neal, Dr. Wong and the unconscious Ada alone.
“So what exactly is regen cloning?” Neal asked.
“If blood is shared between a high level regenerator and someone who is physically a baseline, a normal human, there is a high chance the regenerators blood will start rewriting the persons DNA, creating a physical and potentially mental clone,” Dr. Wong said.
The world spun, Neal stumbled to the bed, leaning against it, trying not to fall. Staring at his beautiful daughter, he struggled to hold back his tears. “Will she be OK?”
“I'm not going to lie or sugar coat things. With most regen clones there is a high risk of insanity, mind wipe, or a complete overwriting of the original personality. There is also the chance of regen cancer. The best we can hope for is a physical shift to a younger version of Fearless, while Ada's memories and personality remain largely unchanged.”
Stroking Ada's cheek, he tried to memorize her face. “She won't be my daughter anymore.”
Dr. Wong put a hand on his shoulder. “We won't know until she wakes up and we have a chance to test her. The ministry has a therapist you can talk to, I can set up an appointment for you and your wife.”
“I'd like that. Can I have some time alone?” Neal asked.
“Sure. If you need anything just press the button.”
Alone with his daughter, Neal bowed his head and cried.
Darkness surrounded her, holding her down. It shifted and writhed, twisting her stomach, making her want to vomit.
The voice called her name again. Focusing on it she moved through the oily substance, struggling to free herself.
She felt someone holding her hand. It was warm and soft.
Opening her eyes, she saw Chloe standing beside her. Her friend looked terrible, a cast on her arm, a bandage wrapped around her head, her black hair cut short, and bruises covered her face. She tried to say something, only a weak groan came out.
“Do you want a drink?” Chloe asked.
Her friend opened a bottle of water that was sitting on the bedside table. She opened her lips a little, letting Chloe drip some of the warm water into her mouth. Her mouth and throat didn't want to work at first, letting the water dribble down her chin, but after a moment she was able to swallow.
“Thanks,” she croaked.
“I'm so glad you're OK,” Chloe said, wiping tears from her eyes. “You were bleeding so badly, I was afraid you'd died.”
Blurry memories of flames, pain, and blood came to her. “Is Isla really...”
“They haven't found her body yet, but I-” Chloe bit back a sob. “ Yeah, she didn't make it. Listen I can't talk long. I shouldn't even be here, I snuck out of my room and had to wait for your parents to go eat. I just had to make sure your OK.”
“Thanks. For everything. You saved my life.”
Chloe bent down, wrapping her in a hug. “What are friends for? I'm supposed to go home tomorrow afternoon, they're a bit worried about my concussion. But I'll visit before I go, if they'll let me.”
Ada returned the hug. They both began to cry, thinking of their friend and how close they'd come to dying.
Her friend smelled good, like flowers. Her skin was so soft. His hand went down her back, his pulse quickened. Who was the girl again? He saw black hair, it was Katherine, his girlfriend.
Why was he in the hospital?
It didn't matter, Katherine was here and no one else was. Sitting up, he cradled her in his arms. “It's going to be OK,” he whispered in her ear. Twisting his head, he kissed her cheek. Katherine froze. He took a chance, kissing her soft lips, while his hand caressed her back.
“Whoa!” Chloe said, jumping back. “Ada, are you OK?”
“I- Katherine?” Ada shook her head, trying to clear it. “Chloe! What? I- I'm sorry. I don't know what that was. I- I-”
Her friend looked at her, eyes wide with confusion. “It's OK. You're just confused, from the medicine and stuff. Get some sleep, you'll feel better tomorrow. I've gotta go. Bye.”
“Bye. Love you,” she said.
Watching Chloe leave, Ada couldn't help but watch her cute body. The purple pajama pants were a bit tight and showed off Katherine's, no, she corrected herself, Chloe's butt and hips perfectly.
Memories rose up, she remembered seeing that body naked. They were in his car, making out after a school dance. They'd climbed into the back seat, he'd slowly taken off her clothes. Katherine had been even more nervous then him.
Reaching under the blankets, she spread her legs. For a moment her hand searched for something that seemed to be missing. Then she touched herself. To memories of his first time, she moaned in pleasure.
Kingston General Hospital
October 6th, 2016
“Mom! Dad!” Ada shouted.
“She's doing fine physically. Dr. Wong will be here in a few minutes,” the nurse who had just examined her said before leaving.
Her parents came over to her. They looked scared and sad, her Mom's eyes were puffy like she'd been crying, and her Dad looked like he hadn't slept.
“How are you doing, honey?” her Mom asked.
“I feel fine. A little tingly all over, but I think I'm healthy enough to go home. I can't wait to see Felix and Andrea. How are they doing?”
Her parents exchanged a worried look.
“Who's Andrea?” her Dad asked.
It was her turn to look worried. “Andrea, my younger sister. Twelve years old. annoying brat sometimes. Yellow feathers for hair. No wait, brown hair.” She shook her head. “Weird, I can't quite remember what she looks like. I must have hit my head pretty hard yesterday.”
Her Mom started crying. Not just a few little tears, full on bawling. Before Ada could ask what as wrong, her Mom practically lunged at her, hugging her so tightly it hurt.
“Mom, it's OK. I'm fine. Just a concussion or something,” she said, hugging her. “Wait. Did something happen to Andrea? I don't remember her being at the mall yesterday. Is she OK?
“Ada,” her Dad said, coming over to stroke her hair, “you don't have a sister. There's only Felix.”
“No. Andrea is real. Her birthday is on July 18th. She's always saying I'm the best brother in the whole wide world. She got an A on her English test last week. Wait, last month. In November. It's almost Christmas, isn't it? Why is everything so fuzzy?”
He kissed her forehead. “Let's wait for Dr. Wong to come. He can help explain things better then we can.”
Hugging her Mom, she started to shiver. “Am I going to be OK?”
He kept stroking her hair. “Just- Please don't ask any questions until the doctor is here.”
Trying to keep from crying as fear washed over her, she waited for the unknown doctor to arrive. Her Mom stopped crying, but didn't stop hugging her. Her Dad hovered protectively over both of them, his face looked like it was set in stone, refusing to show any emotion.
Eventually there was a knock on the door and a man in a nice suit stepped in.
“Hi Stephen,” she said.
Her parents looked at her strangely. Stephen paused in mid stride, then smiled and kept coming. “Hello Ada. Do you remember meeting me?”
That was a weird question. “Of course, Stephen, we met- I'm sure we last saw... We had a beer-”
Why did she think she'd had a beer with the doctor. Rubbing her head hard enough to hurt, she asked, “What's wrong with me?”
The doctor pulled a chair over to her bed, his face was emotionless. “Do you remember what happened yesterday?”
“I was at the mall with my friends, Kather- Chloe. It was Chloe, and Isla.” She fought back the tears that threatened to well up. “There was a superhero fight. I got hurt, but I feel better now.”
“That's right, you got badly hurt. Fearless, the superhero, protected you from being crushed. He saved your life, but your blood was mixed.”
The way he said the words made her shiver. “Is he sick with something? Did he give it to me?”
Stephen shook his head. “No. He is very healthy, too healthy. He's a regenerator. When his blood got into you, it started to alter your body, changing your DNA.”
“So I'm going to have superpowers?”
He nodded. “You will.”
“Well that's good, right? I mean, healing is great. Don't have to worry about getting hurt now. And he has superstrength too. That would be cool. Maybe I can become a superhero. That would be cool. Right? Never thought I'd be a superhero. We had a DNA test done when I was younger to check some things, and I don't have the mutant gene. So I never thought I'd get any powers. I'm going to be stronger than you Dad.” She realized she was babbling, but couldn't stop herself.
“Ada,” her Dad said, “please, just listen.”
Biting her lip so hard she tasted blood, she forced herself to stop.
“You are suffering from regen cloning,” Stephen said. “Your DNA is changing. That means your body is changing to match Fearless.”
“But I don't want to be a boy.”
“It's worse than that. Your brain is being rewritten. You know my first name, and think you've had a beer with me, because Fearless is my friend. You're getting his memories.”
The shaking returned with a vengeance, she suddenly felt bitterly cold. “What about my memories?” she whispered, tears started to roll down her cheeks.
“We don't know yet. If you're lucky, you'll keep most or all of them. If you aren't, they'll be entirely replaced. I'm very sorry.”
“I'll be dead,” she said. Clutching her Mom she began to cry.
“Hello whoever you are,” Ada said to the camera.
“Dr. Wong, said that I should tell you about things that are important to me. Memories, things I like, things I don't like, to help make things easier for you, and to help me process that I'm going to die in a few days. Sure my body will still be around, but it won't be mine, and you won't be me.
“I have a little brother, Felix. He-, he's four. He turned four today. He was supposed to have a birthday party, there was going to be pizza and cake, and a bouncy house. Since I'm three years older th- GAH! I want my memories! Not yours!”
She punched the bed, trying to calm herself down.
“I'm fourteen years old. I was thinking of becoming a fashion designer, or maybe something in business so I could work in the fashion industry. I was supposed to be making a Halloween costume after the party. I was going to be a nurse, and I'd heard that Micheal might be ready to ask me out or want to dance with me at a party.
“Now I'm dying. I didn't do anything wrong, but you're going to come in and take over my life, destroying everything that made me, me. I wish I'd died quickly like Isla.”
“I should talk to her, or at least her parents. Maybe I can help,” Warren said.
Warren, also known as Fearless, was pacing in the spare office his friend had commandeered from the hospital. He felt like hell, and looked worse. His body was still trying to recover from being badly burned, too many internal injuries to count, and being impaled. Worse than that was the guilt he felt, which had kept him awake most of the night.
Dr. Wong, shook his head. “Warren, will that help them, or you?”
Placing his hand on his face, he forced himself to think before speaking. “I don't know. I understand I couldn't protect most of those people. Those murders and injuries were done by Odiyan, but this girl, Adavia, that's on me. It's my blood that's transforming her. That's killing her.”
“Have you talked to Celine?”
“Just by phone. She was off work when I got home, and I didn't want to spoil her evening. I've got an appointment set up with her in two hours.”
“You should have seen her first thing this morning, or last night. You have priority.”
He shook his head. “She's got patients who need her more than I do. I knew what I was getting into when I put on the costume, I can handle this.”
Dr. Wong stepped up to him, putting his hands on his shoulders. “Warren, I know you're tough. You're one of the toughest people I know. But you are not invincible. You're human just like everyone else.”
“I can have third degree burns over my entire body and my lungs burned to cinder, and still be stabilized in less than a minute. I'm hardly human.”
“Don't start thinking like that, Warren. I don't want to take you off the street, but if I think you're becoming a danger to yourself or others, I'll do it.”
Looking into the eyes of his friend, Warren realized it was a serious threat. “Sorry. This has just hit me hard. I've already been put on leave for the rest of the month, to help me recover. Andrea is coming up for a visit, she told me she'd be staying for at least a week.”
“Good. Let her pamper you for a few days, take it easy, and talk to Celine.”
He allowed himself a little smile. “Doctors orders?”
“No, just good advice from your best friend.”
“Now, go home, have a shower and then get to your appointment. We can meet up on Saturday for wings and beer night, my treat.”
“OK. That'll be good,” Warren said.
Leaving the office, he spotted a red headed woman walking down the hall holding a well worn stuffed bear in her arms. She looked utterly lost and broken. Resisting the urge to go and talk to Mrs. Taylor, he turned and left, guilt roiling his stomach.
Ada clutched Prince Pooky to her chest, rubbing her cheek against the soft, well worn fur of the bear. Her Mom was sitting beside her, half dozing on a chair after a long sleepless night. Her stomach roiled and her muscles kept twitching, forcing her to think about how she was changing. Her throat was sore from talking for hours into a camera, trying to get her thoughts and memories out while they were still hers.
There was a knock on the door and Chloe came in.
“Kath-” She stopped, forcing her mind to recognize her best friend. They'd been friends since, she couldn't remember. She knew she should, but the memory was gone.
“Chloe, thanks for coming,” she said.
“Who's Katherine?” her friend asked.
“Mom,” she said, seeing her mother was awake again. “Can you give me and K- Chloe a few minutes.”
“OK, I'll just be outside if you need anything,” her Mom said. She reached over and hugged her, a little more tightly than normal, as if afraid it would be for the last time.
Chloe watched everything nervously. “What's going on? Your mom's acting like you're dying, and why do you keep calling me Katherine?”
“I'm dying,” Ada said.
Her friend rushed over to hug her. “NO! You look great. Yesterday, yeah I was afraid you were dead, but now you look healthier than me.”
“You know how Fearless kept me from being crushed. Well his blood got into me, and it's changing me into him.”
“What are you talking about?”
“His blood is changing my body and mind. I'm getting his memories and losing mine. That's why I keep calling you Katherine. You look a lot like a girlfriend I had in high school.”
Tears fell on her cheek.
“You can't be dying. I can't lose you to, not after Isla. There has to be a way to save you.”
She shook her head. “There isn't. Maybe if I was a mutant, it would help me keep my memories. They have a few cases like that, but there's nothing they can do with me. They're surprised I'm even awake. Almost every other person like me has slept through it, waking up as someone else, not remembering who they used to be.”
Chloe hugged her more tightly, as if it would help keep her around. “How long do you have?”
“We don't know, a few days, maybe a week if I'm lucky. I can feel my memories changing. Remembering people I've never met, forgetting people I should remember.”
“Can I do anything?”
She nodded. “Can you make a video talking about me. So that whoever I am when this is all done, will remember me. I don't want to be forgotten.”
“Yeah. I'll do that. I'll say everything I remember, even the embarrassing stuff. And I'll tell them about Isla to, she'd like that.”
Ada started to cry. “Thank you.”
“Is there anything else I can do?”
“Just talk to me for a while, Katherine. I don't want to be alone. Maybe if you remind me how we met and the good times we had, I'll remember them.”
Finally letting Ada go, Chloe climbed up on the bed, putting an arm over her shoulder. “Sure. We met on the first day of grade five. You and Isla were already friends, and I was the nervous new girl.”
“Ada. Wake up Ada.”
She could see a light, the voice was coming from it. Trying to reach it was hard. Swimming through the darkness, it seemed to go on forever. Voices and images surrounded her. Some were fading away, others were becoming brighter, louder.
“Felix?” she asked, looking at the little boy. He looked familiar, but she couldn't quite place him.
“Yeah. I'm here. I didn't have my party today. I'm going to wait until you can be there,” her brother said.
“Thanks. I'm glad you're here. Where's Andrea?”
Her parents tensed up, somehow their sad expressions became even sadder. “You don't have a sister, Ada,” her Mom said.
“Who's Andrea?” Felix asked.
“We'll explain later. For now just talk to Ada.”
“They said you won't come home. They said you're really sick,” her brother said. Putting a hand on her forehead, he pulled it back. “You're hot.”
“Yeah. I'm sick. And I won't be coming home.”
“Are they giving you medicine? Medicine makes me feel better.”
Their Dad picked Felix up, placing him on the bed. “We told you already Felix, there's no medicine for this.”
His face twisted into a scowl. “I want you to come home. I won't have a party until you're home, no matter what.”
Ada sat up and pulled him onto her lap, finding it surprisingly easy to do. “Felix, can you tell me all the fun things we've done? I'd really like that, and Mom and Dad can record it.”
“OK,” he said. Curling up on her, his head on her shoulder, he started talking. “This summer you took me swimming. That was really fun. I dumped water over your head and made you scream. That was funny.”
She nodded along, forcing herself to smile for his sake, unable to remember any of the things he was talking about.
Odiyan grimaced and forced himself out of bed. Every breath and movement was agony on his ribs, his healing magic had barely begun knitting them together. The magic had mostly been used up repairing his heart and lungs, along with replenishing his lost blood. Fearless had nearly killed him in the fight, and it would be at least a week before he would be on his feet.
Staggering out of the hotel bedroom, he went to the ample office that was part of the suite. Civilians always expected supervillains to stay in secret bases, old buildings or dives, even a lot of police and heroes fell into the type of thinking. He'd found that paying top rates for a good room at a luxury hotel was well worth the cost, the staff was discrete, it was comfortable, and room service was excellent.
Waving his left hand, he removed the illusions that hid his collection from sight. Bones, furs, scales, ancient artifacts, old books, scrolls and clay tablets filled the walls. Archaeologists, biologists, historians, and esoteric scholars would kill to get their hands on his collection. It came from all around the world, and a few pieces were from other dimensions.
He went to look at what had been the pride of his collection, a genuine dragon skull. It had been in pristine condition, now it was a pitted and cracked thanks to that superhero. If he used it to transform again, it would break apart.
“Damn heroes,” he muttered. Not only had he lost his strongest weapon, he hadn't managed to collect his prize.
Collecting the yeti hide from a private collector who hadn't been willing to sell, should have been easy. Instead the superhero had shown up almost immediately and rather than letting him escape cleanly, the idiot had kept attacking him.
Touching the skull, he hissed as a piece of bone the size of his thumbnail fell to the floor. He needed to fix the dragon skull, and get the yeti skin before he left. But to do that he'd need time to heal and ingredients that wouldn't be easy to get. He couldn't even leave the city until he got the most vital ingredient, the blood of the hero who nearly killed him.
Waking up was difficult.
He really wanted to wake up just to get away from the dreams. Usually he didn't remember his dreams, but now he was dreaming of people he didn't know, going to a strange school, having a period, trips to places he'd never visited. They all felt so real at first, only to fade away as he tried to hold onto them.
His head throbbed, and his body ached. Thousands of insects were biting into him, feasting on his flesh, hollowing him out, making room for something else.
Moaning, he heard a strange woman say, “Can't we give her something for the pain?”
“No. The regeneration will nullify it in a minute or two. I've ordered a devised medicine that should help, it should be here tomorrow.”
He knew that voice. Stephen. His friend. He must have been in a fight and gotten hurt. He was in a hospital. Everything would be all right once his regeneration kicked in.
Opening his eyes, he saw three people, Stephen and two people he didn't know. They were a couple from how they were holding each other. Why were they here? Why did they seem so familiar?
Trying to sit up, he felt something on his chest shift.
Looking down he saw breasts, small ones, but breasts.
“Ada. Calm down. You're safe,” the woman said. The others joined in, insisting that everything was fine.
Looking at her parents, Ada remembered who she was.
“I'm Ada. Still Ada. I'm not Warren. This is still my body,” she said, hugging herself. She realized she was shaking like a leaf.
Her parents leaned down, holding her, trying to give her some comfort. Slowly the shaking stopped. Looking around the room, she realized it was nighttime.
“I guess the annoyance has gone home,” she said, trying to take her mind off of her situation.
“Felix fell asleep after you did. We sent him to stay with a friend,” her father said.
“Who's Felix? I meant Andrea.”
Kingston General Hospital
October 6th, 2016
Ada looked over at her parents who were asleep in the uncomfortable looking chairs. She felt better now, her body was still tingling, but it didn't hurt. She silently got out of bed and went to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror she didn't recognize herself. Her face was blockier, her red hair was black at the roots, her eyes had gone from blue to brown, her nose was bigger, and her skin was darker. Raising her arms, she realized they'd become thicker, with visible muscle.
Looking at herself, she couldn't tell if she was a boy or a girl.
Gripping the edge of the vanity, she tried to remember her life. Her memories and the new ones were all jumbled together. The trip to Niagara Falls in the summer, was that her or Warren? A math quiz she was sure she had failed, did she do that? Pushing a young girl on a swing, who was that? Her first kiss at a school dance, that probably wasn't her, but she couldn't tell.
There was a crack of wood. Looking down, she gasped at seeing her fingers had driven through the vanity and left divots in the metal sink.
“So I've got superpowers now. Too bad I won't get to enjoy them,” she said.
Anger welled up inside of her. This wasn't fair. What had she done to deserve having her memories erased?
Making a fist she almost brought it down on the sink.
“No. I'm not going to destroy the hospital,” she told herself. Very slowly her fist opened up.
Going back into the private room, she looked at her parents. She knew she loved them, but she couldn't really remember why. The good and bad memories were vanishing.
Leaving the room, she started walking down the deserted hallway. She didn't know where she was going, she just needed to go.
“Miss, where are you going?” a nurse asked.
Looking down, Ada realized she was barefoot in her pajamas. “Just need to go for a walk,” she said.
The nurse came over, putting a hand on her arm. “It's past midnight, you should go back to your room and rest.”
“NO! I don't want to!”
Wrenching her arm free, she started running. She'd never run so fast in her life, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. She leapt down the stairs, not bothering with the steps. The emergency exit practically exploded as she ran outside.
She didn't slow down. Her body moved on autopilot down the street, while her mind desperately clung to the memories she knew where hers.
The sound of a door shattering made Warren jump out of bed. He was in the hallway before he really woke up, and came to a stop in his living room ready for a fight a second later.
A long haired teenager wearing poorly fitting pajamas was standing in his doorway, looking around with a lost expression.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I don't know anymore,” the teen said. “I wanted to go home, but I don't remember where that is. My memories told me this is my home, but I think- I know, I know, I know, this isn't it.”
He heard his sister come down the hall. There was a faint whine, probably from her PFG being activated. “Warren, what's going on?” she asked.
“You're Andrea,” the teen said, looking at her with sad, confused eyes. “I remember you. Sometimes you have brown hair, sometimes yellow feathers. The feathers look good on you. I've forgotten my own brother. But I remember you. You replaced him.”
Andrea gasped. “You're Ada.”
“Am I? I don't remember most of my life.” She started to sob. “I remember losing my virginity in the back of a car I never owned. I remember pushing you on a swing. I remember this address. I remember us going to grandma and grandpa's house on Manitoulin Island every summer. But those aren't from my life. They aren't mine. So am I Ada, or am I Warren?”
Warren held his hands up, not making any quick moves. The girl had destroyed his door, she was gaining his powers. Was she going to attack him? Most regen clones went insane, some of them dangerously insane. A few attacked the person who had caused it, either out of anger or believing if they killed the original they could take over.
“Ada, I'm going to call the hospital. They can help you,” he said, speaking calmly and slowly, like she was a dangerous animal.
“Why didn't you let me die?” she asked, tears streaming down her face. “It would have been kinder. A quick death. Barely any time to realize what was happening. Everything fades to black. No more worries. No more pain. I'd be dying as me.”
“I'm so sorry,” Warren said, feeling his own tears welling up. “I tried my best, it wasn't good enough. If I could do anything to make this better I would.”
“I'm fourteen years old. I like to sew. I think... I wanted to do something in fashion. I have a little brother. I'm told he's a great kid. It was his birthday today. I don't remember how old he is, his name or what he looks like. I have a best friend. She looks like Katherine. I kissed her last night, thinking she was my girlfriend. I can't even remember what her name is. I know a good friend of mine died yesterday. I don't remember who she is. I try, and I try, and I try to remember her name, or what she looked like, or a single thing we did together, and there's nothing.”
“You're what? Sorry? Do you think that makes things all better?” Ada demanded. “I'm dying. I'm going to vanish when the last of my memories get replaced by yours, and you're sorry! I looked at my parents before I left and I barely recognized them. And you're sorry!”
She turned away from him, her hands bunched up into fists. Her body was shaking so hard, Warren was almost afraid she was having a seizure.
“I could fight you. I'd lose, I'm not as strong as you. But I could make you kill me with your bare hands instead of like this. Expose your identity. Let the world know what you did to me,” she said, spitting the words out through gritted teeth, still turned away from him.
“I heard my parents talking. Regen clones usually go nuts. I understand why. You have no idea how this feels. No one does. The confusion. Feeling your memories vanish, one after the other. Being nibbled away by ants. Getting replaced by fake ones. I know they're fake, but they feel so real, and they're the only thing I can grab onto. My body is changing, getting hollowed out, replaced with yours. It's itchy and it hurts, and there's nothing I can do to make it stop. I just want to scream at the world, make it know that I existed. Or shatter it so it knows what it's like. I want to know that I didn't go without leaving a mark.”
He shifted his feet, preparing for a fight, desperately hoping there wouldn't be one.
“But there's a little voice. I'm sure it's mine. Saying that I can't. That I can't become a monster.” She fell to her knees crying. “I don't want to die.”
Andrea rushed past, tossing her phone at him as she did. Kneeling down beside Ada, she cradled the crying girl, whispering something in her ear. Leaving the room, he looked at the screen and saw she'd been texting Stephen.
'Ada's calmed down. Come and get her,' he typed.
Leaning against the wall, he tried to think of a way he could make it all better.
Nothing came to him.
Neal clutched his daughters hand. She didn't look like herself, even her eyes were different. He didn't care, he refused to let go. His wife was on the opposite side of the bed, holding Ada's other hand.
Looking up at them with confused, tired eyes, Ada tried to smile.
“I'm still me. I'm Adavia Taylor. I love you. Goodbye,” she said.
Dr. Wong put a needle into Ada's arm, injecting a clear fluid into her vein. A moment later she closed her eyes, her hand went limp in his. For the last time Neal watched his daughter go to sleep.
“She'll sleep for at least the next several hours. When she wakes up the mental changes will be complete,” Dr. Wong said.
“Thank you, doctor,” he said, voice tight and cracking.
The doctor left the room, closing the door silently behind him. Alone, Neal and Rebecca mourned their lost daughter.
Kingston General Hospital
October 9th, 2016
Everything felt soft and fuzzy.
Vaguely Warren knew he was in bed. It was warm and comforting. At the back of his mind he felt fear and sadness slowly fade away, like waking up from a barely remembered nightmare. The peace that filled him as it passed was so nice. He didn't want to wake up. Staying like this forever would be paradise.
He heard footsteps coming towards him.
Grimacing, he tried to ignore them. If he pretended to be asleep maybe the person would leave him alone.
“Did you sleep well?” Stephen asked.
Dammit, he couldn't ignore this. Stephen wasn't just his best friend, but a coworker. Who did Stephen work for? They worked for the same people, but he couldn't for the life of him remember what company it was or what he did.
Something to do with fighting?
He'd been doing it for years. He should remember.
It had definitely involved fighting. Maybe he'd gotten a bad head injury. Trying to think was difficult. His memories shifted, coming in and out of focus like a psychedelic kaleidoscope on a mushroom bender.
Stephen would be able to tell him, they'd been friends since graduating college.
Opening his eyes, he smiled at his friend. “Hey, I feel like crap. Did I get hit by a bus?”
“No. Before I tell you what happened I need to ask you some questions, is that OK?” Stephen asked.
“Yeah, sure. Gotta make sure my brain works, right?” he joked, trying to hide his growing concern.
Stephen smiled and nodded. “What's your name?”
“Warren Micheal Hansley. Try a harder one next time.”
“How old are you?”
He opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out. The number that popped up wasn't right. He wasn't a teenager. He'd gone to college, he and Stephen went out for beer practically every week. He had a home, a car and a job.
“I- I want to say fourteen, but I can't be that young.”
“Don't worry, this was expected. Everything is OK,” his friend said.
“How was this expected? And why is my hair so long?” he asked, finally noticing that his hair was hanging over his shoulders and halfway down his back.
“I'll explain everything after the questions. Can you name your immediate family and how old are they?”
“My sister Andrea. She's... eleven. Gah! That's not right, she's an engineer.” He shook his head, trying once more to get his thoughts in order.
“What about your parents?”
“Dad is Christopher Hansley, he's forty-five and died in 2010. Mom is Mary Hansley, she's seventy-one.” His brain realized what he'd just said. “What? This doesn't make any sense.”
“What are your powers?”
“Regeneration six. Internal energizer four.”
“Good. What's the last thing you remember before waking up?”
“I was in the hospital, maybe in this room. It was terrifying. My body wasn't mine. I think, Katherine my first girlfriend was there, she looked just like she did when we were dating in high school.” Warren forced himself to grin. “We were hugging and kissing each other. Sorry you asked for a memory not a dream, but that's what I remember.”
“That's fine,” his friend said.
He knew it wasn't fine. Stephen wasn't showing any emotion, keeping the perfect neutral expression they taught in medical school. Something was desperately wrong.
“Do you remember why you're in the hospital?”
“No. I think there might have been a fight, but my memories are all over the place and not making much sense.”
“Do you remember what regen cloning is?”
His stomach dropped. “Oh god no! Please don't tell me I made someone go through that. Are they all right?”
“I'm sorry Warren. There was a regen cloning accident, and you are the person affected.”
Warren lunged to the side of the bed, reaching for a bucket or something to throw up in. He bounced off a forcefield, falling back onto the mattress. His empty stomach roiled, forcing bitter tasting bile up his throat and onto the sheets. Retching and spitting, he tried to clear his mouth and throat, gulping for air hoping it would ease the burning sensation.
Stephen handed him a glass of water.
He drained it at once, and held it out. “More,” he gasped.
Several cups later, he still had the horrible taste in his mouth, but the burning was gone. Feeling a little better he took a moment to get his thoughts in order. Sitting up he moved to the edge of the bed, well away from the mess he'd made, and looked at the man he had thought was his friend. “What was with the forcefield?” he asked, deciding to ask the easy question first.
“We didn't know if you would be violent or not. It's standard procedure to confine a regen clone until we're sure, and a forcefield was gentler than restraints. Sorry about not taking it down in time, I hadn't expected you to throw up like that.”
That did make sense. Now time for the hard question. “So I'm a fake. Who was the poor bastard that I took?”
Stephen shook his head. “I think we should wait a few days before opening that wound. You're going to talk to a therapist first, and you can work out a plan with them.”
Rubbing his hairless chin, he looked at his hands. “I think I'm fourteen. I don't need to shave, and I'm smaller than you. The person was a teenager, weren't they?”
“Warren, please stop. You are in a fragile state right now, don't press too hard. I will say that the adult Warren, tried to save the person and was badly injured doing so. It was bad luck, and the only way he could have prevented it would have been letting the person die.”
“Adult Warren? Shouldn't we call him the real Warren.”
“You're real too.”
He snorted in disgust. “Yeah right. I stole a persons body, and I'm stealing someones memories. Pinocchio was more real than I am.”
“Would you like to speak to the therapist now?” Stephen asked. “We thought it would be easier for you if you spoke with me first, but he's just outside the door if you want to talk.”
“No. I'm good for now. Can I get some food? I'm starving.” He sniffed himself, wrinkling his nose. “And a shower. Food first, then a shower.”
“We can do that. I thought you'd be hungry when you woke up so we've got a lot of protein and carbs ready for you.” Stephen went to the door, knocked and waited for it to be unlocked from the outside. Opening the door, the doctor grabbed a waiting cart and wheeled it over to the bed.
Warren started to drool and his stomach growled noisily at the smell and sight of the food. There was a large deluxe pizza, a couple of cheeseburgers piled high with onions, pickles, lettuce and tomato slices, a fruit smoothie in a large pitcher, heaps of crackers and cheese, and a tray of brownies with thick chocolate icing. He realized he could eat almost all of it.
Pouring himself a drink, he crammed a slice of pizza in his mouth. If he was too busy eating, he wouldn't have to talk. He didn't really know what to say anymore. What could you say when you found out your memories were a lie and you were a murderer?
Lying in bed, Warren looked out at the night sky. Despite only waking up a few hours ago, and doing nothing except eating and answering some questions, he was exhausted. Stephen had told him it was a side affect of his changes, his body was still weak from the extensive changes. Still, he couldn't sleep.
He'd spent hours going over his memories. Trying to make some sense out of his existence, looking for meaning or stability within his own mind.
He couldn't find any.
A memory of playing on the beach with Andrea when he was nine years old seemed normal at first. Then he realized Andrea, who was his little sister, was in her twenties.
The memory of a philosophy presentation from university, he didn't know what year it was, had him wearing his Fearless superhero uniform. Warren was pretty sure that was wrong.
There was another one of him visiting a school for mutants. He couldn't tell if the glittering dome and the students in costume were real or not. He knew that he'd decided not to go, entering a boarding school in Canada instead. He didn't know if he'd made the decision because a werewolf got into a fight with a dinosaur and people had fled as blood and flesh spattered on the grass, or if there was another, saner reason for his decision.
That had happened again, and again, and again.
“Is this real, or is this another stolen memory?” he asked the darkness.
“So Warren, you've stolen someones body and life. You've stolen the real Warren's memories. What are you going to do for an encore?”
Who was the person he'd murdered? What was their family going through? What about their friends? Would they want to talk to him? Would they call him out for murder? Could he somehow make things right with them?
And what was the real Warren doing now? Was he hiding? Hoping it would all blow over? Was he trying to make up for his mistake? How would he react when they met?
The questions kept coming. He wished they'd stop. He wanted some peace, even for just a few minutes.
“What do I do now?” he asked himself.
He was a new person. He wasn't his memories. He wasn't the person he'd murdered. He wasn't the real Warren, despite having the same name.
The name was wrong. He could at least fix that.
“Pinocchio would be a good name. I'm not really real, fake body, fake memories, fake life. I've got to find a way to become real.”
Finally feeling like he'd gained some control, he turned away from the window. Slowly sleep overtook him.
Kingston General Hospital
October 10th, 2016
Pino saw Andrea waiting by his hospital room door, doing something on a tablet. The yellow feathers she had in place of hair drew some odd looks by the people passing by, which she completely ignored.
“Hi, Andrea,” he said, not sure how he was supposed to act around his not-sister.
“Hey Warren,” she said, putting the tablet into her bag. “So how do you want to do this? Hugs, handshakes, fist bumps, grunts?”
She was just like his fake memories of Andrea, joking and smiling no matter what. Even her clothes were on the funny side, she was wearing a bright, patchwork skirt and a t-shirt that read 'Sarcasm is my native language'.
“I don't know. Whatever you want, I guess,” he said, nervously playing with his black and red ponytail.
Grinning, she swept him up in a hug, resting her chin on his shoulder. “You look like you need a hug.”
Almost unwillingly, he wrapped his arms around her, letting out a shuddering sigh. A moment later he realized he was crying. “Can we get out of the hallway,” he whispered.
Letting him go, she opened the door to his room and ushered him inside. “So how did your talking session go?”
He looked at her in confusion.
“The therapy session.”
He shrugged, taking a seat by the window. “I got a psych evaluation. Apparently I'm sane enough to not be watched all the time. Dr. Huxley doesn't like my new name.”
Andrea took a seat across from him, tilting her head in question.
“I'm not Warren. I'm not anybody,” he explained. “So I decided to call myself Pinocchio. Dr. Huxley convinced me that it would give me the wrong mindset. So I'm going by Pino until I find a name that fits me better.”
“Pino's OK, it's unique at least. Do you know what you like to do? There are some restrictions on what you can and can't do, but I can get you some things for this afternoon to keep you entertained.”
His eyes went to the yellow nail polish she was wearing. It looked really good on her. “Can I get some nail polish, maybe some makeup?”
Her eyes widened. “OK. Any particular colour or would you like to experiment?”
“I don't know. I don't think I've ever worn makeup before.”
“It'll be lunchtime soon, and you're allowed out with supervision. How about we go out for lunch and after that we can pick up some makeup supplies, maybe drop by a few stores and see if anything else catches your eye.”
He gave her a tiny smile. Somehow talking to Andrea was easier and more relaxing than talking to Stephen or his therapist. “Thanks, I'd like that. So what am I not allowed to do?”
“No smart phone, and no tablet with net access. Sorry, not my decision, the docs don't want you digging into what happened until you've had a chance to get your balance. No beer since you're fourteen. And if you leave the hospital you have to be with an approved adult.”
“This is going to take a while to get used to.”
His not-sister reached over to pat his knee and smiled reassuringly. “Tell me about it. But I'm here for you, I've got a month of paid vacation to help you.”
“What about Warren?”
“He's on paid leave to recover. This isn't easy on him either.”
“When will I see him?”
Her smile became a frown. “I don't know. It will depend on Dr. Huxley, they don't want to stress you out too quickly. He would like to meet you, and he'll help out any way he can. But he agrees with the docs, and won't come until he gets the all clear.”
“I could go and see him myself, I know where he lives,” Pino said.
Andrea's face turned pale and her hands clenched her skirt. “Please don't try that, it won't help you or Warren. And anyways he's moved from there.”
“The regen cloning happened at his apartment?” he asked, taking an educated guess.
“No digging for information, Pino. If everything goes well, you'll learn everything in a week or two. Now do you want to go for lunch? We can go anywhere in the city, I've been working on my car and it's got some pretty sweet upgrades I want to show off.”
“Fine, no more digging, for now. But only if you take me to a nice steakhouse.”
She grinned. “Sure. This is all on the governments dime, lets get the good stuff.”
Feeling very full, Pino sat in the passenger seat of Andrea's souped up car. He didn't know the car model, he felt like he should, but apparently that memory hadn't come through properly, still he knew it was an expensive one. As the seat massaged his butt, and music surrounded him making it seem like he was at a concert, he wondered what else his not-sister had added to it. It must be nice being a gadgeteer, he thought.
“So where are we going?” he asked.
“You want makeup, so we're going to Sephora to get good stuff. And they'll help you pick out the best shades and teach you how to apply it,” Andrea said.
The thought of putting on makeup filled Pino with mixed emotions. None of his memories had him wearing makeup, but he couldn't stop thinking about it. He felt almost naked without it. An unpleasant idea came to mind.
“The girl I was before went to Warren's apartment, didn't she?”
The car swerved, luckily the road wasn't that busy so they didn't get into an accident. “How do you know that?!” Andrea demanded once she got the car back in the proper lane.
“I want makeup, Warren never wore any. My red hair is pretty feminine. And when I mentioned going to his apartment you got scared. You saw her before she... died. At his home.”
“What did I tell you about digging?”
“I need to know something,” he said. “It's like I'm stranded in the middle of an ocean, trying to grab onto something that will help keep me from drowning. I know I seem pretty calm right now, but I'm just too busy looking for anything to hold onto to properly freak out. If I don't find something soon, I-I... I don't know.”
His not-sister sighed, looked up at the sky as if searching for an answer, then shrugged. “OK. Yeah, she came to the apartment, broke the door doing it too. She didn't know her own strength and wasn't in any condition to care. I thought she was about to fight Warren, a suicide by cop situation. She kept control of herself, said her piece, and cried on my shoulder until an ambulance arrived. She was pretty far gone by that point.”
“Can I meet her parents?”
There was another sigh. “I don't know. The ministry is still talking with them, along with one of our therapists. If they're willing, and your therapist OK's it, it might happen. Don't push it, and don't go searching for them. They're in a bad place right now, let them mourn in peace.”
“OK. I'm not even sure if I want to meet them or not. What can I say? Sorry for killing and replacing your daughter?”
“You didn't kill her. You weren't alive until after she passed. Listen, you've got a lot on your plate already, don't go adding more grief on top of it,” Andrea told him, reaching over to pat his shoulder.
He nodded, understanding that it was good advice, but knowing he couldn't follow it. “Once I get out of the hospital, what will happen to me?”
“We don't know yet. There are a couple of options, one of the ones we're considering is you living with me. We're not sure about that because I live in a small apartment, and I'm away at work a lot. But I can always move to a bigger place, and I've been told I need to spend less time in the shop, they're getting sick of paying for all my overtime.”
“What about living with Warren?”
She shook her head. “That is not on the table. I've heard the docs say it would be unhealthy for both of you at least at first. Visiting is fine, and they're hoping if you two talk it will help both of you. But Warren has been going through hell over this. And they're afraid if you stay with him, you won't be able to properly break away and become your own person.”
“What if I don't want to live with you? What if I want to get as far away from my memories as possible?”
“Putting you into the foster system is being considered. The ministry is actually looking around for potential foster parents right now, mostly in the mutant community. You could also be sent to Whateley.”
The name clicked in his mind. “That's a big mutant school in the US?”
“Yeah. Warren almost went there, but decided he wanted to stay close to home. You remember it?”
“I've got a memory of visiting it. Didn't know the name until you said it.”
“Warren and I had the chance to go there, but I wanted to follow in my big brothers footsteps. After I visited the place last year on government business, I really wish I had gone. They've dealt with homeless and orphaned mutants before, and have some great facilities.”
She gave his shoulder a squeeze. “So anyways, we've got some options for you, and you've got at least a few weeks to decide what you want to do. And remember if you decide you made the wrong choice, you give the word and we'll try something else. Everyone knows this is a crappy situation, so we're doing what we can to make it easier for you.”
“Thanks, Andrea. It's nice to know I'm not alone.”
“As far as I'm concerned, you're family, and I don't abandon family. You can call me big sister, aunt, or just Andrea, whatever you're comfortable with.”
For the first time in his very short life, Pino had a real smile.
Kingston General Hospital
October 11th, 2016
Pino looked in the mirror, admiring the results. Andrea and a makeup artist had spent most of the previous afternoon teaching him how to put on makeup, which he'd picked it up surprisingly quickly. This morning was the first time he'd done it by himself and the results were pretty good.
He hadn't wanted to be garish with the makeup, the brighter colours hadn't felt right when they'd put it on. Instead he'd gone for a more subdued look, covering his blemishes and bringing out his features. With his carefully trimmed eyebrows, full lips, big brown eyes, and smooth skin, he could be a singer in a boy band. The pink nail polish looked out of place, but he didn't care, it felt right.
His hair was different too. Andrea had taken him to a hair salon where he'd had most of his hair cut off. It was still long for a boy, reaching almost to his shoulders, but was made to look like a messy surfer style. He'd also dyed it red. Seeing the red hair being cut away had made him want to cry, so Andrea and the stylist had recommended getting it coloured.
He wasn't sure if he liked it or not, but it felt better than his black hair.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Come in,” he said, wondering who it was.
“Hey, Pino,” Andrea said. She whistled when she saw his face. “Damn, you look good. I'm going to need to buy a baseball bat to keep the girls off of you.”
“Thanks. I know it's weird, but I feel better like this.”
“Nothing weird about it. You're figuring out what you like, and developing your own personal style. All teens do it at some point.”
“I'm not exactly a teen,” he said.
She gave him a hug. “Ask anyone who sees you what they think, they'll all say you're a teenager. Sometimes you want to go your own way, and sometimes it's good to go with the flow. In this case, go with the flow.”
He nodded, wanting to keep the peace. “So I've had my morning talking session. This afternoon I'm supposed to do a bunch of tests to see what I need to learn... Relearn? That's going to really suck. I hate tests. But I don't know what's supposed to happen until then, I was just told I'd have a visitor.”
“Yeah, you did really well yesterday, so we're pushing up your schedule a little. Would you like to talk to Warren now? You can say no, and do it later or never. And it ends when you say so, or I think it's getting too stressful.”
A painful lump formed in his throat. Trying to breathe through it made his jaw tense up. Closing his eyes, he tried to calm himself. He wanted to talk to Warren. He didn't know what he would say, but he knew he had to say something.
“I want to talk,” he croaked.
“OK. But remember if you need a break, if you get too upset or angry, just say you want it to end, or even just say stop, and it's over. You're in control,” Andrea said.
His not-sister went to the door and poked her head out. Then she stepped aside and turned back to him, smiling nervously, while the feathers on her head puffed out a little. The door opened revealing Warren, wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt.
Pino looked at him, studying his face and eyes. Warren looked different from his memories, skinnier, sunken cheeks and eyes, like he hadn't been eating properly. His black hair was too short to need combing, but it looked a little greasy. It was still clearly the same face from his fake memories, and what he would look like in the future.
He tried to say something. The lump was back in his throat. His heart was beating a mile a minute. For a moment he was lightheaded and the room began to spin.
“Hey, Pino. Take it easy and breathe,” Andrea said, walking quickly to his side and kneeling down beside his chair.
The lump eased enough that he could take a breath.
“Should I come back later?” Warren asked, his voice so soft it was hard to hear.
“No,” he said, his voice cracking. “I can do this.”
The original stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. “So... I'm sure you have questions. I'll answer anything I can,” he said, looking at him briefly before staring at the floor.
“How did you let this happen?” Pino asked in a whisper.
“I thought you'd ask that,” he said, frowning as he took a seat.
“There was a report of a break in. I got to the scene and saw a supervillain called Odiyan trying to steal an animal fur. I found out later it's supposed to be the skin of a yeti. I went to stop him when he turned into a dragon. We fought, he tried to escape, I kept going after him.” Warren's hands started to shake, his eyes got a far away look.
“After a fight in the air, we crashed into a mall. He didn't care about the people inside, burned a lot of them into ash, crushed several more. We fought more, destroying the mall and setting it on fire. I was knocked through a wall and he flew away.”
Stopping, Warren took a seat, breathing heavily. Andrea went to him, putting her arm around his shoulder.
“The mall was already collapsing, Odiyan did even more damage in his escape. I saw two girls about to be crushed. I jumped at them, knocking one of them away, and braced myself over the other girl keeping a part of the roof from crushing her. A piece of rebar speared us both.”
Pino watched the hero cry, unsure how he should feel.
“I keep replaying it in my mind, trying to think of what I could have done to save more people. To save Ada,” Warren sobbed.
Ada. He finally had a name for the person he'd murdered. He wasn't sure if that made him feel better or worse.
He didn't know how to feel about Warren either. If the hero had been cold, saying he did what needed to be done and Ada was just a necessary casualty, it would have been easy to hate him. If he'd made excuses, saying why it wasn't his fault, calling him a coward would be appropriate. Even a stoic appearance, accepting the blame and apologizing, probably would have struck him the wrong way, too formal and insincere.
The sobbing, guilt ridden man in front of him, he didn't know how to deal with him.
“Thanks. Maybe we can talk more tomorrow,” he finally said.
Warren nodded. “Yeah. I'd like that.”
Andrea gave him a thankful smile, then led her brother out of the room. Alone again, Pino tried to understand the feelings roiling through him.
Odiyan watched Fearless leave the hospital room. The broken hero didn't spare him a second glance, to all eyes he was merely a nurse going about her duties, not a threat to anyone. He hadn't been able to hear everything from the room, but what he had overheard was enough.
A speared girl who was now a boy. More research would be needed, but if what he believed was true, his task would be so much easier.
The blood of a clone would be just as effective as the blood of the original.
With a skip in his step, he headed for the exit. He still needed some time to recover, but that would also give him time to plan.
Kingston General Hospital
October 14th, 2016
'In June I went to my grade eight graduation dance. I went with Kat- CHLOE! I went with Chloe and- and Isla. I think I wore a pretty red dress and a pair of high heels. It took Mom over a week to teach me how to dance in them without falling on my face. Andrea thought. NO! Felix, my brother Felix. Felix thought it was hilarious.
We met with some boys, Mark, Saiphan and, who was he? Mark, Saiphan and Marcel. I danced with Marcel, the first time I'd really danced with a boy, and afterwards we kissed. That was my first kiss. It wasn't anything big, just a quick kiss on the lips, but it was nice. If he hadn't moved in the summer, I might have asked to go on an actual date with him when we started high school.'
Pino was curled up beside Andrea, watching yet another recording from Ada. Seeing the girl becoming more forgetful, alongside the growing fear and confusion in her eyes was hard to handle. He'd had to stop three times already to take a break and get some air.
He wasn't going to stop for long though. He'd murdered the girl, so the least he could do was remember who she was and what she thought was important.
There were many more videos he needed to watch, a few more hours of Ada, almost as many from her parents and Felix, and a few from her friend Chloe. She'd wanted to be remembered, and her family and closest friend had done their best. He almost wished he could meet them.
“I need to get some air,” he said, pausing the video.
“Want some company?” Andrea asked.
“No, I'll just go get some snacks and come back,” he said.
Heading downstairs to the coffee shop, he took the stairs, wanting to use up a little bit of the nervous energy. He couldn't wait to be out of the hospital. Just a few more tests to make sure he wouldn't go nuts, and he'd move to a hotel suite with Andrea. From there he'd have a few more weeks to think about things and get some more therapy sessions, then he'd make a decision about where he wanted to permanently live.
He'd probably choose to live with Andrea. He got along with his sister, and she seemed to like him. She was stable and secure. Something he desperately needed. She also lived in Toronto, it would probably be a good idea to leave the city, and make a clean break for himself.
Opening the stairway door, he froze.
Ada was looking at him.
He'd studied her face in the videos, he knew every line and freckle of it. The girl standing before him couldn't be anyone else.
She stared at him, her mouth opened in a silent gasp, terror etched into her face. Then she was running like the wind. For a moment he just watched her go around a corner, then he took off after her.
Turning the corner, he almost ran into a nurse.
“No running in the hospital!” she told him.
“There was a girl. Ada. She was running this way,” he stammered.
They both looked around, there was no sign of any girl, or a runner. “I didn't see anyone. Are you sure you saw her go this way?”
“I- I don't know.” He didn't even know if she had been real.
October 16th, 2016
“What do you think of Julian? It means youth,” Andrea asked.
Sitting on a big recliner in the hotel suite he shared with his older sister, Pino put down the stuffed bear he was currently sewing and wrote it down. “It's OK. But it makes me think of julienne fries. Maybe Kit. it means hope, and 'Bearing Christ', in Greek.”
“Short and sweet. I'd put that on your short list.”
He wrote it down, putting a little heart beside it, and started sewing again. He and Andrea had spent the last hour going over potential names, trying to find one that suited him better than Pinocchio. So far none of them had jumped out at him as a great name. Most of them were too similar to ones from his, from Warrens memories. The ones that weren't, were usually old fashioned or from a completely different culture and would sound odd on him.
He wondered if new parents had this much trouble thinking of a name for their kid.
At least he was out of the hospital. A comfortable hospital room was still a hospital room, with all the unpleasant thoughts and feelings that came with it. Now he had a room where he could lock the door and not worry about a nurse or someone walking in on him.
He could also use the internet now, and even had a nice smart phone, gifts from Andrea and Warren. A large government settlement had bought him a closet full of clothes, a gaming laptop, and the nice sewing kit he was currently using. When he'd asked for it, Andrea had made a joke about getting him to sew her a dress, but she'd gone along with it, buying a few hundred dollars worth of fabric as well.
He'd started working on a teddy bear almost immediately. His fake memories didn't help him much, he just instinctively knew what to do. In several of Ada's videos, she'd talked about sewing. It made him feel a little better that at least something of her still existed.
Andrea's phone beeped.
“Time to go,” she said, straightening her blazer. She was dressed up in her fancy clothes in preparation to meet the Taylor's.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked.
“I think it will help you. So do the therapists. You and the Taylor's need to find some kind of closure, and maybe something else can come out of this. Just remember, you have control. If you want to end it, you don't even have to give the word, just leave,” she reminded him.
He nodded, not sure if could trust himself to speak.
Grabbing his jacket, they took the elevator down and got into Andrea's car. As he did up his seat belt, he saw a girl with red hair walking down the sidewalk. She turned to glare at him with hate filled eyes. He'd seen Ada several times in the last few days. Always a brief glimpse, and he never had a chance to talk to her or touch her to see if she was real.
Closing his eyes, he told himself she wasn't real.
When he looked at where she should be, no one was there.
Sighing in relief, he silently stared out the window while Andrea drove them to the therapist's office. He hadn't told anyone about his hallucinations, they were all afraid he was nuts or would go nuts. He didn't want to end up in a hospital for the rest of his life.
All too soon they arrived at their destination. Dr. Huxley met them at the door, and started going over the rules of the meeting. Either one of them could cancel the meeting at a moments notice, don't expect any immediate breakthroughs, be honest but don't attack. He nodded in all the appropriate areas.
Andrea knocked on the door before opening it. She entered first, then ushered Pino in, her arm around his shoulder, almost guiding him to the chair across from Mr. And Mrs. Taylor.
He kept his head down, barely looking at Ada's parents. They were holding each other, providing each other support. Their eyes were red and puffy, it looked like they hadn't slept well.
They looked at each other in silence for what felt like hours.
Finally Mrs. Taylor broke the silence. “Hello, Pino, how have you been?”
He shrugged. “I don't know. Confused.”
Silently he cursed himself, they needed, no they deserved more than that. “I've been trying to make sense of everything. The videos you made have helped.”
“We're glad to hear that. Do you- Do you remember anything of you- of Ada?”
Andrea squeezed his shoulder, letting him know she was there for him.
“No. I'm sorry. I have things that I think come from her, like wanting to wear makeup, sewing, wanting to dye my hair red. It just feels right and helps me calm down. But that's it. I'm sorry.”
He watched in shame as Mrs. Taylor wiped tears from her eyes. Mr. Taylor was so stiff he could have been carved from granite. He desperately wished he knew what to say to make things better, to give them some comfort.
“You don't need to apologize,” Mr. Taylor said. “Nothing that happened was your fault.”
He started crying, holding his face in his hands. “People keep telling me that, but if it wasn't for me, she'd still be here. I murdered her so I could exist, even if I didn't want to do it.”
Andrea got to her feet. “I'm sorry, but I think we should end this here and set up another meeting next week.”
“No,” Pino said. “I need to say this. I'm sorry. If I could do anything to give you Ada back I would. It isn't fair that I murdered her, just so I could exist.”
His sister grabbed him to her chest, saying something he couldn't hear over his sobbing. Another hand touched his shoulder, looking up he saw Mrs. Taylor standing beside him. She used a tissue to wipe his face. His sobs died down a little.
“What happened to Ada was a tragedy,” Mrs. Taylor told him, “but you had nothing to do with it. Don't call yourself a murderer, and don't hurt yourself for existing. You have nothing to be sorry for, but if it helps, I want you know that I forgive you.”
He flinched as the grieving mother embraced him. Then he hugged her back, crying even harder.
Ministry of Supernatural Affairs Building
October 18th, 2016
The small gym was empty except for Pino and Warren, who were both wearing shorts and shirts. It was the second time they'd met in person and their first time alone.
“Andrea's told me you've been pretty careful with your strength,” Warren said.
“Yeah. I know what I'm not supposed to do, and haven't tried to push myself at all. I don't want to risk hurting someone,” Pino replied.
The superhero nodded. “Good, but you'll need to learn to use your strength properly or mistakes will happen when you need it most.”
“I've watched some videos of you, will I be able to throw trucks and punch through power armour?”
He shook his head. “No. My suit is specially made for me. It has a devised exoskeleton that increases my strength by a factor of five, and when I really need to it will inject special drugs into my system that push my muscles well past their limits. Only my regeneration keeps it from killing me, and I still feel terrible for hours after using it.”
“So what can I do?”
You're a brick. Getting hurt won't be easy, you'll need to be hit by a car to really get knocked down. You can throw a motorcycle around like it's a toy. And if you punch a regular car door, you'll probably put your fist through it. You can also jump up to the roof of a four story building and land on your feet from a six story building, you may get a sprained ankle but it will heal in a second or two.”
“I'd prefer flying,” Pino said.
“Sorry, wings were too expensive, I could only afford jumping. Maybe you can ask Andrea for a jet pack,” Warren said, smiling for the first time.
“What are we going to practice first?”
Warren got two eggs from a pack he'd brought with him. “Do you know how to juggle?”
“I think so. I remember you practicing it lots of times.” He felt bad about how he'd worded it, when he saw the superhero wince.
“Right. Let's see how you do.” Warren gently tossed the eggs at him.
Catching the eggs was easy enough, his reflexes were fantastic. Taking a moment to remember how Warren had been taught, he started juggling, trying to copy the instructions and movements in his head. It was shaky at first, but soon enough he had the two eggs moving smoothly through the air.
Another egg was lobbed at him. For a moment he was afraid he was going to drop them all, but instinct took over and he not only caught the egg, he fit it in between the other two. Smiling, he raised his leg and tossed the eggs under it.
“Nice. Very nice,” Warren said, clapping his hands. “I think we can move on to the next part.”
“OK,” he said. He kept juggling the eggs.
“You can stop now.”
“I don't know how!”
Pino finished wiping the last of the egg yolk out of his hair at the same time Warren put away the mop.
“OK, you've got the reflexes, just need to practice some more at home. We'll pick up some balls before I drop you off,” Warren said. “Now I want you to do a standing long jump. Try to reach the other side of the gym and land on your feet.”
Nodding, Pino threw the towel in the bag and got into position. He knew he wouldn't be able to jump that far, but he should be able to make it at least halfway.
“You want to go for distance, not height. And don't worry if you fall, you'll heal before you feel anything.”
“Yeah. Got it.”
Bending his knees, he raised his arms behind him. Focusing on the far end of the gym, he jumped as hard as he could. As soon as his feet left the floor, he knew he'd screwed up. He rose into the air and saw the ceiling coming towards him.
He came to an abrupt halt. Pain erupted on his forehead and he saw stars. Then he landed painfully on his back, cracking his head a second time, this time on the back of his skull.
“Ow!” The pain went away before he'd finished moaning, but the memory of it was still there, and the room was still spinning.
Warren laughed, adding insult to injury. Not that he could blame the guy, it had to have looked hilarious, and it wasn't like he was going to get a concussion.
Sitting up, he rubbed his head. His hand was slick with something. Looking at his hand, he saw it was coated in blood.
He started shrieking in terror.
“It's OK, Pino,” Warren said for the hundredth time. “I bleached it all and wiped it up.”
He smelled of bleach and his skin tingled. Clutching his his knees with one hand, Pino stared at the hand that had gotten his blood on it. It was spotless, he'd scrubbed it with bleach and a towel until it was raw. Then he'd done the same to his forehead, while Warren cleaned up the blood on the floor. The towel he'd used was sitting in a bucket of bleach.
“I don't know what happened. I've seen blood on TV, and it wasn't a problem. But I saw mine and- and I freaked.” His voice shook as he spoke.
“My blood caused all of this. Yours has the same regeneration. It's understandable that you'd be afraid of it. You can talk to your therapist about it tomorrow,” Warren said. “For now, go have a shower and clean up. I'll put all this stuff away and then we can go catch a movie or something to relax.”
Nodding, he got up and jogged to the locker room. The thought that he might have more blood in his hair was nearly enough to make him have another panic attack. Throwing off his clothes, he started the shower and squirted almost half a bottle of shampoo onto his scalp. Scrubbing so hard it hurt, he made sure his hair was coated before putting his head under the spray.
“You don't deserve to live.”
He jumped at the voice. Looking around shampoo burned his eyes. He could see a girl a few feet away. “Who are you?” he demanded.
“You stole my body. My life,” the girl said. “Why does a fake like you get to live?”
Backing away from Ada, still half blind, he began to whimper. “You're not real. You're not real. You're not real.”
“I'm not real? I was real. More real than you, murderer,” Ada hissed. “What did it feel like, hugging my mother? I won't be able to do that again because of you!”
“I'm sorry,” he cried.
“If you're sorry, you should kill yourself. It's not like you're real. No one will care that a murdering fake killed itself.”
“Pino, you OK in there?” Warren called.
Looking up, he saw that Ada had vanished. “I- I'm fine,” he shouted. “Just give me a few more minutes.”
Trembling, he began scrubbing himself off. The water hiding his tears.
October 19th, 2016
Pino looked up from his tablet when Andrea came out of the therapists office. She looked at him sadly and put her arm around his shoulder when he stood up. Silently they walked to the car and got in.
“Why did you wait so long before telling us about seeing Ada?” she asked.
He shrugged, looking away.
“Look, I know this is a hard time for you. I also understand wanting to keep things to yourself, but this is serious. And the only way you're going to better is if you tell us what's wrong.”
“I don't want people thinking I'm crazy,” he said, still looking away from her.
“You're under a lot of stress right now, no one will think you're crazy for this.”
“Regen clones go crazy. I feel crazy sometimes with my memories. I don't want to be locked up or have people being afraid of me.”
She reached over, placing her hand on his chin, making him turn to face her. “Not all clones go crazy. Back in 2007, there were two regen clones about your age. They were able to go to school and didn't show any signs of mental illness. They were perfectly ordinary students.”
“Did they stay sane after leaving school?”
“The medical reports didn't go beyond 2007 for privacy reasons. But if they did slip, that would have been included in them,” she explained. “You're situation is a bit worse than theirs, and we're going to have to work on the hallucinations. But it's probably due to guilt and stress, like a waking nightmare. So you're going to go to therapy everyday, not just three times a week, and we're going to try to get you relaxed.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“Well first we need to get you a routine. You're going to start being tutored, so you can go to school next term. You're also going to take an evening class in something, sewing, art, music, a science camp, cooking, anything you'd like. It will help you socialize and hobbies are good for you.”
That didn't sound too bad. “OK.”
“Good. Now for the rest of the day you need to relax, doctors orders. Where would you like to go?”
“How about a movie? I've seen trailers for a romantic comedy that looks pretty good.”
His sister grinned. “Great, I haven't gone out for a movie in way too long.”
Still grinning from the movie, Pino took a quick trip to the washroom and Andrea did the same. Going into a stall, he started doing his business.
There was a knock on the door.
“Um, occupied,” he said.
The person knocked again.
“I'm in here, go away,” he said a little louder.
“I want my body back,” Ada said.
He froze in terror. “Not real. Not real,” he said. He began humming to himself, focusing on the noise rather than the hallucination.
“I'm not going away. You have my body. I'll never go away as long as you're alive. The only way to get rid of me is if you die. You know you deserve to die. You murdered me, so it's only justice that you die too. Think about it. I'll be back soon.”
Listening to the footsteps leave the washroom, he started sobbing.
October 26th, 2016
Andrea knocked on the door to Pino's room. There was no response from him. “Pino, I have something to tell you. I'm coming in.”
There was still no response. Sighing, she opened the door and stepped into the dark room. Her little brother was curled up in his blanket, staring at his phone. His eyes were dark and sunken in. She wanted to help him, but he seemed to be slipping further and further away, suffering from horrible hallucinations whenever he was outside and alone for more than a few seconds.
“Hey, I might have some good news for you,” she said.
He looked at her, not speaking.
“The Taylor's have offered to be your foster parents. They talked it over with the therapists and everyone thinks it could be good.”
“Do I have to go with them. It was her home.”
The way he said 'her' was so full of fear and sadness, she had to look away to hide the pain she felt. He'd always sounded sad when talking about Ada, now he couldn't even mention her name. “Maybe it will help you, like facing your demons. But no, you don't have to go. You still have time to make up your mind, and the offers to live with me or with another foster family is still open.”
“I don't know what to do. Does it even matter?” he asked.
She sat down on the bed, enveloping him in a hug. “Yes it does matter. You matter to me and Warren and the Taylor's. You're real, and you have a future. And we want you to have the best life possible.”
“I'll think about it,” he said. His voice had all the emotion of a corpse.
October 30th, 2016
Odiyan glared at the cracked dragon skull. He had worked for over two weeks on the boy, but the clone hadn't killed himself yet. All he did was stay in his room, hiding from the world.
He needed the blood to be freely given if the spell was too work. Just killing the child wouldn't work. Taking the dead girls hairbrush, he studied the cracked and pitted plastic. It reeked of burnt hair, the bristles were melted and the hair was almost gone. He could transform himself once more with it, and then it would become useless.
One last chance and it would have to be good. Otherwise he'd have to take a riskier and more violent option.
October 31st, 2016
Andrea came into the bedroom, Pino stared at her, not feeling like talking. He just clutched the teddy bear he'd made to his chest waiting for her to talk.
“Pino, I just got a call. I need to go and fix a suit of power armour I made. It's important and they don't have anyone else who can do it as quickly as I can,” she said. “Warren will be here in a few minutes, so you won't be alone.”
He almost said that he didn't need anyone to watch over him. He was just a murderer and a fake. It would be best for everyone to leave him alone, but that would take too much effort. Instead he rolled over so she wouldn't have to look at him.
She sighed. “I'll be back as soon as I can.”
The door clicked shut, leaving him alone.
A minute or two later he heard Andrea leave. He wasn't too worried. Ada never bothered him in the hotel room, only when he was alone outside. The room was safe. Not that he deserved to be safe.
The front door opened. Warren had arrived.
Footsteps came to his door, and then Warren let himself in without so much as a knock. Why couldn't they leave him alone?
“The murderer is all alone,” Ada said.
He couldn't look at her. He threw his blanket over his head, trying to shut her out.
“No more hiding, fake. It's time you face your crimes.” The blanket was yanked off, Ada was standing over him, her face twisted with anger.
“No! Please go away!” he shouted.
“Not until you pay for murdering me,” she said. Pulling a knife from her belt, she held it out to him. “A single slice and justice will be done. A single slice and the pain will end.”
Jumping off the bed Pino ran to the corner cowering in fear. Where was Warren?
Ada stalked towards him. “You're existence has only caused pain and suffering to everyone. You're a blight on this world. You don't deserve to live for what you've done.”
She hissed words he couldn't understand. The sounds burned his ears, echoing in his mind. The room twisted sickeningly. The world changed. He found himself in a dark, dusty room, surrounded by rotten furniture.
“This is what you cause, death, darkness, corruption, and rot!” she shouted in his face.
Curling into a ball, his hands covered his face. His body convulsed as he cried.
She grabbed his hair, yanking his head up, forcing him to look at her. “Why do you get to live? Why did you kill me?!”
He tried to beg for forgiveness, beg her to leave him alone, scream for help. The words were jumbled together, hopelessly tangled from terror and grief.
“You want this to end, murderer? One slice, that's all it takes.” Ada held up her hand, showing her wrist. Grinning, she ran the knife along it. Blood welled up, dripping down her arm, staining her sleeve.
She shoved her bloody hand into his face, smearing his lips with blood.
“Come on, fake. You'll need to do it along your throat, but it's just the same. Do it to end your pain. Do it for justice. Do it for me.” She threw the knife down, spearing his leg.
Pino screamed in pain. Then he saw his blood.
Odiyan stepped back, smiling wickedly at his work. The clone was terrified and broken. At most he'd just need a tiny push to drive him over the edge. He mentally prepared a spell to absorb the blood.
The clone shrieked, staring dumbfounded at the blade.
Suddenly the boy surged to his feet, grabbing the knife and throwing it at the wall so hard it left a hole in the rotten wood. Odiyan shouted in surprise as he was body checked to the side. He managed, barely, to stay on his feet, but the clone was out the door, blindly running down the hallway still screaming, before he could react.
“Dammit!” he shouted.
Removing the shapeshifting spell, he reached into his pocket and took out an ogres tooth. If he couldn't do this the easy way, he'd break the boy until he begged for death.
Warren picked up his phone, wondering who would call him this late in the evening. “Hello?”
“Hey Warren, are you with Pino yet?” Andrea asked.
“Why would I be with Pino?”
There was a pause. “I just called you ten minutes ago about coming over to watch Pino. I have to do an emergency repair on Blizzards power armour.”
“You didn't call me.”
He heard the screeching of tires and horns honking, followed by the roar of an engine and a siren. “I'm going back to the hotel, something is wrong. The hallucinations. Someone messing with your phone, so I'd leave Pino alone. I don't like this.”
“Phone me back if he's missing,” he said, going to his closet.
Pushing his clothes out of the way, he hit a concealed button. The back of the closet opened up, revealing his suit.
Ignoring the shakes and his racing heart, Warren began stripping. If Andrea was right, and someone was after Pino, he had to be ready. There could be no mistakes this time.
Slamming through the front door of abandoned house, Pino started to regain control of himself. Staggering into the street, he tried to figure out where he was. The houses and buildings were run down, and the street was deserted. He had no idea what neighbourhood he was in, or where to go to get help.
Gasping for air, trying to calm himself, he tried to think as he picked a direction at random and started walking.
Wood splintered behind him and a roar forced him to cover his ears.
Looking back, he saw a massive, tusked ogre-like thing running towards him. Screaming he took off, running as fast as he could.
He didn't make it far. An impossibly large hand grabbed his leg, shattering bones from the pressure. He was lifted into the air and slammed down face first into the pavement. He felt his ribs snap, and heard the crunch of bone from his skull.
Dazed, he tried to crawl away. Tiny whimpers came with every agonizing breath, as his bones popped back into place and healed. He got to his hands and knees, still seeing stars, trying to move in a straight line.
The ogre stomped up to him, brought its foot back and kicked him in the side.
Pino flew through the air, coming to an abrupt stop when his back connected to a light post. Sliding to the sidewalk, he couldn't feel his legs.
“What do you want?” he gasped.
“I need you to kill yourself. Until you do, I'm going to break every bone in your body, again, and again, and again,” the ogre said, in a voice that sounded like rocks being ground together.
The hand reached for him. Making a fist he punched it as hard as he could. There was a snap of bones and the ogre roared, shaking its hand in pain. Standing up, his back and legs still tingling as the nerves repaired themselves, he threw himself at the ogre.
Fearless paced in his living room, waiting for a call from Andrea, while listening to his police radio. There were no reports of anything more than some speeders, Halloween vandalism and noise complaints.
He hoped Andrea was being paranoid.
“We have a report of a 10-81, Caution H, in Rideau Heights,” the radio blared.
Violent altercation involving something not human. It might not be Pino, but it was something he should check out. Activating the radio and phone in his cowl, he opened his window and jumped to the top of the building across the street.
Racing over the tiles, he pushed his fears away. This wasn't the time for self-doubt.
Pino crashed into a car, leaving a crater in the door.
The ogre had some large bruises on its naked body, but for every hit it took, it gave Pino five. Only his regeneration kept him in the fight. He was trying to remember how to fight, searching his stolen memories for anything that could help. But remembering doing something wasn't the same as actually physically doing them.
Driving his fingers into the car door, he braced his foot against the side and wrenched it off. Spinning around, he managed to use it to block the ogres blow. He was still knocked off his feet and went sliding across the pavement on his back, but this time nothing was broken.
The ogre stomped towards him, fist raised.
Rolling to his feet, Pino threw the car door like a frisbee. It caught the monster in the knee, knocking it down. Rather than risk getting in close and being beaten again, he turned and jumped as far as he could. The houses became a blur, and he leaned forward, unsure of what he was doing.
Hitting the ground, he lost his balance and landed face first, sliding along the street once more. Grimacing in pain, he kept his eyes closed, knowing he would see his blood if he looked. His skin crawled as it grew back. Blindly he sprinted forward, only opening his eyes after running several feet.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw the ogre shrink. A moment later there was flash of light and a massive horse with a horn on its head was charging down the street.
He fled, shouting for help as he went.
The sound of hooves came closer.
Driving his hand into the hood of a car, he changed direction running onto an overgrown lawn. His hand ripped open when he pulled it loose, but the unicorn whinnied in anger as it went past him.
Not slowing down, he jumped the fence and ran through the back yard. He was about to jump the next fence, when the unicorn smashed through some shrubs at a gallop. He hesitated a moment, not sure what to do, the monster didn’t.
He felt the horn pierce his stomach and come out his back. His feet left the ground and then he was shoved through a fence. The unicorn kept running, hitting fences, shrubs and garden furniture, using him as a battering ram.
They came out on a street. Pino was barely conscious, struggling to get off the horn. His hands were slick with blood and guts. He was too dazed and in agony to notice.
The unicorn lowered its head and shook him, making him slide down. A hoof hit his pelvis pushing him off the horn, then grinding him into the pavement until he felt his hip crack. Writhing in pain, he couldn't stop the hoof that came down on his knee, crushing it.
Shrieking, he tried to crawl away. A hoof flattened his hand.
After healing so much damage, even his regeneration was slowing down. He felt his wounds knitting themselves together, but it wasn't fast enough. Curling up into a ball, he wished the pain would end.
“So clone, do you want the pain to stop? I can do this all night,” a man said.
He couldn't say anything, the pain in his gut was too much.
Police sirens came down the street. The man scowled, grabbing something from his pocket he threw it on the ground. A sparkling dome covered them. “My shield will keep them out for at least an hour. An hour where I'll be making your life a living hell.”
Pino watched in horror as the man took a knife from his belt. He moaned when the knife cut into the skin of his arm. The moan became a scream, as his skin was peeled off by the razor sharp blade.
The dome shook, thunder shook the ground.
Looking up, Pino saw Warren in his costume, pulling back his broken fist.
“Let him go, Odiyan, and I'll give you a chance to surrender,” Fearless snarled.
Fearless hit the dome again. His hand shattered, he didn't care. The devisor chemicals were running through his system, not only increasing his strength but numbing the pain. Bringing his fist back again, the damage already healed, he punched the dome a third time, making it flicker.
A few more hits and it should break.
Odiyan sneered at him, dropping the knife.
Punching the dome again, he saw the wizard pull a bone from his pocket. His body shifted, getting smaller and brighter. It only took a moment and Odiyan had become a flaming bird of prey.
The dome fell.
Fearless lunged forward, not sure what the magician was about to do, knowing he had to put him down immediately.
The phoenix waved its wings and a wall of flame roared to life.
Shrieking, every nerve in his body screaming, Fearless burned. He passed through the flames quickly enough that his lungs didn't turn to ash. Still he rolled to the ground, suffering from second and third degree burns. His suit was melted in places, increasing his agony.
Odiyan flew into the sky, circled and dove towards him, flames surrounding his body.
Gutting the pain, Fearless threw himself to the side, narrowly avoiding being burned alive a second time. He scrambled away as fire erupted around him. Getting to his feet, he tried to see the wizard through the flames.
Lawns began to burn from the heat. He dodged and ran, trying to avoid the flames that came from the sky and exploded from the street.
The phoenix cried, flames flew into the sky as it prepared to burn him alive.
Taking a deep breath, Fearless leaped into the flames. His eyeballs melted from the heat, his costume burned away. His hands collided with something. Grabbing it, he squeezed as hard as he could, feeling thin bones snap and turn to powder.
He hit the ground, blinded, trembling, barely able to move, but he couldn't feel any pain. His nerves had been burned to ash. He didn't know if he was still holding the phoenix. He didn't know if he still had hands or if they'd been incinerated.
Willing himself to heal, he struggled to get to his feet.
Pino watched the flame erupting all along the street. He couldn't see anything through the fire. Still hurting, he got to his knees. He needed to get away.
Holding his stomach, his eyes were drawn to the knife the wizard had dropped. He recognized it. It was the same one Ada had shown him.
It took a moment for his pain addled mind to put it all together, but when it did, he saw red.
He heard a bird cry in pain. Fearless flew out of the fire, horribly burned, holding a phoenix in his hands. They hit the ground in a boneless heap. The hero, trembling and screaming, tried to stand, pushing himself up on blackened stumps. The bird tried to fly away, but its wings were shattered.
The bird shifted back to a human form. His arms hung limp and twisted at his side, his face was twisted in pain.
Getting to his feet, Pino staggered towards the man, his body ached, and his knee barely worked, but he could move.
The wizard started a spell, his eyes closed in concentration and pain. His arms cracked as they straightened.
Pino ran at the wizard. Punching as hard as he could, his fist shattered the mans jaw, sending him to the ground.
“You pretended to be Ada,” he growled. “You made me think I was insane.”
Raising his fist, he stared down at the unconscious man. He wanted to kill him. He wanted to shatter every bone his body to punish him.
He lowered his hand.
No matter what he felt, he wasn't a murderer.
Walking over to Fearless, he fell to his knees. “We got him, Warren,” he said. “He's not going anywhere.”
“Good job, Pino,” Fearless croaked.
“I don't want to be Pino anymore. I don't like the name.”
“Neither did I. Help me up, Andrea's on her way. She's worried about you.”
Kit Ada Hansley stood by himself, watching a video on his phone.
'This is the last video. I don't trust my memories enough to tell you anything else,' Ada said.
'So I need you to do something important, and you can't say no. You're taking my life, so you owe me. I know it isn't your fault and this isn't fair of me, but in the last day I've learned that life isn't fair. So I want you do something good with your life. I don't know what, maybe become a doctor, invent something to end world hunger, become a multimillionaire and put most of it into charity, it's up to you. But do something that makes my death worthwhile. If you become a supervillain, or some lazy asshole who just plays video games, binging on snacks and whining about how much your life has sucks, than what was the point of my dying so you could live?
'So yeah, do something worthwhile, something that will make people remember you. Do what I never got the chance to do.'
Putting the phone away, he knelt in front of Ada's gravestone, putting a bouquet of blue forget-me-nots, on it.
“OK, Ada. I don't know what I'll do yet, but I'll make sure it's good,” he said.
'Adavia Harriet Taylor
Gone but never forgotten.
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Kit put his suitcases into the trunk and went to say goodbye to the people he considered his family.
Felix ran up to give him a hug, followed by Mrs. Taylor. “Be careful at Whateley, we want a lot of emails from you,” she said. “And we expect you to come for Thanksgiving, even if it's just the American one.”
“Yes, Aunt Rebecca,” he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek. He hadn't taken them up on the foster parent offer, but he'd visited them so often they'd pretty much given him the guest room.
Mr. Taylor came over, patting him on the back. “If you need anything let us know. We'll always be here to help you out.”
“I will. And thanks, that means a lot,” he said, wiping his eyes.
Warren was next. “Don't let anyone push you around. High school is tough, especially when you're different, but you're tough to. So take the martial arts class, and keep the holdouts I gave you handy.”
“It's school, how tough can it be?”
“You've only been home schooled, actual school is totally different.”
“Fine, I'll be careful,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“If we want to get there tonight, we'd better get on the road,” Andrea said.
Waving to everyone, Kit got into the car.
As they drove away, Andrea patted him on the shoulder. “I'm going to miss having my roommate.”
“You'll miss my cooking you mean,” he said.
“True. Your french toast is great, and you can make pretty good burgers. But I'll miss you too, so when you send emails to Rebecca, send some my way too,” his sister said.
“I will. I won't forget anyone.”