The Cuckoo's Progeny
13: An Inquisitive Mind
CopyrightÂ© 2016 Vincent Berg. All rights reserved.
“So are the two of you okay after last night?” Gary asked.
Al sighed, sinking in his seat. He glanced back in the rear-view mirror. “She’s still thinking it over. Frankly, I have no idea where she’s at now. She insisted on riding with Delilah.”
“Yeah, that’s what I gathered. In which case, how are you holding up? Last night wasn’t too much, was it?”
Al shrugged, not answering, so Gary changed topics. “What’s up for today? Where are we heading? We don’t seem to be traveling the same stop-and-go approach we’ve been following.”
“No, we’ve reached the end of the road in this direction. Instead we’re heading back home before starting in the other direction. It’ll give you—” Al was interrupted by a siren and a flashing blue light behind them.
“Were you speeding?”
“No. With this many people and cars, it wouldn’t make sense. Speeding would just make it harder to keep track of each other.”
“At least we’re not rescuing anyone,” Al said. “I contacted everyone else. If we all stop, it’ll raise questions.” He paused, holding his ear. “Amend that. Seems Be refuses. The others will wait for us at the next exit.”
Gary pulled over, leaving his hands on the steering wheel where they’d be obvious. “Let me handle this. This attention’s been on you so far, I’ll take the heat for this, whatever it is.”
“I can stand up for myself,” Al insisted.
“That’s not the point. We all depend on you and Be. Without you, the rest of us are all lost. You can operate without me, and I can catch you later if things go badly. We need you and Be to track down any more of us.”
It took the officer several minutes to approach, undoubtedly running a record check on Al’s car. When he did, he turned to regard Delilah’s vehicle, which had pulled in front of them.
“Are they with you?” he asked.
“Yeah. It’s my sister and her friend. They didn’t want to lose me.”
The officer surveyed the car before continuing. “Were you involved in a near collision in town yesterday?”
Gary leaned back and sighed. “Yes, we were. No one was hurt, and I didn’t think it appropriate to stop in the middle of a busy highway to discuss it.”
“Don’t worry, you aren’t in trouble, but the Mayor and Police Chief asked us to locate you. The Mayor would like to award you with a commendation for saving lives.”
“Would this award involve the media?” Gary asked, arching his eyebrow.
The officer grinned. “Yes, it would. The media is eager to interview you.”
“I’m sorry, but we were involved in a similar situation a couple days ago. We saved a couple lives, but instead of thanking us, or preferably ignoring it, a local report accused us of being terrorists. The media attention has left us a bit gun shy.”
“You were accused of being a terrorist?” the officer asked, stiffening and taking a step back.
Gary held his hand out to his friend while addressing the officer. “Seems that’s a favorite tactic of this reporter. He makes unsupported accusations, then prints a retraction on page eight of his paper days later so no one will sue him.” Al placed a copy of the retraction in his hand, which Gary passed to the policeman. “If it’s all the same to you, we’d rather avoid the attention. If we accepted the award, the local press would undoubtedly repeat the unfounded accusation, further complicating things.”
The officer’s eyes widened as he reviewed the clipping. He ended by tipping his hat. “I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure the Mayor will be disappointed. Since you’ve committed no crime, I can’t hold you.”
“I’m sorry, but could you not include my name in your report? After all, any reporter can examine the public records and run the exact same false reports.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but my commanding officer ordered me to locate you. While I can’t compel you to comply, I’d be disobeying orders if I don’t report it.”
“Excuse me if I don’t thank you. We’ll make it a point to never rescue anyone in this town again. Seems it isn’t appreciated.”
As they pulled away with his sister following, Gary turned to his passenger. “Sorry about that. I didn’t seem to help at all.”
“You couldn’t avoid it. Seems whatever we do, we attract attention. The next time I try to save someone, remind me of the implications. Maybe there’s some way to be less obvious about it.”
“We don’t seem to catch a break, do we?” Zita asked. As handy as her telepathic abilities were, she preferred hashing things out face to face.
“No, every time we do a good deed, it blows up in our faces.” Al pushed his burger away, finished with his meal. “If it was a single rescue, it wouldn’t be an issue. But as the count mounts, it forces people to question what’s behind it. Unfortunately, people’s default position seems to be skeptical paranoia.”
“Etta and I were discussing this pair bonding thing, and I think we’ve figured it out,” Theo said. “Assuming my nanobot theory is correct, they seem to detect whenever one of us is near. If it’s the pair bond, they release hormones normally associated with young love. Normally, your body adjusts to the constant presence of those hormones, so you get the traditional married syndrome, where the magic fades over time. In our case, we feel just as intently about each other as we did as kids. We also seem to get a similar response to each other. We don’t fall in love with each other, but we feel a deep kinship and trust, something which assures we won’t turn on each other. Apparently, whoever’s behind this figured out how to regulate hormones better than the human body does.”
“I feel a ‘but’ coming,” Al said.
“Your right. While this constant stream of hormones keeps us deeply and passionately in love, it also seems to deaden our responses to others. While this makes sense in a romantic sense, reducing jealous responses, it also leaves us feeling distant, isolated and remote from everyone else around us.”
“Wait,” Eli interjected. “You mean that someone purposely engineered our isolation and inability to relate to others? Why they hell would they do that? What’s the point?”
“You’ve got to admit, it makes us all incredibly loyal to each other, even those we’ve just met. Not one of us questioned Al when he approached us, but we balk whenever a supermodel deigns to glance at us. I think we’re not supposed to fit in. I suspect we’re being groomed for bigger things.”
Al stood, waving everyone towards the door. “All right, let’s hit the road. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us, and then a difficult meeting where I need to explain who you all are.”
Al motioned everyone to huddle by the front door while keeping them hushed. Since they were close, he’d asked whether Gary and Delilah wanted to return home, but both refused to abandon their security duties. Instead, all eight now stood huddled by Al’s front door as he knocked, opening the door before anyone had a chance to respond.
“Hello, we’re home,” he announced. “We brought a few friends, but wanted to touch base before disappearing again.”
As everyone followed him in, spanning across the room, they noted Amanda and Macy sitting in the living room with someone neither Al or Be had ever met before.
“Ah, I’m glad you brought everyone alone. I’ve been eager to meet your friends. I suspect we’ve got a lot to discuss,” the stranger said. He was an older man, with thin, sparse, close-cropped hair, all white, but deep penetrating eyes with an intense, brooding appearance.
“Who are you?” Al asked, as Be clutched his side.