What Lies Ahead
The ride from the warehouse was much shorter than I had anticipated, since we ended up at Alex’s lab instead of the hospital, which was on the other side of town.
“Why are we here?”
“Because the last thing we want is for you to be in a hospital. I don’t work there anymore; and, if you remember, that’s how I found out about you. Don’t worry, I had everything short of an MRI set up here on the off chance you were hurt again. I can’t fix you up from bullet wounds or anything, but I have what I need to check out some bruised ribs.”
I hadn’t considered that. She made an excellent point. Going to the hospital opened up a whole range of worrying possibilities.
I was however, not surprised at all to see Mom getting out of her car next to us. I hadn’t heard Alex make a call to tell her we were on the way, but I was certain she would have done just that.
She rushed over to me as soon as I was out of the car. She started to put me in one of her spine crushing hugs, but let go when I let out a pitiful groan.
“Is he bad,” she asked Alex.
“I don’t think so; at least, not bad with his accelerated healing. We still need to get some x-rays. I think his ribs are only bruised, but I want to make sure it’s not worse than that.”
They started getting into medical jargon, and I tuned it out as they led me into the lab. I had actually been wondering where they were going to take me, since I hadn’t seen anything resembling an examination room on my last trip through.
They led me past the two environmentally sealed labs to the large room they used for more general research that didn’t need to be in a closed environment.
It turned out that one of the cabinets below the counter running along one wall wasn’t really a cabinet, but instead was an examination table that folded out. After some braces were snapped into place and legs folded down, it was able to support my weight.
From a cabinet above the counter she swung down an x-ray machine attached to an adjustable arm.
After a few minutes she had a series of x-rays of my chest, and went off to get them developed in a small darkroom they had in one corner of the building, leaving me alone with Mom.
Her normal happy expression was gone, replaced by a mixture of concern and sadness. It almost seemed that a little of the spark that always seemed to be driving her was gone, and reminded me a lot of when she got sick, before we tried the blood mixing that eventually saved her life.
“It will be ok,” I told her, getting up and giving her a hug, “I’ve been beat up more than this, before.”
“You’re a kid! You shouldn’t have to ‘be ok’ with being beaten up even once, let alone being able to compare it to other beatings!”
“You must not remember high school very well, then,” I said with a smile, putting on a brave face to try and alleviate some of her worry.
She only managed a weak smile in return, saying “I guess. It’s not that, though. I’ve let you guys down. Looking back over the last year or so, all the mistakes are so obvious.”
“What mistakes? Even with some of the crazy stuff that’s happened, this last year has been the happiest of my life.”
“Maybe that’s because I keep just giving in to anything you kids want. Sometimes being a parent means making you do thinks you don’t want to do. Not only did I let you fall into bed with Zoe, and the others, but I’ve been honestly ok with it. I know the situation is unique, but I’m pretty sure the rest of society wouldn’t see it that way.”
“I will give you that they probably wouldn’t, and we can back off if you want. You’re right that most parents don’t let their kids have sex under their roof, at least that they know about. Sure we are all raging hormones right now, probably more than average kids since we have all the other biological stuff going on; but, we can control ourselves. If anyone is to blame, it’s me and the girls. I know we’ve taken advantage of your ... acceptance.”
“And look where it’s landed us.”
“I don’t think that has anything to do with the CPS visit. First, no one outside of our group knows about me and the girls. There’s no evidence we are any more sexually active than any other teenagers. The way those two cops dragged me off and one of those mobsters or whatever was waiting for me, proves this is tied into the thing with the company last year, and Vicki’s dad. Something is going on, and our family is being used as pawns.”
“Ok, I admit that is probably true, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been way too permissive with you kids. I’m the adult and I should have been acting more like one.”
“Except I don’t think you had a choice,” Alex said from the doorway.
“How is he?” Mom asked, switching gears from anxious and self-recriminatory to anxious and motherly.
“He’ll be fine. Some bruised ribs and soft tissue damage. With his rate of healing, it should be cleared up in a day or two. I will check up with him every day this week, though. We don’t have enough data yet to really predict what his body will heal, nor how fast.”
“You know what I meant.”
“I know, Doc, you are all business. Doesn’t keep me from giving you shit about it. So what was this about her not having a choice?”
“It’s something I’ve been working on since last year, when Margret reacted so badly. We know that there are people who have negative reactions to you. We also know there are people who have positive reactions to you, as a baseline. So far, we’ve just been writing that off as some kind of recognition of your different biology; but that doesn’t seem quite right to me.”
“Because the body doesn’t really work that way. Cells don’t anticipate, not really. Cells react to other cells, just like any chemical reaction. We have seen that blood mixture, sexual transmission, even your saliva, works to take over and affect another person. Somewhat like a parasite, although that analogy isn’t quite right. We know your biology is always working towards its goal. Namely reproduction.”
“I’m not crazy about being compared to a parasite.”
“I said the analogy wasn’t right. One of the imperatives common to all organisms, is to propagate itself. It’s one of the things that defines life. Homo Sapiens do it partially through the release of endorphins. It’s partly what causes that feeling of love after people have sex. It’s your body trying to persuade you to do it more often, so you can pass your genes along.”
“So what does that have to do with Mom not having a choice.”
“My hypothesis is that much like your saliva having a smaller effect than blood or semen, there is some other mechanism that has a smaller, but not unimportant, affect as well. Think of it like stages, each leading to the next to make it possible for your genetics to pass on. We know the effect of stage one alteration, at least anecdotally. In some, it causes anger and revulsion; and in others, it creates friendliness and a willingness to go along with you.
“We know stage two, at least for those who are genetically predisposed to you creates attraction. We haven’t really studied it more, and never with someone who was genetically opposed to you, to know much more about stage two.
“In stage three we’ve seen the physical and mental changes to those physically predisposed to you; giving them some of your resistance to disease, as well as creating the sense of loyalty to you. Also, we’ve seen in stage three for the genetically opposed to you it creates insanity. And then there’s stage four, which we’ve seen at least in the genetically predisposed. It’s the most extreme form, with actual genetic, mental and physical changes on top of the disease resistance and loyalty. We don’t know how this would affect someone genetically opposed to you, although my guess is that it would be pretty extreme.”
“I’m still not with you.”
“What she’s saying,” Mom said, “is that stage one already creates a willingness to give in to what you want, or what the person thinks you want.”
“So even when I’m not touching someone, I’m affecting them?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s pheromones or anything airborne. If I had to guess, it probably has to do with contact. Besides sweat, everyone’s skin releases oils. It’s natures way of protecting your skin from the elements, and keeping it moisturized so it doesn’t crack or tear as easily.”
“So what, I just have to touch someone to get my way?” I asked, not really liking where this conversation was headed.
“It’s not as extreme as that. This isn’t mind control, but your cells do cause a physiological adjustment in someone else’s system. We would have to really study this and have people who previously hadn’t been exposed to you and study their system, and probably brains, over time after contact with you, to be sure of the exact mechanics.”
“I think we would have trouble explaining exactly what we were studying.”
“I guess,” she said, paused, and then continued. “If I had to guess, I would say it is the same way the body trains other behaviors, by causing releases of some combination of endorphin, serotonin or dopamine as they come in contact with you. The more they have physical contact with you, the more their body would be trained to react favorably to you. In genetically opposed people, I am guessing their body doesn’t process the signals your cells are sending as you come in contact, and it causes the release or stops the release of hormones, causing an imbalance that might present in the negative reaction we’ve seen. This is, of course, all conjecture; and it’s clearly not as extreme as when any body fluids are exchanged.”
Alex turned to Mom and got back to the original point, “From what I’ve been told or overheard, it does explain both your permissiveness with Cas, and some of the reactions from others he’s come in contact with, like coworkers or school officials. Before you start feeling too bad, consider how many kids could walk into a Principal’s office and convince them to set up some kind of advanced education system, or how many could convince grown businessmen and engineers to let him become the CEO of their company ... while still attending high school. You’re not the only one that’s changed their behavior in small ways after being in contact with Cas.”
“I guess,” Mom said, “but I’m still not happy with myself. We are going to have to change some things around the house, for your own good.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I said, not thrilled by what those changes were going to be, but accepting my role as the kid in this relationship.
Coming of Age /