Author’s Note: Stone wants to make sense of things. Someone else doesn’t.
“You knew the Washburnes.”
Stone was not in the mood to play this bastard’s games. The water elemental had been standing in his room for a while now, pretending he didn’t know Stone was awake. He didn’t know why, but since he couldn’t move and they weren’t increasing the medication yet, he figured he’d do what he could—he’d talk. He could push. He could ask questions. Even if he couldn’t give anyone else the answers, he would have them. “You were the reason that the water felt wrong. It was like you were poisoning them both, so I never forgot that day. You knew the Washburnes, you hurt Cress and Occie even if you didn’t mean to—though with you, I think you meant to—and you’re going to tell me why.”
“That is a curious thought. Why would I do that?”
“Bragging rights, intimidation, that sort of thing. You said I had a special role to play, so what is it? Bait? You want me to sit around and lure the others right into your trap?”
Stone closed his eyes again. He had a feeling that was a part of it, had known it since the first time he woke up, but he knew that even if he could give the others a message in words, they’d never turn away from helping him. Cress was too damn loyal for that. Occie and Terra could not leave him, no matter how practical Occie might be most of the time. Moira and Sherwin wouldn’t go against all that. No, they were coming. That was inevitable. As soon as Terra knew he was alive, they’d had to have started after him. He knew that.
He didn’t know how long it would take them to find him, but he knew that they would. They’d play right into this bastard’s hand.
“You their real father or something?”
“Cress and Oceana. Are you their father?”
“No. A shame, really, since my progeny would likely have been even more powerful than Washburne has become, but he is not mine. Nor is she, but you knew that.”
“Not necessarily. Just because they’re twins doesn’t mean that they—”
“I do not need a genetics lecture. I have studied them extensively. I have always been curious about what makes us like we are, and I poured several billions of dollars into learning that. Even with his heritage, Washburne is an anomaly. He should not be what he is. That is was I intend to find out.”
Stone swallowed. “How? By dissecting him?”
He wanted to believe that the water elemental was just screwing with his head. He would rather have the guy have an interest in Cress or Occie because he was their biological father, but if he wasn’t, if all he wanted was to experiment on Cress…
“You want to take down the barrier.”
“That is a careless assumption to make. Why would I want it down? Here I am almost all powerful, and I just increase that power by the day. The more I know, the more I can control. I will, of course, eliminate any kind of threat to that.”
“And Cress is a threat.”
“He is… amusing. He limits himself, but he could be true competition. If I had been the one to train him, things would be different.”
“You knew where he was. You had him completely debilitated that day, but you left him behind.”
“A poor choice, perhaps.”
Stone shook his head. “Nothing you’ve said makes sense. Why are you doing this?”
The elemental reached for the IV, turning up the medication, and as it flooded his system, Stone cursed. He knew he had pieces of the puzzle, but he couldn’t make sense of them, and he didn’t understand any of this. All that conversation had accomplished was making him more confused.
He didn’t think things would be any better when he woke up again.