My second attempt to confront my boss went better than my first. Naturally, that was a relief, but considering how badly the first attempt went, it’s not like it that says much. I mean, the first time nearly got me killed.
The inconvenience of the second time was nothing in comparison, but that didn’t mean that it was a good time for any of us, either.
It really wasn’t.
“Did I doze off again?”
“Sorry,” he mumbled, looking over at the suit. “I’m not really saying that to you. To April, yes, but you? Not so much. I know it’s not your fault I got kidnapped, but I barely made it out of that, and it was April that saved me. Not any of your people. I want to know what’s going on now. This is way overdue. I should have been told years ago.”
“Did you really want to hear that you were Kilbourne’s experiment? That he manipulated your genetics and made you what you are?”
“Ooh, look, again with the Vader is my father thing. Yeah, I get it,” Clayton said, annoyed. He tried to stand up again and couldn’t. He sighed, figuring he’d probably fall asleep again soon enough. “He did unsanctioned experiments in his lab and came up with me. And then what? Did you people figure out what he was doing and stop him, or was it only after you had to trim the budget that you scrapped this project of his—and me with it?”
The suit sighed. “That is not how it works, Mr. Moore. Not how it went at all.”
“Exactly why are you calling me ‘Moore?’ I don’t have parents, therefore I don’t actually have that name. Who gave it to me? Social services? Something to file away after I was found on the street?”
“Your biological mother’s name was, in fact, Moore. She was the one to contribute the egg that was later fertilized to become you.”
“Yuck. April, I’m never eating eggs again.”
“That’s fine. I don’t think I could eat them again, either.”
The suit looked at them. Clayton yawned. It wasn’t that the conversation wasn’t important or even that it was boring. He just couldn’t stop yawning and wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay upright for much longer. “Technically, the designation was Moore, specimen C, which is what led to you being named Clayton when you were given over to social services.”
“Who did that? Your side? Or was he experimenting with that part of me, too?”
The suit shook his head. “Kilbourne would never have done that. When it was learned what he’d done—believe me, your abilities were not the intent of the original project that Kilbourne was allowed to do—even your… er, conception was not. He was not supposed to take any of the experiments to the level that he did.”
“So you shut him down and put the kid in the system?” April asked, giving a derisive snort. “Nice.”
“Well, you know, for being in the system, I got lucky—no, I didn’t. That was probably them watching me, wasn’t it? You arranged for my foster care, didn’t you? Did you know what I could do back then or were you just waiting for it to show up?”
The suit sighed. “We didn’t have all of Kilbourne’s notes, and when he was forced into hiding, he didn’t get his test subject, and we didn’t get our answers. We weren’t entirely sure what he’d hoped to achieve, and we had to keep an eye on you to make sure that you were not a danger—to yourself or the public.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m a definite public menace.”
“For all we knew, you’d been engineered as a walking plague. We had to take some precautions.”
Clayton glared at his boss—former boss—and shook his head. “And when it turned out that I could shift ages? Did you still think I needed to be monitored? Did you stop to think just once that I would have appreciated knowing what the hell was wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong with you, Clayton. You have a gift, regardless of how it happened or why,” April insisted, touching his shoulder. He put a hand over hers, but he still had a hard time seeing it that way, as a gift. It still felt like more of a curse, even with the whole you were created in a lab aspect.
“Your wife has a point. You have an ability to do things most people can’t, and what you went through in that warehouse would have killed a normal man.”
April squeezed Clayton’s hand, and he nodded slowly. He already knew that. Still, it was hard to take. “So what now?”
“We need to find Kilbourne and stop his organization. We need to know what he’s up to and why.”
“And you want me to help you?”
“You need the information, too.”
Clayton snorted. “You mean that I’m the perfect bait. What makes you really think he’ll come after me again? He’s seen what I can do. He wasn’t all that impressed.”
“He will be—when he realizes you’re not dead.”