After tragically losing everyone in my life that meant everything to me, I had nothing left to live for. Alone, penniless, desperate, I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I allowed myself to be converted to a weapon even the most powerful country in the world couldn’t contain. For years, I roamed where I pleased, assisted where there was a worthy cause, and otherwise minded my own business. And then the same misguided ideology that created me crashed into my path again. This time I did care about life. This time I had someone to fight for, someone I would level the world to protect.
My entire life had been a struggle, a fight that I had finally begun to conquer. And then some drunk driver struck me down and left me to die, broken beyond modern medicine to repair. I think I did die that day, only to become a test subject for fanatical scientists. They violated me when I was most vulnerable in the most egregious way another human being could violate another. After getting what they wanted from me, they tried to cover up their crime by killing me again. However, they hadn’t anticipated him. I hadn’t anticipated the obsession he would become.
Of course, they came after us. They should have thought of the ramifications of that. Their obsession created him, created us. They created a weapon meant to destroy, meant to be utilized only in the most dire circumstances, and then lost it. They had no idea what they were chasing!
Ronin McKenna (Mac)
I think of my life span in two parts, the dormant phase and the alive phase, or, more accurately, before Katia and after Katia. Okay, I know it sounds as though the dormant phase was, ah, well dormant. It wasn’t that it was dormant so much as I, who I was, who I was meant to be, was dormant. I was molded out of fear. And while fear and terror existed out there, my life was all about finding and annihilating people or powers that perpetrated it.
I was someone’s war weapon. And man, I was the most lethal, efficiently destructive weapon there was. You have to understand why I allowed it. My new country, or should I say my parents’ new country, had just come out of a civil war and World War I. I was born in September 1919, Ronin McKenna, nine months after my father returned home from battle in France, wounded but more determined than ever to make life in his new country safe for his wife and sons. There were three of us. My older brothers were teenagers and already training to become defenders for our country. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that we were obsessive patriots or anything, we were just fucking glad to be in a country that beat the shit out of England! Oversimplification? Yeah. Agree, but that was all the reason my father needed.
Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. McKenna has to be Scottish or Irish, right? Well, it’s fucking both. We just happen to be Irish and proud sons of Ireland to boot. My grandfather had a title of English peerage, the Duke of Donegal, which had passed to my father. However, with a castle and other properties buried under with debt, it was an empty title. Hoping for a fresh start and away from the limited arms of the debt collectors, my father felt he had no choice but to run.
So, as I was saying, I was born in turbulent times. Times when boys became men too damn quick, and I was no different.
I was a mere month shy of my twenty-second birthday when both my brothers and father were killed in the war. I had already been a Marine, serving four years in the Navy, when I was suddenly alone in the world. My brothers had been too busy climbing the ranks in the US military to put down roots and maintain something so trivial as a wife and family. My mother had died from the Spanish flu weeks after my birth. My father had hated hospitals and doctors ever since. I can’t say that I blamed him after my own experience with the shady characters in that profession.
Now perhaps you can understand why, with no family, nothing to live for other than my brothers in my unit, that I made such a half-assed, give-no-shits decision that year.
Fast forward to 1978. Yeah, you’re reading it right. 1978. Thirty-seven years later. I still looked like I was in my damn twenties. The most I could do for a disguise was facial hair, unkempt or clean-cut facial hair, which I alternated for thirty-seven years. I was now no longer Ronin McKenna because that person was presumed dead in Vietnam. No one had ever called me Ronin in my adult life anyway. I had always been Mac. It was a name I acquired from my SEAL brothers, and it had stuck. Ronin had another purpose. I will tell you about him later.
So, why did I mention 1978? Well, that was the year that the Superman movie came out. And I swear to God, I thought someone had found out my secret. Yeah, well, that was until I sneaked into a movie theatre and watched it from a seat in a back corner, just in case anyone was looking for me.
Face-palm. Suck-teeth. Yeah, no way was that shit about me. Why the fuck would I be delivered as a baby in a spaceship? A spaceship! What? Was NASA asleep and not watching the satellites? Why, if I was determined to fight crime would I be working in a damn newspaper as a fucking journalist?!?! Because of some halfway decent looking chick? Really? And don’t get me started on the fucking spandex! Spandex? Given the size of my dick, no fucking way. As for the powers, well, let’s just say I don’t have heat rays coming out of my eyes or cold air from my mouth. And I don’t fly. I can move damn fast, and it may seem as though I flew, but no, I don’t fly. As for everything else, yeah, so they got some things right. Super speed, super strength, enhanced hearing and sight, and somewhat impenetrable because I healed almost instantly. Not Superman, but Captain America was damn close.
See, life span, the dormant phase and the alive phase. So, that was part of the dormant phase. Yeah, I acquired superpowers and longevity, fought a few dozen wars, changed my name a few times, and acquired wealth that few in existence could imagine. But other than those things, life had been uninspiring. It had a sameness, and I descended into ennui until Katia.
Five years ago…
I sat at a tiny table in the back of the bar with my back against the wall observing the room as I did in any room that I entered. I trusted no one. Well, that’s partially true, but even Colonel Colton Ragnarson wouldn’t expect me to trust him completely. It would be an insult to all we had learned in combat and the many years before that and since. So, let me amend that to say that Colt and his brother, Justin Ragnarson, are the only men I trusted somewhat. They are the only men I called friends in this lifetime. That is to say the only men I called friends in the past fifty years. And so far, I’ve yet to meet a woman I trust even a little bit.
A serious indictment on the worthiness of people. Yeah, I know.
So, I sit with my back to the wall for protection and my eyes facing the room to ensure sight of everyone present and everyone coming or leaving. In addition to the strategic positioning of my body, I was taking the extra precaution of keeping my gun and knife in easy reach. It was because of the phone call I received about two hours ago.
One of the bastards that had destroyed who I was born to be and instead tried to play God. Dr. Dean Reiner. Not him, obviously, but his great-grandfather, Dr. Dean Reiner I, was one of three doctors who had done the experiments on me. Sins of the father and all. Now Dr. Dean Reiner IV had contacted me. How had he found out about me? Known that I existed? I had to find out, silence him and anyone else who was a threat to my life now. After all, I had hastened his great-grandfather’s and the other scientists’ deaths to stop the carnage, so why not his?
His great-grandfather and two other doctors, all now dead, had cared nothing for the young soldiers whose lives they had ended prematurely. I thought I had stopped being shocked a lifetime ago, but getting a call from Dr. Reiner IV, panicked and desperate, begging for my help, gave me pause. So, here I was in a darkened corner of an off-the-beaten-path noisy bar meeting with a man whose throat I was prepared to slit at the slightest provocation.
I sat calmly and waited for the bastard to get to the point of this meeting.
Dr. Reiner IV wiped his sweating forehead for what seemed like the tenth time in the five minutes he’d been sitting in front of me looking like a dead man walking and sweating profusely to boot. His handkerchief was soaked from his useless swiping. “I have something to tell you, and you have to promise to not freak out.”
A raised eyebrow was my only response to such a provocative statement. So far, I had yet to utter a word since he sat down before me. I couldn’t afford to let anyone know my inner thoughts. I’d learned long ago to not trust anyone with them. I’ve found that the less I spoke or moved, the more people tended to overcompensate and tell me all I needed to know about themselves and their motives, telling me shit that they never intended to.
“Mac… I hope you don’t mind me calling you that.” He paused as if waiting for a response.
It was a wasted effort. I didn’t respond and simply stared at the fucker coolly.
“I don’t have much time. I know you could care less, but I will be killed for sharing this information with you.” Not might be killed but will be killed. The certainty in the doctor’s voice could not be mistaken. He was terrified.
Again, I said nothing. Really, what could I say? Dr. Reiner and I were not friends or even colleagues. Dr. Reiner was just the great-grandson of the doctor that had been part of the team that had injected me with the experimental steroids or whatever the hell it was that they had concocted. The other soldiers and I had been told that the injections were some sort of vaccine and muscle growth enhancer, sort of a steroid. Little did I know that they were injecting us with a serum that was not only supposed to enhance our muscle mass but also was supposed to enhance our brain function, heighten our senses, and give us unusual strength, machine strength. One hundred men had been experimented on, and as far as I knew, I had been the sole survivor.
At first, I’d felt no change in my body or mind. Sure, I was stronger and faster, but that could have easily come about because of the rigorous combat, strength and agility training that was so much a part of my military life. However, I couldn’t ignore the heightened hearing and sight. Both kept getting better. Heck, all of my sensory capabilities were beyond human within a few months. Suddenly one day I could hear conversations that were miles away, I could smell a man’s fear in his sweat blocks away, and I could see objects as though my eyes were fucking binoculars with night vision! I could have ignored everything else, but then I got shot.
I stared coldly at the doctor as if to say, “Say what you have to say, Doc.” I continued my nonchalant sprawl, relaxed into the hard chair, wondering when this fucker would get to the point of this conversation.
“We reproduced the drug cocktail that my great-grandfather and his colleagues gave to your great-grand relative and tested on a few subjects.”
That got my attention, but I was still not showing my hand. The doctor’s heart rate was exceedingly high, and he was struggling to breathe in an obvious near panic. He kept looking around the bar as though expecting gunfire at any moment. The doctor was terrified and jumpy as hell.
“We experimented time and time again. And failed with every subject. Many good people, young people, died, Mac. So many.” Dr. Reiner eyes moistened with a show of remorse and emotion that didn’t move me in the least. I learned the hard way that dedication and fanaticism were too closely aligned with these so-called scientists. Besides, he said it all. The formula came from his family of scientists.
I wasn’t impressed. Besides, years of watching the fuckers before him, who were just like him, take in innocent unsuspecting recruits and initiate them in the experiments that inevitably ended their lives, negated any hope that these scientists ever had any conscience. And it was clear that Dr. Reiner and his colleagues were of the same ilk and clearly had no conscience as well. His remorse now was wasted. People had needlessly died. They were sadists and didn’t deserve any consideration.
“The experiments went in a different direction a few years ago.” Dr. Reiner swallowed and suddenly became even more pale despite his almost translucent skin. I could almost see blood flowing through his agitated veins, thick red and rushed.
I thought nothing those bastards did could shock me anymore. I’ve lived long enough to witness people using any manner of words, feelings, or institutions to justify their acts. Love, hatred, jealousy, religion, country, and money. When it’s all said and done, man can and will use whatever justification necessary to do unspeakable things to each other. Nothing surprises me anymore.
“We used the sperm my great-grandfather and his colleagues had extracted from your great-grand relative to impregnant a few women.”
Clearly, I was wrong about being surprised. “You did what?” I didn’t bother correcting him that it was me, not my great-grand relative, or whatever the hell that meant, who’d been experimented on. However, I was now glad that Dr. Reiner had no idea of who I really was. I didn’t trust the fucker.
His eyes widened at the sound of my voice. Over the years my voice had grown even more baritone.
“The team didn’t know about your existence; otherwise, I’m sure the team would have tried acquiring you. I only found out about you by accident,” he said casually.
Even I couldn’t have anticipated the level of anger that bombarded me right then. It was beyond anything I’d ever felt before. Acquire me?! Not the deaths of my friends, my captivity until I escaped by an unintended death, or the subsequent threats to my family had garnered this level of rage. Rage that had led to my leveling everything and everyone that had been within reach.
The scientist swallowed and licked his lips in nervous agitation. “We ran out of ideas and too many people had died from the cocktails. We had no choice.”
“Yeah, you did,” I all but growled. “You could have stopped playing God.”
“I admit it went too far.”
“Now you admit that? How many deaths in did you realize that, you sonofabitch?”
“After the first, but Dr. Forbes and Dr. Everette—”
“No. Don’t feed me that bullshit.” I didn’t raise my voice or move an inch, but still the fucker looked at me with terror in his eyes. The doc didn’t know what I was capable of. He couldn’t have. No one knew what I was capable of, and those that did are long dead. Any notes his grandfather kept were as outdated as the science of hundreds of years ago. Even his great-grandfather hadn’t known what I had become. All they knew was that I survived the serum and gained a little muscle. I had disappeared before my powers had developed. I had trusted no one with that knowledge.
“I didn’t know at first, Mac,” he pleaded.
I wanted to tell the bastard that only my friends call me Mac. To him, I was Andrew McAllister, FBI agent. One of the names that I created after laying to rest the identity I was born with. No one would believe that he still existed anyway. McAllister is my mother’s maiden name, not very original, but then I wasn’t trying to hide my relationship with the McKennas. I need that family connection to justify some of the other shit in my life. “Why have you contacted me? What do I care if scientists are experimenting, killing?”
“You have to believe me. I have children of my own,” Dr. Reiner muttered as though I hadn’t spoken. “Do you think I would willingly bring a child into this world like that? I have done plenty that I would never be proud of, but I wouldn’t do what they are asking now.”
I stared down the fucker for endless minutes, steadily, my contempt radiating from every pore in my body. I nodded to let him know to continue.
Dr. Reiner let out a harsh breath before continuing his story. “Woman after woman, some voluntary, some not so much, were impregnated with your relative’s sperm.”
“What? Wait, none of that makes sense. How could my so-called relative’s sperm last that long? Even cryopreserved sperm can’t last over fifty years. Cut the bullshit, Doctor.”
Dr. Reiner stilled as though he wasn’t sure how much to tell me.
I stood to leave.
“Okay, okay. You’re right. We were able to store the sperm, or so we thought. We had created a synthesis that we thought could work with periodic dosing of the serum. We didn’t realize our deadly mistake until several women became pregnant and the almost three-month fetuses tore their mother’s wombs from the inside out. The women died along with the fetus. And like the drug mixture, none of the fetuses lasted longer than four weeks before expelling themselves violently from the women’s wombs.”
“How many women have you tried this shit on?”
“I don’t know, perhaps more than a hundred, close to 150.” Again, the doctor looked nervous and ready to bolt. “But that’s not what the issue is.”
“Why have you come to me? How did you even find me?”
Again, the doctor became eerily uncomfortable.
I got an instant icy chill over my skin. I was certain that I didn’t want to hear what he said next.
“You have to understand that, according to my great-grandfather’s records, your relative was the only one to survive the serum, even with all the adjustments done over the years to the formula. The scientists back then were convinced that, following their many experiments, there is something in your ancestor’s DNA that morphs the serum, changes it into something else, something that not everyone can survive.”
I didn’t respond to his provocative statement. I simply stared at him coldly.
“We have a successful pregnancy,” he finally puffed out. “The pregnant mother was being given steady doses of the original serum without any alterations. This will ensure these babies are born with the chemicals already part of their DNA.”
“Why are you here, Doctor? And how the fuck did you find me?” I asked again. This time I didn’t even try to hide to the blue fire in my eyes. I tried not to react to the possibility that I may have a child somewhere out there.
“I will answer the only one that matters at this moment, because the how of my finding you isn’t relevant right now. I can assure you that I haven’t told anyone of your existence. I didn’t know of your existence until your friend Colonel Ragnarson and his wife survived the plane crash a few years ago.”
“Why would Colt and Imani surviving a plane crush assure you of who I was?”
Dr. Reiner sighed as though I was missing a key point. “Everyone involved with the Ragnarsons was investigated. Your military records intrigued me, and then I saw a picture of you. Compared with the picture of your Irish relative, you look like his twin. Anyway, like I said, that’s not important now.”
“You have a photo of my Irish relative? How do you know that we’re related?”
The doctor waved his hand as if to dismiss my statement. “The McKenna in that photo was married to a McAllister. Not a far stretch to realize that you’re related. In any event, that’s not important now. What’s important and urgent is that one woman is now eight months pregnant. They are going to extract the babies.”
I swore long and hard. “Wait, you said babies. Are there more than one?” I swear my heart was beating so fast it felt as though it was going to jump out of my chest.
“Katia conceived twins. Two boys. Fraternal.”
“I have two male relatives?”
Dr. Reiner looked away from me and seemed to be struggling to speak.
“Where are they?”
He looked back at me then. “Katia was in a near fatal car accident about three years ago. She has been in a coma ever since. When she was wheeled into us, she was already under the ‘do not resuscitate’ order. We had been using those type of victims by then as well. When they died, there was no one to question it. However, she survived.”
The bastard’s eyes glistened under my hard stare. If he thought that a few crocodile tears would save him from my wrath, he should save the theatrics. “Where?” My lips barely moved around the word ripped harshly from my throat.
“I will get to that. But first you have to understand what you’re up against. She hasn’t woken once from the coma, not even after we fed her the serum repeatedly. The improvement in her muscle tone was almost immediate, her skin and even her breathing. She didn’t need the machines to breathe anymore. She was doing that on her own. However, her comatose state remained, and her pregnancy progressed.” Dr. Reiner took a deep shaky breath. “I found out yesterday that they intend to take the babies in a few days and euthanize her after.”
He looked up at me as though expecting my shock, as if that shit would shock me. Of course, they would kill her. That’s what these fuckers do.
“I know the risk to you. The risk that they may realize that you exist. But you have to understand that I was desperate. The serum had not done what we wanted it to. Despite it not killing Katia immediately, it didn’t seem to be having the effect on her we expected. We expected her to come out of the coma, not simply mend. The serum was supposed to make super soldiers, a weapon against terror, not just mend someone. I thought that if I could keep her alive long enough to give us the babies…” He swallowed audibly. “You were right that your relative’s sperm was no longer viable. It wasn’t easy, but I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire yours.”
“What did you say?” Yeah, that was me losing my shit finally. “Who?! How?!”
“That’s not important, Mac. Don’t you understand? Those babies are your sons. And if you don’t want them to spend the rest of their lives as lab rats, you need to get them out. You’re an FBI agent, you know people, right?” He then slid a large envelope over to me. “This should help.”
“Don’t think you’re not going to tell me how you got my damn sperm!” I growled.
He shook his head sadly and stood.
I was seething, reeling, and basically feeling as though I had just been mind-fucked. I watched in a daze as Dr. Reiner pulled his cap low over his face, pulled his jacket collar up, and shove his hands into his pants pockets.
“For what it’s worth, I am sorry,” the doctor murmured before ducking out of the bar, his eyes glued to the exit. Knowing that he’d signed his death warrant by getting this information to me shouldn’t have impressed me, but it did.
I followed the good doctor. I never wasted a good asset. And Dr. Reiner was a critical asset in my acquiring my sons.
Unlike Sleeping Beauty, it wasn’t his kiss, his touch, or even the sound of his voice that truly woke my body; it was his scent. I had woken after having been trapped in my paralyzed body for weeks, no, months at that point. I couldn’t tell how long, but I knew that many days, many many days and weeks had passed. I began to call my awake mind without the benefit of an awake body, my awareness. It was a state that was the most empowering, enlightening, and most terrifying experience of my life. Whatever drug the medical staff were injecting into me kept my mind alert, my body strong, and my senses heightened. But yet, I could not move. I could not open my eyes.
Everything seemed sharp, my sense of hearing, smell, and even my skin sensory. If someone walked into the room, I could not only hear their footsteps or smell their body, I could also tell their body temperature. When they spoke, I could tell from the inflection in their voices whether they were confident, telling the truth, happy, or sad. Basically, I was not only a human lie detector, I could also detect the speaker’s state of mind. And for the many days and weeks that went by, I listened and learned about the people around me and what was happening to me.
When I first gained consciousness, I was terrified out of my mind. I was screaming, yelling, punching my fists, and kicking my legs, that is, in my mind at least. I was a mess and freaked the hell out. The last thing I remembered was walking back to my dorm after attending my last day of classes as a senior at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. I remembered being exhausted both physically and mentally. I had been looking forward to the dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken with my boyfriend. A treat to ourselves for succeeding another goal.
I came from a mixed heritage with a Jamaican-born mother and an Indian-born father, although both my parents had migrated to America before I was born. After my parents’ deaths when I was five years old, I had spent my entire childhood in foster care because no one from my parents’ families wanted me. When I was eleven years old, I had been briefly adopted. Even then I’d been very good at getting into computer systems that I shouldn’t be in. I had also had an uncanny ability to sense the moods of the adults around me and respond appropriately. Those skills had saved me when I had nothing else.
I remembered being so happy when I embarked on my new life with a mom and dad who looked something like me. They escorted me out of the children’s home facility, and I’d been temporarily stunned by the sight of their big silver Escalade. I remembered thinking that my new family had to be very rich. God, I’d been on cloud nine that day, but I had still been cautious. After all, no one survived living in foster care, being bounced around every couple of months or years depending on tolerance, who didn’t have a healthy dose of caution or respect for the possible evils that could happen to defenseless children. You learned real quick not to ever be truly defenseless.
However, I was determined to be hopeful. That hope and happiness had lasted an entire five days. Five days of absolute bliss in my eleven-year-old mind.
My room was pure Princess Diary-worthy with the wardrobe, toys, and the ultimate, my very own laptop. I had been transported to heaven and was the luckiest girl in the world. And then my adopted father visited me late one night.
Although I had allowed the hope and happiness, my cautious self wouldn’t allow me to sleep without my trusted Swiss knife. It had been a gift I had treated myself to about three years before after a previous late-night visit. You see, even at eight years old, I had started developing curves. My foster parents at the time had not been the problem; it had been another teenage foster kid, hell bent on indoctrinating the new kid. I might have been younger than he was, but I was determined and already full of hate. The other kids started calling me “child of Chucky” after that night. I had gone into a state of berserker when he’d pushed his finger into a place he had no business touching. My eight-year-old self had lost her ever-loving mind and was kicking, slapping, stabbing, biting, and screaming enough to bring the house down. Yep, I had stabbed the little rapist at least six times before he gave up. He was too busy trying to survive.
The teenage boy went to the hospital, and I began my journey of visiting new foster homes every few months, or until “child of Chucky” had to come out. Bullies just always set my teeth on edge.
It really wasn’t my new adoptive father’s fault that he didn’t know that the shit he was planning was dead on arrival. Honestly, someone should have warned the ignorant man that “child of Chucky” was a thing. Too bad that he had to find out the hard way, because now “child of Chucky” was bigger, stronger, and just a little bat-shit crazy. Oh well, his ass ended up in an emergency room with injuries that would not only scar him for life but, with every future swallow of food, the bastard would remember “child of Chucky.” I stabbed that pedophile in the throat!
No more adoptive parents for me after that. Armed with monthly psychiatric visits, I stayed in the children’s home and wore my name of “child of Chucky” with supreme swagger and willingness to demonstrate my proficiency whenever another kid felt the need to test his mettle.
I got into the Citadel and paid for it, as I had done most things until that point. My ride or die. My laptop and the endless overflowing shady bank accounts I helped myself to. For some reason, the only thing I remembered of my final day was falling in crushing pain onto the pavement in front of the KFC. I had been hit by a car, and it hurt like a sonofabitch! Everything else was a black void.
I wondered if they caught that fucker that hit me.
Now back to my first day of awareness. The first day I woke, I was in and out of consciousness and could only determine from the conversation going on around me, which seemed very far away, that I was in some kind of hospital. Several times I felt cool hands on my arms, prodding and changing whatever needles they had in me. It was exceedingly strange that I could hear so clearly the person breathing and their heartbeat. And from the faint perfume of their body, I could tell that whoever was touching me was a woman. In fact, throughout that first day, there were several women in out of the room, checking me and even bathing my body twice that day. They didn’t seem to be aware that I was awake, and that the paralysis of my body had me shrieking in terror whenever they touched me.
It was on the second day of my awareness that I realized the paralyzing horror state that I was truly in.
There were three of them. Three doctors. They stood around my bed, occasionally examining me, and I could hear from the scratching sound of the pen on the clipboard that they were making notes. At first their examination was no more intrusive than the nurses from the day before, checking my pulse, my heartbeat, my temperature, and blood pressure. It seemed that this was just a double check on the machines I was apparently hooked up to because one of the doctors stated that the readings matched the machines. And then I felt the cool air on my skin as someone opened the gown. I felt my nakedness and helplessness as the doctors stared down at me. I felt their cool, impersonal stares. My body was a specimen, and I wanted to die.
A rage unlike anything I’ve ever felt before in my twenty-one years filled me. I was feeling like the “child of Chucky” all over again. I wanted to kill them, and the strange thing was that I felt as though I had the strength to do it. If only I could move, these bastards would be toast.
“The pregnancy is coming along nicely,” a male voice said.
Say what?!?! Were they talking about me? I wasn’t pregnant! Unless I was the reincarnated Virgin Mary.
A cold gel-like substance was placed on my belly and an even colder metal object was being slowly glided along the taut skin.
“The fetuses are five months and taking to the drug as naturally as their mother and father have,” another male voice intoned excitedly. “It was definitely a stroke of luck that we got her mangled, half-dead body when we did. Not only did the drugs heal her, fuse her broken bones, reattach ligaments and cartilage, and repair her damaged organs, they also gave her the muscle tone for our only successful test subject. We have no reason to believe that these babies, these boys, she’s carrying won’t be just as successful.”
These bastards raped me! I wanted to vomit in horror at what these doctors were disclosing. In fact, the putrid taste of vomit filled my mouth. God, who were these monsters? Wait! What about Trey, my boyfriend? He would be looking for me, right? We were engaged, well, almost engaged. He was giving me my ring after graduation. Both of us attended the Citadel and were computer science majors. He loved me, and I loved him. No way would he not come look for me.
“Since everyone thinks she died when that bus jumped the sidewalk and hit her, it is imperative that she stays that way.” That was a female voice, sounding cunning and cold.
Oh God! These people are worse than monsters!
“What do you mean?” This was from the first male doctor, the one who was still running that cold object on my stomach.
“Dr. Reiner, you can be so obtuse sometimes,” the woman muttered impatiently. “Of course, we can’t let her survive this, not if we want those babies.”
The helplessness of my situation seemed to bombard in my head, and the icy chill of revulsion slithered ominously over my skin.
“Dr. Forbes, Katia could be just as valuable as the babies,” Dr. Reiner argued. “You can’t deny that her response to these drugs after the fatal failures of the hundreds before her are nothing short of extraordinary.”
“She is broken and may never emerge from her coma.” Dr. Forbes was undeterred. “And she has been in a coma too long now to not have suffered some mental defect.”
“Almost three years isn’t too long, and her vitals are good,” Dr. Reiner stated vehemently. “Look how well she is progressing in this pregnancy. Again, when others before her have failed. These babies are the last of our successful subject’s sperm.”
God, three years!? I had been like this for three years!?!?
“All the more reason for us to be rid of her. She is of no more use to us. Those babies are the key to the future success of this project,” another shrill male voice noted. “There will be no parents around to give or retract consent. And with two of them, the sky is the limit. Can you imagine the babies we can harvest from these males?”
Oh my God! Who are these people?
“Dr. Everette, Katia is the only woman to have survived our testing. We have no idea why, or how, the serum has affected her or whether it has changed her DNA as it did the only successful male subject almost one hundred years ago. Listen to how strong, how fast these babies’ heartbeats are.”
Two out-of-sync rapid heartbeats filled the air. Why hadn’t I heard them before? I couldn’t believe that I was pregnant and hadn’t known it. I couldn’t believe I didn’t hear my own children, but I heard the gossip going on three rooms away! God, what was wrong with me? I couldn’t afford to be clueless and helpless anymore. A new resolve filled me. I had to get stronger and survive to protect my babies. Love fiercer than I’d ever felt before gripped me.
“Dr. Reiner, we all know that she may have survived, but that’s all she’s done. We have waited years for her to wake up. If the drugs had worked as they should, she would be awake by now,” Dr. Forbes insisted. “We have all discussed this and come to the same conclusion. We can’t take the risk now of her waking and making trouble for us.”
“Dr. Forbes is right, Dean.” That was the shrill voice of Dr. Everette again. “If she wakes and get’s away from us, she could try to make some trouble for us. Not only did we fake her death and experiment on her without consent, but we have also impregnated a subject without consent. Do you have any idea what this would do to our reputation, our professional licenses? We can’t take the risk.”
“William, you’re talking about cold-blooded murder here.” Dr. Dean Reiner was outraged. “We’re doctors for Christ’s sake.”
“And what do you call the hundreds of subjects to have died from the cocktail we’ve given them, Dean? We knew the danger and gave them the drugs anyway. We have killed hundreds, if not thousands. I’ve lost count now,” Dr. Everette drawled coldly.
“Those subjects also understood the risk!” Dr. Reiner hissed. “Christ, they signed off on the experiment. They consented!”
“Yes, but they are just as dead!” Dr. Forbes told him coldly.
“We are scientists, not murderers. We have performed good work for over ten years now.” Dr. Everette tried to sound soothing, but his voice was too shrill for that. “So, some have died. That is all in the name of science. Do you have any idea what this research would mean? We can harvest her cells and see why this worked on her and not the others. At the very least, we could cure or mend millions, and those few deaths would be worth it.”
I couldn’t have been more infuriated and horrified by the discussion. The argument between the doctors raged for almost an hour as they stood over me. Dr. Reiner seemed reluctant to leave my side, even going so far as sitting at my bedside until his colleagues got tired of the argument and dismissed his opinion since they outnumbered him. As soon as they left the room, Dr. Reiner gripped my hand.
“I’m sorry, my dear. I promise you, when we all started this, it was only meant for good. Meant for improving our armed forces so that our men and women didn’t have to forfeit their lives in the name of democracy or peace. Autocratic governments have gotten too powerful, you see.” The doctor sighed. “I can’t condone cold-blooded murder though. I can’t stand by and let them do this.” Dr. Reiner’s grip on my hand tightened as though trying to assure me. “There is someone who could possibly help.”
I tuned the doctor out after that. Instead, I concentrated on trying to identify what was happening around me, what was really happening in this building that I was in. Until I regained full consciousness, I could only pray and hope for the safety of my babies.
It was embarrassing having unseen hands take care of my daily hygiene. Bathing me. Cleaning my teeth. Washing and combing my hair. Whoever the hands belonged to, they were gentle and handled my hair with near reverence. I had always had long bone-straight hair like my father’s, and the person taking care of me seemed to take special care of it.
I tried to remain positive and entertained myself with planning my escape. In each scenario, my plans always ended with my knife in the doctors’ throats. Yeah, I found that really entertaining. In my mind, there was no room for doubt, no room for the possibility that my plans were not plausible.
Days and weeks passed with nothing changing in my semi-conscious comatose state. My babies grew, and at least I was able to hear of their progress from Dr. Reiner, who came to visit me on a weekly basis, and then he started coming daily.
I started not only hearing the voices in the building, but I also started dreaming about those voices, especially Dr. Reiner’s. At least I thought they were dreams where I heard him in conversations with others that were away from the complex. It was all very strange, but then I heard Dr. Reiner’s conversation with another man. Again, with no faces to accompany the voices other than Dr. Reiner’s, whose face I saw clearly. Those were the strangest dreams because I heard every word of the conversation Dr. Reiner had with the man. He was telling him about me and about my babies. Wait, he was telling the man that the babies were his. I thought I was going mad.
I even dreamed about Trey. He looked older and seemed to be working for a tech company, Systematic Industries it said on his polo shirt. In one dream, Trey was at his desk talking a customer through a problem he was having with his software. In another dream, Trey was out with some friends. It was a Friday night, and they were in a nightclub. I smiled on seeing him so carefree and happy, telling his notorious off-color jokes. But the dream turned into a nightmare when a girl came right up to him and kissed him. Trey obviously knew her because he introduced her to his friends as his girlfriend.
Pain, lacerating soul-deep pain, ripped through me, and I pulled away from the dream. I woke crying. Of course, the worst part of that was I couldn’t make a sound and the tears remained locked internally. No cleansing tears flowed to wash away the pain. It all remained clogged in my throat and nasal passages, giving a new meaning to drowning in sorrow.
The day that they took my babies from me, I knew that they would take my life as well. While Dr. Reiner performed the caesarean operation, I was awake for the procedure and, of course, was terrified that any minute the other doctors would come in and snuff out my life. I fought the desire to sleep and stayed awake long enough to hear their cries before I had no fight left, and an incredible tiredness overwhelmed me. I realized then that not only had they given me pain meds, but the meds had also put me to sleep.
And then it happened. Something must have awakened me again. It was a scent. A scent that I instinctively knew belonged to a male, but I hadn’t ever smelled it in the building before. Suddenly the clean male scent permeated the air, and I was intensely aware of it and didn’t understand why, of all the male scents in the building, this one was so distinct. It was all male and the most compelling scent I’d ever encountered. Almost as though it were a siren’s call but, in this case, a siren’s scent. I wasn’t just aware anymore; my body was truly awake now.
The second he stepped into my room my heart rate accelerated and a shiver went through my body that caused me to clench my fist. Holy shit! I tightened my fists! Before that thought could completely process in my head, I felt strong arms lift me high against a broad chest. I had the feeling of being carried, maybe carried wasn’t the correct word, maybe flown would be more accurate. I was in his arms, held tight against his chest, but it was as if he was running so fast that I felt as though we were flying.
It might have been minutes or mere seconds, but we were on the outside before I could process what was happening. I hadn’t realized it, but my senses and awareness seemed muted before, more sluggish than I’ve felt since waking. However, the cold fresh air invigorated my starved senses. The frigid air pierced my skin and reminded me again of the reawakening of my body. Maybe as I could now close my fists, I must be able to open my eyes. Before the thought could fully form into action, I was being strapped into what felt like leather bucket seats.
And then a series of explosions started erupting. The sounds were initially a distance away and then became louder and louder, the violent vibration of the impact closer as well. Another male suddenly entered the aircraft. If it wasn’t for my acute hearing, I wouldn’t have been aware of the smooth ascent of the aircraft because of the stealth engine and propeller. The sensation of my body being lifted as though I was in an aircraft, an aircraft that was eerily quiet, assailed me.
I tried to force my eyelids open. It felt like a Herculean effort, but I did what I hadn’t been able to do in months of wakefulness and pushed the heavy lids up. At first, I couldn’t focus on anything, as the light was slightly muted, and I was still trying to understand why I was so cold and sluggish. I slowly turned my head toward his compelling masculine scent that continued to soothe me.
It was his eyes that immediately drew me, that piercing brilliant sapphire gaze. And then I took in the rest of him, inky black hair somewhat overlong that framed his stubbled square-jawed, masculine face. His black T-shirt highlighted golden tanned skin and was stretched over sinewy biceps as though he spent most of his time doing manual labor, but they weren’t bulging like a gym rat’s. He looked strong and hard all over, a complete juxtaposition to his beautiful face. The slight dimples in his cheeks made him almost seem angelic. There was an innate softness in his expression, a gentleness that made me breathe easier. There was also intelligence, a wisdom in his clear blue eyes that felt as though he could discern your deepest secrets.
“You’re awake,” he murmured.
I didn’t trust my voice to speak, so instead, I nodded. His voice. I recognized it from past dreams, which made no sense. He was the man Dr. Reiner had said was the father of my babies. I stared at him in wonder. They had raped him too.
A male voice interrupted us. “Five minutes, Mac.”
I wanted to look toward the other voice, but I couldn’t move my gaze from this man called Mac. I could smell the other man and hear his heartbeat, but I also heard three other heartbeats too. Before I could process what that meant, my eyelids became incredibly heavy, and it seemed like an invisible force pulled me back under the dark depths of nothingness. I couldn’t fight the tiredness and drowsiness that enveloped me like a warm blanket.
When I woke next and opened my eyes, I was in a bed. A large bed. Although the aircraft barely made a sound, I knew I was now on an airplane. No, not just any airplane, I concluded as I looked around the spacious bedroom. This was a sleek luxury jet. It finally clicked in my mind that I moved my head. I was almost dizzy with excitement and relief. I started taking inventory of my body parts. What could I now feel, and what could I now move?
The ability to wiggle my toes and fingers brought tears to eyes. I rolled to my side and then tried to sit up. The slight painful pull on my stomach forced my gaze to my slightly swollen stomach. I felt the hard pull of a frown in my forehead as confusion overwhelmed me. Had I imagined being pregnant? It had all seemed so real. So, why was I no longer pregnant?
I lifted the edge of the hospital gown up over my thighs, my hips, and finally my stomach. I instantly felt sick bile rise in my throat, and I bolted for the door that was hopefully the bathroom. I was violently sick in the toilet after having crashed to my knees on the carpeted floor.
I remembered now. The doctor had cut my babies from me!
I screamed in fury. I had fallen asleep. I had failed them.
The sound of soft-treaded running feet, followed by the sound of the door to the bedroom being thrust open, and then someone filling the doorway to the bathroom penetrated my senses. But nothing mattered. My babies! I wailed!
“Are you in pain?” Mac dropped to his knees beside me, but he didn’t touch me, seeming afraid to. The look in his intensely blue gaze was troubled, and his eyes roamed over my body trying to find where I hurt.
I couldn’t stop crying long enough to form words. Ugly, fat tears poured from my eyes as anguished cries erupted from my throat.
Mac pulled my head against his chest, and I promptly drenched his shirt. Even as the agony and grief gripped me, I started trying to think back over the past few hours. Trying to remember when this horror was done to me. But it was all a big black void. I had no recollection of even a hint of what happened after I fell into that deep sleep. I had no idea of how long ago the operation was. Hours? Days? How long was I asleep? I didn’t feel any pain, no indication that I’d recently had an operation. Their comforting heartbeats, which had so soothed me in my darkest moments over the past few months, were silent now. I wailed louder.
Mac’s arm tightened around me, and his big palm patted my back a little awkwardly.
I lifted my head from his chest and tried to put some space between us. Unable to hide the tremors in my hands, I wiped the tears from my cheeks. God, I was so embarrassed for having lost control like that.
“Dr. Reiner said that you’ve healed well. Has he lied?”
Fresh tears flooded my eyes. “You…you know Dr. Reiner? He promised to protect my babies.”
“Yeah, I know Dean.” Although his words were clipped, it was clear that he was still concerned about my health and was getting impatient that I’d yet to answer his question. “Where do you hurt?”
Despite the softening of his voice, I knew that if I didn’t answer him, he would find another way to find out. “I’m not hurt in the way you think.” I couldn’t hide the crack in my voice. I felt such deep sorrow at being violated all over again. Those bastards took my babies. I couldn’t help the soul-deep wail that erupted from my throat.
I think I was frightening him. I bit my lip trying to stop the tears, stop the pained wails.
He swallowed and manfully waited for my tears to stop flowing. “If you can, the babies need to be fed,” he said softly as though he was expecting me to start wailing again.
“What?!” I felt as though my heart was about to explode out of my chest. “My babies are here?”
“Yes, of course.” He looked at me as though he wasn’t sure of my mental capacity.
After the horror of a few minutes ago, it certainly felt as though I was losing my mind.
“Can I bring them in now? You know how to feed them, right?” He gave me a penetrating stare. His uncertainty of my strength clearly in question. “In all the planning to rescue you, we didn’t think of milk for the babies.”
He left the room before I could voice my doubts or assure him that I wouldn’t break. Yes, I wanted to see them, but I knew nothing about feeding babies. I looked down at my swollen breasts and was surprised at how taut and achy they felt.
Too soon he was back with two of the cutest fussiest dark-headed little babies I’d ever seen. My heart felt as though it would burst out of my chest with instant, inexplicable, unwavering love for these tiny beings.
When he handed the fussiest one to me, the baby instantly stopped fussing and looked at me with wide stunned pale sapphire eyes. I smiled. I couldn’t help it. As I cuddled him close, a feeling of such utter completion rolled through me. It felt as though my heart expanded and pressed bruisingly against my chest. It suddenly wasn’t important how they came to be here. They were my sons. Blood of my blood. Flesh of my flesh and all that. I loved them.
We stared at each other for a long jolting moment before my baby boy decided that I wasn’t so fascinating anymore. He pressed his face insistently against my breast, waved his little fist in agitation, and started fussing loudly again. It was only then that I realized that I didn’t have to know a damn thing about breastfeeding. My son had that all well in hand.
Mother Nature. Gotta love her.
“They have already gotten used to your milk.” Mac chuckled. “You’d better let him have it.”
“What? What are you talking about? How?”
“They are four days old. You’ve breastfed them from birth.”
“They are? I have?” I was stunned. WTF?!
“Yes. The nurses put them to your breasts at Dr. Reiner’s insistence. That’s why there was a delay in killing you after the babies were born.” His nonchalant statement about the threat of my murder stunned me. He spoke as though there wasn’t a chance in hell of that happening, when that had been my nightmarish fear for months. Paralyzed and muted, fear had dominated my every wakeful moment.
My son was impatient, and at his insistence, I sat with my back against several pillows as I made myself more comfortable on the large bed. I opened my blouse and was again unprepared for the unique bra I wore. It was white cotton, had a padded flap that covered my nipples and was held by an adhesive fastening. As soon as I freed the nipple, he latched on as though his life depended on it. The instant sharp tug had me gasping and my other breast tingling and, taut with milk, it started leaking.
Mac soothed my other fussy son as best he could as I tried my best to handle the strong suction of the impatient twin. Good God, I had never felt anything like it. Pain and pressure, intense.
“They are so big,” I whispered in awe.
“Both were close to nine pounds, eleven ounces and twenty-one inches long.” He smiled, his dimples very pronounced.
“That can’t be normal.” Just then, the little glutton at my breast wrapped his arms around the huge globes and sucked and slurped noisily.
“Is he hurting you?” Mac asked with an absorbed fascinated gaze at my son and his ravenous feeding.
I briefly looked at him and quickly looked away. I took another look because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My son’s sapphire eyes were the same as the big man’s looking back at me. How could that be? And then I remembered the conversation I had dreamed about. I was confused but was too afraid to ask questions.
Soon, my gluttonous son had stuffed himself by draining the milk from one of my breasts. Mac took him and placed the other in my arms. Now understanding the routine, I quickly covered the drained nipple, exposed the other nipple, and placed the second twin on the taut breast. Again, I was awed by this tiny perfect being. Perfect dark inky hair. Perfect little nose and rosebud lips. Perfect twin dimples. Five fingers. Five toes. Plump, solid little body. My beautiful babies. Their healthy glowing golden skin such a contrast from my dark chocolate hue and so in line with this man staring down at us. Again, not something I was yet willing to analyze.
I had thought that I loved them before, but nothing prepared me for this unconditional, undeniable love I felt now after seeing them, touching them. It strengthened me, and suddenly I felt such hope and promise. I would lay waste to anyone who tried to take them from me or who tried to harm them.
I laughed when my little glutton belched loudly and contently from his perch on Mac’s shoulder.
“I can’t thank you enough for helping us,” I told him a few moments later when we had both sobered. “Why did you? Why did you rescue us?”
The smile quickly disappeared from Mac’s face. “Dr. Reiner told me what was happening.”
“Why you? Why not go to the police?” And I realized that we were in an airplane. Were we even in the United States? “Where were they keeping us, anyway?”
The plane suddenly shuddered and bumped with a little turbulence.
Mac lowered himself to an armchair beside the bed and held the baby to lay on his chest.
Thank God he sat, I didn’t realize the crick in my neck from starring up at his tall frame. He was solid muscle, massive, virile male. I looked away, embarrassed that he might notice my fascination with his beautiful body.
The flight had been going so smoothly up to that point. This plane had to be a damn big one if the size of this bedroom was any measure.
“You were at an isolated location in Iceland.” Mac spoke softly so not to wake the sleeping baby. “One I’m sure would never show up on any legitimate list of government-owned property. As to why not the police, well, that’s tied into the fact that it was a secret government-owned location, and everything being done there was being sanctioned by the US government.”
“I’m sure you have noticed your sons’ similar features to mine.”
I gave him a short incredulous laugh for that understatement. “They are like little miniatures of you,” I said blandly and yawned widely. The unusual tiredness I’d been feeling days ago assailed me again. I knew I had mere minutes before I was comatose again. However, this time I wasn’t as terrified of the oblivion. His scent woke me before; it would wake me again.
Mac nodded solemnly. “They are my sons.”
I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was. I started to speak and then stopped. Swallowed the sudden lump in my throat but still no words came out. Before this, I thought my life had been set. I had the job of my dreams lined up for when I finished college, and I had the love of my life loving me back. These babies were supposed to be Trey’s and mine. Tears welled in my eyes for the dreams lost. How could I ask Trey to accept the children of another man?
Meanwhile, Mac was staring back at me as if what he’d said was a perfectly normal statement.
No, nothing strange about my giving birth to two sons, while in a coma, and with a man I’d never met. A man outside my race and my experience. And from the looks of him, he looked like money. Very serious money. What did I know about wealthy white men? This was all kinds of wrong.
“How?” I finally croaked out. The tiredness, the helpless lethargy seemed to seep into my very bones, trying to drag me under.
He raked his fingers through the short strands of his black hair as though he were as uncomfortable about this as I was. “It’s a long story, but for now, it’s enough that you know that you and the boys are safe. You’ve just woken from a three-year coma.”
And didn’t I know it. I was barely conscious now.
“There is a lot you will need to know and a lot you will have to decide,” he continued softly. “Know that those who had imprisoned you will stop at nothing to try to find you and the boys. You can’t use your name again. Everyone you’ve ever known and everything that you owned before, you have to forget about.”
That woke my ass up somewhat. “What about my fiancé? I am engaged!” Not really, but that’s a technicality surely.
Was it my imagination, or did his eyes glaze over with hurt? He looked down at the baby in his arms, and his expression quickly reverted to the gentle indulgent father.
“I’m engaged,” I repeated, wanting him to acknowledge that fact. It was the only reality I had left.
“Yes, I know. Treyton Willard.” Mac’s cool regard and dispassionate words told me that I was going to lose the only real person I had left. “He has accepted your death as everyone else, your school, your parent’s family. They have accepted and moved on with their lives. And you have to do the same. You will jeopardize his life if you contact anyone from your past. That will be the first place they will look for you.”
The thought of giving up my love, Trey, brought immediate moisture to my eyes. I had known for weeks that I would have to give up Trey if I intended keeping my babies. Although Trey was a pastor’s son, no way was he compassionate enough to take on the responsibility of another man’s child, and even worse, children. Although I loved him, I was in no way blind to the fact that Trey was very ambitious and self-centered.
“We’ve left now. Why wouldn’t they simply leave us alone? I have nothing further to give them. I don’t know who they are. I was in a coma, so I can’t even identify them by sight.” I deliberately added that last part about identifying them by sight because I still wasn’t sure how I was recognizing Dr. Reiner and Mac by the sound of their voices. And I was pretty sure I had an image of Dr. Reiner also in my psyche somehow. My heightened senses are starting to freak me out now that I am awake and realizing that my theory about my abilities was all wrong. I had convinced myself that it was because my mind and body was so still that I was able to hear, feel, and smell things I shouldn’t be able to. Even now, I could clearly hear the pilot, who I had heard Mac and another man refer to as Justin, giving his coordinates to someone over the radio.
“You are the key to our sons. Make no mistake, the twins represent billions, even trillions to them. Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t anticipated me. I will do all in my power to keep you and my sons safe.” He placed the baby beside me and gently soothed him until he settled in sleep.
I fought to stay awake longer, but it was becoming a serious struggle.
“Have you thought of names for the lads?”
His question was posed as though it was an afterthought, but I wasn’t fooled into thinking that this wasn’t important to him. He really believed that my sons were his. Hell, maybe they were.
After waking from a coma, being able to hear sounds and smell things I shouldn’t, maybe eavesdropping on conversations that were possibly miles away, one more strange incident wasn’t going to make what was happening to me any less incredible.
“No, I haven’t thought of any names.” I really didn’t have a clue. Mac looked so adorable with his gaze glistening in awe, his fascination with the babies blatantly evident. Even while talking to me, he couldn’t keep his eyes off them. And then it struck me; he loved them. They were his sons, and he loved them. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I would have smiled at that discovery, but I was too damn tired to get my face muscles to cooperate. “Do you have any suggestions?” I tried to stifle the yawn, but it was an impossibility.
“I had a family once.” He said it so softly I wasn’t sure I heard him right.
“Colin and Liam,” he murmured. “My brothers’ names were Colin and Liam. I would like my sons to be named for my brothers.” He didn’t take his eyes off the babies. “Are you okay with that?”
I really couldn’t keep my eyes open or even concentrate on our conversation any longer. “Take your son.” My words were almost slurred as I fought the murky oblivion that was fast approaching. “Take Colin.” I was only vaguely aware of Mac taking the fed baby from my arms as sleep finally won.