Freaks and Monsters
He can see it in her eyes without reading her mind, no fear but plenty of anger directed towards him. Its justified of course, considering what he’d done to her. Even before learning that he’d planned to sacrifice her, he’d always been harder on her than the other recruits. Was it jealousy? Even Joshua Jacobs, the leader of the Freaks Foundation had no idea.
When he first met her she’d been pathetic. The shadow of a human being with powers she couldn’t understand. She’d had innocent blood on her hands, and couldn’t understand how. At first he’d thought it was fortunate for them both that one of the guards knew to call him. She was a psychic like himself, and their ability was as dangerous as it was rare. One of the few abilities likely enough to kill its owner as it was to kill anyone else.
“So what am I, some kind of freak?”
“In a manner of speaking, but so am I, and many others like us.”
“Am I dangerous?”
Of course she was, but he couldn’t bring himself to flat out say it. He couldn’t lose this one as well. In his short time as leader he’d met only two other psychics, both children, both who’d fallen into insanity and then death before he could properly train them. “You don’t have to be. I can train you, keep you safe. I promise.”
In only a few months he’d begun to rue his decision. She was stronger than he’d ever imagined, even managing to read Liam’s mind. Liam saw her as a new experiment, and Joshua let him do as he wanted as long as Juliette wasn’t harmed.
But then her powers increased... in no time at all she would be stronger than he was, and then what? He’d reached the peak of his powers at 25, and here this young woman was already nearing his peak with no sign of stopping. The decision to use her as their matyr had been made on a whim, but he stuck to it. He would not allow a... a common mutt to be stronger than him. Both Joshua’s parents had abilities, as far as he could tell Juliette came from human parents. She was the rarest of the rare, her abilities manifested from nothing, and she would be stronger than them all if he didn’t stop her.
“Put the gun down, sir. Let’s talk.”
Her voice brings him back to reality, and for a moment Joshua curses his scattered mind. In his moment of thought she could have attacked and taken the upper hand. He can’t take that chance a second time, but he does put the gun down, leaning back in his seat. “As you wish, my dear Juliette. What would you like to talk about?”
She gets straight to the point. “I want to know why you want me dead.”
“As you wish.” He says, standing and moving towards his bookshelf, watching her but not meeting her eyes a second time. The first time he spent only enough time to read her memories. Already he could feel her trying to catch the thread back to his own mind, but he couldn’t tell if she was aware of her own attempt. She seemed so calm and collected. Was she truly the threat he’d feared?
“I know what Liam told you while you were his prisoner, we [i]are[/i] the next step in evolution. But we’re rare and scattered around the globe. Without the proper funds most Freaks will murder themselves or be killed by others before we can get to them to help. We needed an excuse politicians would understand, and when Liam showed me your recent spikes I knew you needed to be stopped. For a while Liam gave you nothing but sugar pills, but even then your abilities were progressing too quickly, so I decided to use your strength for the greater good.”
“I still don’t understand why you feel the need to sacrifice me.” She sighs, pleading with him. “I want to control this, and I know I can if you’d only help me.”
I don’t want to help the likes of you. He thinks, but doesn’t say out loud. Instead he grabs a set of files from the shelf and lays them down on his desk.
“Juliette, we aren’t the kind of organization who can just grab a loan from the bank, and we need funds. The medication Liam gives everyone is only a single project, it wasn’t the only thing we had him working on.”
The title of one folder catches her eyes, Project: Orycalcos. She remembers seeing it a few times in Liam’s office, but she never ventured farther than the cover. Each folder always had the same symbol, a double helix in blue and red next to a face. The folder in front of her had Dene’s face. “What is this?”
“Project Orycalcos was named for my father.” He tells her. “A scientist who taught Liam everything he knows. He theorized there could be a way to give normal humans the abilities we develop, and years after my father’s death Liam found a way to do it. Your partner, Denebola, was one of our first successes. Unfortunately there are side effects... it doesn’t matter if you’re born a Freak or made, the stronger you are the weaker our health. Most females will never have children, and our numbers are already so small. Our research is important if we want to be able to protect ourselves.”
“This is wrong.” She whispers, holding herself. “We’re all just humans, no one is going to turn against us.”
Joshua’s already begun to lose patience. “The day before I met you I was in the city for a different reason, five year old twins who were supposed to be able to fly. They lived in a farm outside of town, and by the time I got there their neighbors had killed them both, thinking they were monsters. They were just babies, Juliette, defenseless and weak. I hate having to kill even one of our own, but without a real threat we will never have the money we need.”
Juliette’s nausea is quickly returning with a vengeance, and Joshua takes the opportunity to step closer. “But perhaps, the victim doesn’t have to be unwilling. You’re strong, Juliette, but you know full well that you’re unstable. Think of your child. Don’t you want the best future for him or her?”
Her blood runs cold when she hears his words. A part of her had put it together already, but to hear it said out loud... she isn’t ready to be a mother. Not yet.
“[b]If happy ever after did exist[/b] there’d be no problem.” He whispers into her ear, right hand playing with a lock of her hair. “But it doesn’t. Be our matyr, and I vow to watch over your child as if it were my own.”
“Don’t you touch me.” She growls, pushing him away with a hand. “You’re sick, Joshua. Sick and wrong. You vowed once to protect me too, don’t you remember? You promised to take care of me, to help me control what I have. So why on earth would I take you for your word now?”
He grabs her by the left wrist, face even but rage radiating from his eyes as they meet hers. “Fine. Don’t take advantage of my generosity. I can live with losing two. We’re at war, and I’m not going to let a little wanna-be hero ruin the future I want to make. I’m not the bad guy here. I’m just trying to protect my own.”
“Funny.” She responds, breaking free and stepping back. “Because I’m doing the same thing. I’m not going to let you hurt me or anyone else.”
He tries to move towards her but finds he can’t. Her hand is up, but that’s not what’s stopping him, its her eyes. In the moment he met her eyes in anger she’d managed to knock down his defenses and lock into his nervous system. In a fight between psychics, strength didn’t matter. All that mattered was who moved first, and she’d won. She had him paralyzed, and soon enough he realized he couldn’t breath.
“No one threatens me.” Juliette growls, voice steady. “You’ve had this coming for a long time, Joshua, and I know I’m going to sleep well tonight knowing you’re gone.”
She doesn’t pity him in the end, forcing him to stay awake and feel as his body struggles for the air that won’t come, only letting go of his mind once she’s sure his open eyes will never come back to life.
She steps back, arms shaking at last as the adrenaline escapes her. With it comes the unease and guilt. Did she really do the right thing? Dene’s folder is on the table next to her, as well as a number of others. Some faces she recognizes, but others she doesn’t.
They all have one thing in common, she realizes, they’re all like her, and with Joshua dead they’ll have no one to protect them. She isn’t sure if the story he told her of the twins was true, but if she leaves the Freaks without a leader the story will one day become truth. Her people need someone, and right now all they have is her. Like it or not there’s no running away now.
The land they gave her has roads, a few signs left over advertising the upcoming condos that never began production. This was supposed to be the site of a new community set around a giant shopping mall, but the mall was found to be a scam, and the builders left without ever even breaking ground. It had taken three long years of work before Juliette had managed to convince the government to give her the land.
Like Joshua had predicted, the president wouldn’t even meet with her until a rogue Freak had caused trouble. Somehow Juliette had managed to end the danger without any bloodshed, forcing the rogue to sleep and having the others rescue injured civilians. By then the president was practically begging to meet her. She’d refused his offers of money and power, instead asking for land to be given to her organization. They’d stay away from “normal” humans, train their children to be strong, and stop all the horrible research Liam had done.
Juliette no longer cared about being normal, about learning what made them different. She had better things to worry about, like her two year old daughter, Elena. She looked far too much like her father, but Juliette was confident she could raise her right.
Juliette had become the Freaks new leader, not by killing Jason, but by earning their love and loyalty. Much of her time was spent training new Freaks personally, or helping build new homes. Elena would go with her sometimes, but otherwise she’d stay home and work on the small chemistry table her mother had bought her.
She’d inherited her father’s mind, science came naturally to her and Juliette couldn’t morally stop her daughter from embracing that genius. However, unlike either of her parents Elena had been born a mind reader, a powerful one.
Her best friend Alex Mason was only a year younger than her but Elena could sense he’d never have gifts. He was human, just like his father.
His parents, Denebola and Daniel Mason married long before he was born. Dani stayed with Dene in the new Orycalcos Compound, being one of the few humans who felt comfortable around them. Together they had managed to have three healthy children, of which Alex was the oldest.
Alex was only 16 when his mother died. It’ been an accident no one had seen coming, even though it was the way everyone in her generation would eventually died. Her powers had consumed her, her inner heat exploding outwards and causing her to burn to death, taking the Mason’s home with her.
Luckily Daniel had been out with the children at the time and they hadn’t been hurt. They’d only learned about Dene’s death upon returning home and finding the results.
Eventually, they all succumbed to their gifts. Denebola was the first, still young when she died. The sliders would be found in their beds electrocuted, fire starters would burn down everything around them as Dene had, even Juliette had died only a few years after Denebola, first losing her mind and then dying from her brain collapsing in on itself, leaving only a trail of blood from her nose to show she wasn’t asleep. Much like the victims she’d left behind before she could control herself.
Elena was the first to notice the patterns, but what could she do to stop it? She was only a child after all.
She tried everything she could to find a way to slow down the progression of strength, especially with her own generation coming into their gifts so early. Would she only live to be thirty? Even younger? It wasn’t something she wanted to dwell on, but she knew she couldn’t just wait for death to come. If there was a way to save herself - and others - then she had to look for it.
Only days before Juliette’s death she began speaking of an underground laboratory in a secret building, just outside of the capital city and hidden by the trees. Elena attributed it to her mother’s insanity, but with research she learned of her mother’s fight and the direction the Freaks had been going under their old leader.
Less than a year after her mother’s death, she found her father’s old laboratory, and the notes that lay in it.
She learned everything, the medical compounds Liam had worked on for years, the DNA strands that all Freaks shared, whatever their gift, how to give gifts to mere humans, and all the propaganda that came with it. She learned Joshua and Liam’s plans for their kind, how similar it was to what her mother had managed to accomplish with far less innocent bloodshed. And yet, Elena couldn’t quite be proud of what her mother had accomplished. She’d managed to save herself, but had she really given the Freaks a better life? She stopped scientific advancement for 25 years, letting Elena dabble only in what she thought was appropriate. How many more lives could have been saved by letting herself die and letting Liam continue his research?
Further reading showed Elena her father had used humans and Freaks alike as guinea pigs, keeping them in his cage until he had what he wanted from them, but even then she couldn’t quite feel disgusted. No one was just going to give themselves up for the greater good, her mother had shown her that much, so why not pick sacrifices yourself? Her mother hadn’t been a hero, she’d been a moron. But her father... well, he might have been on the right track.
75 years later
Dawn Woods was your typical 9 year old. She was her daddy’s little princess, she had her mother’s bright blue eyes, had the sweetest personality ever... and yesterday during detention she’d learned she was a Freak.
Her fingers had been the victim of her anger, getting crushed when she slammed her desk shut. The tip of her middle finger coming clean off, before growing back in less than a minute, successfully scaring herself and her teacher.
The only one to not be terrified was the school’s resident brat, Erisia Johnson. She’d been in detention too, and instead of running or calling the police (as they were supposed to when they believed they’d seen a Freak), Erisia simply walked over to their teacher, looked her dead in the eye and told her she’d seen nothing, and that she was going to go have some coffee in the teachers’ lounge. Their teacher left and Erisia helped Dawn clean up the blood, promising to explain everything later.
And so there they were, an hour before anyone else would be at school, with Erisia telling her everything. “Freaks are humans too, in a way. My dad says our family goes back generations, but you must be a first generation-er if you’re not with Orycalcos. My dad managed to get out, but it was hard. You could go to them if you want, they’ll keep you safe but they won’t let you go and if your parents are humans they’ll take you away from them.”
This was too much for a nine-year-old to handle, but Dawn knew she couldn’t go to her parents about this. “What if I don’t want to go to Orycalcos?”
“I could try to help you, but I’m still training. I was lucky Miss Potts was scared, it made her easy to control. But if you promise not to tell anyone I’m like you I’ll do my best to keep you safe.”
Dawn stands slowly, thinking for a moment before pulling her new friend in for a hug. “Why would I ever tell anyone? You saved my life, and we’re friend now aren’t we? Friends stick together forever.”
Erisia sighed happily. Her father always warned her other freaks were vile, evil things to be avoided. He’d fled from Orycalcos to keep her safe from their family’s legacy, but besides that he was no better than the propaganda they saw everyday on the TV. They had to be wrong. She and Dawn were both Freaks, but they were still just little girls. And while no one would dare hurt a little girl at least now they had someone else to rely on. Perhaps in that sense, Erisia was the first of her line to be anything like the great Juliette Johnson. Or at the very least, the first with her heart.