As promised, here's the first chapter of Michael's Folly... I want it my way!
The sky rolled and boiled but not a drop of rain fell. The wind paid homage to the gods of the air by whipping spray from the equally trouble sea onto Michael’s upturned face. It was late afternoon and he had stepped out onto the balcony to calm his rage and argue with his conscious and the Gods.
How could everything have come to this conclusion? He asked himself for the tenth time. Damn this war… and damn these powers! He struck the stone balustrade with enough force to make him wince and cradle his aching hand. It only fueled his anger. Why did those damn bugs have to be so incompetent? Had they engineered their disease properly none of this would have happened! Now that was a ridiculous thought… Michael chastised himself again. He knew at the core of his being that he wouldn’t give up his new found powers for anything. Ultimately he truly wished that his wife had not been one of the so called lucky ones that seemed to be immune to their enemies’ plague. Michael was considered to be one of the unlucky ones because he suffered… what… what exactly did Michael suffer from?
He suffered from having power…lots of power… and they didn’t. Michael liked the power. He liked being called a Witch. Absently he wondered about the Witches in History, where they had gotten the name to use again in this century… he wondered if they ever truly had power or if they were charlatans.
It didn’t matter because he had power! He could make fire out of friction and manipulate air so that it felt solid… he could crush a man with air! The thought of it made his heart thrill… but then he remembered the look on Dr. Lutrova’s face when out of anger Michael had clutched the man’s throat and squeezed. It wasn’t until the good Doctor’s eyes began to bulge that Michael had released him and realized that he had never actually touched the man but he had used air to grip his soft throat like a vise. Michael had felt elation and then revulsion for the elation and he had felt embarrassed and afraid. He had retreated to the balcony without a word. So now this is where he stood trying to sort out his own feelings.
He had killed before. That was not the problem. He had come to Doctor Lutrova to ask for his help and when the Doctor was less than enthusiastic Michael had lost his temper.
For a moment he let his eyes wander over the water and allowed his mind to clear. He looked at the water and dredged the name of the body out of the dust balls in his mind. His grandfather had been a boy when the others had left but he had a formal education. The settlers had kept the knowledge… all of it but they chose only to teach a fraction of it, lest they repeat the same mistakes. Geography was a safe subject and so was History. The Mediterranean Sea… that’s what it is called. Strange how land masses, lakes and rivers have all change names depending on who was living there, but the oceans and large seas have somehow come through the centuries nearly unscathed.
Speaking of land masses, he knew that somewhere across the water to the south was a large continent. It was said that the continent was once the home of some of the largest land animals on the planet. But that was thousands of years ago… long before his ancestors had slaughtered everything and then tried desperately to clone that which they had destroyed. But you can’t clone an entire ecosystem. What lives on that continent now is pretty much unknown. When the others left to conquer the stars none of those that remained had any desire to try and populate that continent. There were too many clones and clone mistakes on that continent. It was better that the inhabitants figured it all out for themselves without mankind’s interference for once. Sometimes, he thought, power had been mankind’s ultimate enemy.
Power… that led his mind on another train of thought… he wondered if he could convince Rosaleen to couple with him… if not could he force her? Oh he knew that he was stronger than her physically but could he bring himself to force a woman that he respected to mate with him? Could I cheat on my wife like that? Well to the last question the answer was of course yes. He loved his wife… she was extremely beautiful and she was good to him. But she was normal, she wasn’t magical and no matter what he did, according to Dr. Lutrova, she would only give him a magical child half the time. And that just wasn’t good enough. Now Rosaleen, on the other hand was also a Witch and the probability of a magical child with that coupling was obviously much greater. Could I convince Rosaleen on those grounds? Surly she would understand that if they were to win the war against the aliens they would need more magical children.
That was in a way what he and Dr. Lutrova had argued about. Michael’s wife Lena was pregnant and according to the Doctor she was carrying only one child. The chances that the child was magical were only half. Michael couldn’t live with that. He had asked Dr. Lutrova to terminate the pregnancy and to inseminate his wife with twins. The chances with twins were a hundred percent or so they said… but the Doctor had the audacity to be shocked and disgusted with Michael’s request. Michael could hear the Doctor’s insipid voice ringing in his head even now.
“Are you out of your mind?” Dr. Lutrova had said with disgust.
“What, I want magical children. Is that too much to ask?” Michael said, as if his words could make anything come to pass. “Make twins! Is that so hard?”
Dr. Lutrova blustered and had trouble finding words when he realized that Michael was waiting for an answer. “Yes, it is hard as a matter of fact! Until the plague the Human race hadn’t seen but a small, a very small handful of natural twins in over five thousand years! What you are asking for is something that we as Doctors have sworn never to do again!” The Doctor made the mistake of stopping to take a breath while hoping that a dramatic pause would bring the unreasonable Witch to his senses. It did not; all it managed to do was allow Michael a chance to say something else.
“I don’t give a damn what you idiots promised to do or not do. I want magical children and you are going to see that it happens!” He turned a menacing eye to Dr. Lutrova and waited for him to agree. It’s when he didn’t agree that Michael lost his temper.
“No, what you are asking is not possible. The twins must be identical for the magical application to apply, and that is just not possible. ”Doctor. Lutrova must have seen Michael’s eyes grow bloodshot, or perhaps it was the throbbing artery in his neck or his clenching fists… whatever it was caused the Doctor to cautiously back away and put several feet between himself and Michael.
“It is not possible because it can’t be done or it not possible because you won’t do it?” Michael hissed through clenched teeth.
Dr. Lutrova took another step back and hit a work table nearly toppling an old coffee pot. He made a quick grab and righted the machine before sheepishly looking up at Michael. For a moment the men merely looked atone another but Dr. Lutrova finally made a decision. He squared himself with Michael and straightened his spine and while looking Michael directly in the eyes he said, “I will not do it.” His voice was firm and steady even if his knees did quake a little under Michael’s melting stare.
Michael did not respond with words. His nostrils flared and a low growl emanated from his throat. His right fist popped open and then slowly closed as if gripping something in a claw like grip. Dr. Lutrova grabbed at the unseen hand that encircled his throat and gasped for breath. Michael watched dispassionately while the Doctor’s face turned red and his hands clawed at his own throat drawing blood in thin rivulets. His face began to take on a distinctive blue tinged and his eyes began to bulge before Michael realized that he was moments away from killing this man. That is when Michael stepped out onto the balcony.
I could have killed him. What difference would it have made in the grand scheme of things? That question made him stop and consider. Surely there were other Doctors who were just as skilled and practiced. They had not stopped teaching and doing all the correct things when the war had begun. Surely he could find someone else who was more malleable. But there would be inconvenient questions. A missing Doctor would certainly cause more alarm than a missing guard or servant.
Michael had found that practicing his new found power whenever he wanted to and on whomever he chose was much more satisfying than waiting for someone to bring captured nightmares to him. Nightmares, the engineered creations of the invading aliens, those mindless beings that were used to fight the alien’s war for them. The damn nightmares only lasted about fourteen hours from the time they were brought by drop ship from orbit, then they simply became dirt, quite literally. The alien’s formed the nightmares, the constructs from soil and he elements found in the soil. And they couldn’t actually tell him anything. None of them could speak. They were worse than puppets.
Michael had found that practicing his magical abilities on a serving girl after he had finished with her in the sheets was much more helpful, and entertaining as well. The occasional guardsman was also useful for testing endurance and pain thresholds but they were often missed. The orphans were the best because no-one truly kept track of how many orphans there were wandering the streets and getting underfoot in homes. In fact he felt that he was performing a double service to his fellows. He was decreasing the number of mouths that needed feeding while honing his skills as a Witch.
Another gust of wind threw cold water in his face, snapping him out of his thoughts. He had wasted enough time out here getting his black robes covered in salt water. The good Doctor would simply need to be encouraged to see the greater good that he would be serving. Yes, he would have to help Doctor Lutrova to understand just how important it was for him to help make magical children. Twins… we need lots and lots of twins! Michael’s anger had been transformed into excitement once again.
He walked through the doors and found Doctor Lutrova being treated by a woman, Doctor O’Hara if he remembered right. He had heard that she had been a beautiful woman twenty years ago but time and war had made her age poorly in his opinion. Now she looked like a wrinkled shell, a skinny shell at that. He liked his women with a bit more meat on their bones… a bit more than war would allow on most women. But he made due with chubby teenagers, orphans of course, when he couldn’t find a woman who caught his fancy.
Doctor O’Hara turned and gave him an angry condemning glare when he entered the room. Doctor Lutrova surprisingly had a hurt expression on his face. What was that about? Michael was just about to ask if he could speak to Doctor Lutrova alone when the Doctor surprised him by asking the other Doctor to leave the room. She was hesitant and objected several times all the while glaring at Michael but she eventually departed.
When the door had shut behind her Michael put on his most charming face and said, “Look Doc, I’m sorry I lost my temper. I didn’t know that I could hurt you like that.” It was a mostly true statement and that was good enough for Michael. “I can try healing you if you like but you probably know that we haven’t figured that out quite yet. It’s real sporadic and has mixed results.” Doctor Lutrova was waving him off at the first mention of being magically healed.
“Relax Michael.” Doctor Lutrova had taken a seat on an over stuffed chair. He had a small reusable ice pack on his bandaged neck; some blood had already begun to soak through the bandages. He indicated to Michael that he should take the other side of the chair as opposed to one that sat across from him. So it is to be a conspiracy, whatever it takes.
Once Michael had seated himself the two men once again took stock of one another before Dr. Lutrova spoke again. His voice was quiet but not a whisper. “Michael, you are asking for a very… how shall I say… difficult procedure.” He searched Michael’s eyes for understanding. He must have found what he was looking for because he continued. “Splitting a zygote is scientifically possible and it has been done hundreds of thousands of times.” He stopped and took a sip of hot coffee that Michael had failed to see sitting on the small table between them. Michael did a double take at the table and noticed the buttons panel on its face. It was a service table. It had been designed to manufacture drinks and some snacks for situations just like this. But the table was outlawed; it should have been destroyed when their ancestors had left the planet. Michael tried to hide his surprise and his joy.
“Hundreds of thousands of times… But then why do we not have twins now?” Michael asked, hoping his question masked his true emotions.
“Now that is the question isn’t it?” Doctor Lutrova handed Michael a cup of coffee. “To answer that I have to give you a bit of history… testing on twins has been in a far distant past a common practice. What they were testing for is of no interest to you… but what is of interest to you is that in the twentieth century a man… a Doctor by the name of Mengele did extensive testing on twins. He essentially had an unlimited supply of subjects. His results were lost to the world until late in the twenty first century when cloning became a necessity. Of course cloning was only officially done with animals and plants and officially the much maligned Doctor Mengele’s work was destroyed at the end of World War II.” He took another sip of coffee and sat back in his chair.
“I’m not sure how any of this is of any relevance to me and my request.” Michael was intrigued but he was also growing a bit impatient.
“It was the work done on the clones that led to a new evolution in the splitting of zygotes.” The Doctor continued as if Michael had not spoken. “They figured that if they could get animals that normally only give birth to one offspring at a time to drop two or more the process of repopulating a species would go quicker. They were right… it was quicker… but their mistakes also were quicker they were multiplied by two and three and exponentially after that.” He set his empty coffee cup down and pressed a button on the table. The cup was sucked in by what appeared to be a suddenly liquid area on the table top and a moment later a steaming cup of coffee rose from that same spot. Michael’s cup was unaffected by the exchange.
“It sounds like you are trying to talk me out of it.” Michael said with a bit of ire.
“On the contrary Mr. Seanain, I am very interested in what you propose. I am just doing my duty as a Doctor and advising you of the risks that you are taking in pursuing this procedure.” It was Doctor Lutrova’s turn to stare intently.
“So you will do it?” Michael was shocked almost beyond words. Doctor Lutrova nodded. “So what was that charade about earlier? I could have killed you… and very nearly did!”
“I needed to know that you were committed to this act…because this procedure is illegal, immoral and dangerous.” His tone was flat and at the last he sounded as if he were reading a cue card.
“Illegal… somehow I think that you crossed the line of illegal some time ago Doctor.” Michael glanced down at the table and continued,“ Immoral… Morality is a matter of how you sell it to your conscience… and dangerous… for who? If we make a mistake we’ll throw it out and start over.” Michael said flatly. He didn’t care at all if he threw out a few fetuses as long as he got what he wanted. Finally here was someone who embraced the same vision as he.
“What of Lena, your wife? Do you wish to utilize her eggs…or perhaps those of another?” The question sounded almost like a test to Michael. He didn’t like being tested… there were too many right and wrong answers. So he tried to sound smart.
“Of course we use her eggs… at first. I want her to bear my first set of twins. But I wouldn’t mind spreading the wealth so to speak.” Michael unconsciously preened and sounded extremely stupid..
Doctor Lutrova’s expression did not change. “Yes, of course. We will impregnate Lena first but it would be good if we had at least six women to give us samples. Three ordinary women and three Witches would be optimal.”
“This isn’t just some experiment Doctor. I expect to have magical children!” His ego had been bruised a bit at the inference that it was only an experiment. Doctor Lutrova was quick to assuage Michael’s id.
“Of course the primary goal is to give you many sets of magical twins. But understand Michael that I am taking a great risk in giving you the children that you want… so I will want something equally valuable in return.” Now that it was time to seal the deal the seemingly timid Doctor Lutrova didn’t seem very cowed.
Michael wasn’t sure what to think of the Doctor’s new demeanor but he plowed ahead as if he were as in as much control as he imagined. “What do you want from me? I can get you money or jewels or something else that is precious.”
Doctor Lutrova held up his hand. “No Michael, of gold and jewels and precious things I have more than you can imagine. No, what I want from you is twofold.” He leaned forward and touched Michael’s knee conspiratorially.
For the first time Michael felt a surge of fear but he dare not pull away. “What do you want from me?” A hint of dread touched his voice.
The allusion of a smile touched the edges of Doctor Lutrova’s mouth and Michael suddenly wondered if he should have killed this man. “Calm yourself Michael, as I said it is twofold; first I will need your protection to remain hidden, which brings with it the need to find an appropriate work area away from prying eyes and curious minds. The second condition is this; I keep however many zygotes as I wish from whoever you bring me. You will have your twins, as many as I can make for you… as many as you like but I keep as many as I like as well and… you have absolutely no say in what I do with them.” He paused to allow his words to sink in to what he considered to be a thick skull.
Michael thought about it for a very few seconds. What the hell would this man do with my children? Did it matter? Michael could have all the children he wanted. Who cares if the Doctor wanted a few of his own? The Doctor was going to do exactly what Michael wanted and all it was going to cost him was a few sperm and some protection. “Hell yes, you have a deal Doc!”Somehow the second that the words came out of his mouth a part of him wanted them back but the greater part of him was thrilled beyond belief.
Tell me what you think.
Live well and be good to each other.