Origins Part I: Indoctrination
We avoided groups of people and found an empty patch of railing to lean against on the middle deck. People were still unpacking or sleeping at this time of night so barely anyone was around. I slipped in and out of echo from time to time to check everything was safe. I doubted anything would happen on a ferry though. I checked my own phone but Heppenheim hadn’t replied to my message telling him we had gone outside.
“So, what kind of paramorph are you? I’ve never seen that type of mutation before,” Kellen said, tilting her head to study me.
“I’m a chimera,” I explained.
“Woah, I thought it was illegal to make those,” she frowned. I waited for her to laugh but then I realised it was a serious comment.
“How much do you know about your uncle’s job?” I asked, wondering if it was my place to tell her.
“Erm, he has a big shiny office and makes lots of money, and travels lots. That’s about it,” she shrugged. Oh wow, this was going to be interesting. The double doors behind us opened and Heppenheim appeared. He’d showered and pulled on a fresh pair of jeans and pale brown t-shirt. With his greying hair and scruffy beard he certainly fit the dad stereotype. Apart from the metallic eye, and the other contraption that was currently tucked away. He sent me a weird look before clearing his throat.
“Let’s get something to eat. The restaurant on here is 24/7. There won’t be too many people about either.” he said. In other words it was less likely someone would say something dumb to me and I would then do something dumb in response. Puberty had ramped my temper to crazy heights.
The restaurant had a fancy gold chandelier, every table covered in soft white clothes. A waiter appeared beside us in a moment, blinked at me before guiding us to a table tucked away from the majority of the crowd. At least they were subtle about segregation.
“So, whereabouts in Germany are you from?” Heppenheim asked Kellen after we’d finished ordering.
“Neuperlach in Munich.” She replied. I would’ve thought she’d live in a nicer borough with her family connections.
Heppenheim and Kellen continued talking, mostly about recent events.
Food finished we headed back to the world. I slipped into my echo again as we walked but no harm came our way. Obviously the other syndicate guys behind this had covered our tracks well. No one knew the european’s head niece was vulnerable.
“Sleep well kids,” Heppenheim said, ruffling my hair before heading to his room. I frowned at his back, aware there were mere lines on his face. What was he thinking about right now?
“You coming?” Kellen asked, holding the door to our room open. I blinked at her, the moonlight shining down at such an angle you’d think she was a few years older than twelve.
“Sure,” I replied, pushing aside the unexpected thoughts. I’d never been in denial about my bisexuality but I rarely had reason to consider relationships. I’d never met someone my age who was involved in the syndicate. I kept my back turned as she changed into her night clothes and went into the en suite. I wasn’t about to put myself through questions about my back or chest scars. When I opened the door she was standing against the doorway waiting. We blinked at each other before she spoke.
“I need to brush my teeth,” she said. Oh, right. I moved, mumbling an apology. I think she shot me a confused look as I got into my bed. What was up with me? I didn’t normally act like this around anyone, it wasn’t like I hadn’t experienced a crush before. Every crush passes anymore, so I just had to give it time.
Newcastle was damp, the smell of recent rainfall in the air with puddles scattered across the tarmac as everyone left the ferry. I’d never been to the UK before and wasn’t looking forward to trying to learn the language. Sure, I’d been learning back home but I didn’t know how that would translate in real life here. A man in a crisp black suit with dark skin and a forced smile met us once our fake passports had cleared checks.
“Wolfrick,” the man said in a quiet voice, careful no one was in eyeshot. His dark eyes flicked to me and his smile widened into something less pleasant. Who the hell was this guy?
“Jacob,”Heppenheim replied in a similar manner. Apparently they knew each other, although it was obvious they didn’t actually like each other. “Congratulations on the promotion,” he added. He shot us both looks before explaining. “Jacob Newall is the overseer for the city.”
Impressive, although it was a little strange he was meeting us on arrival. We’d met with Elisbeth from time to time in Gelsenkirchen but it was to communicate syndicate messages to a group of us. I had a feeling it was less relaxed with Jacob.
“Come on,” he said with a hand wave. We followed him to a limo and got in. Wasn’t this drawing attention to ourselves? I slipped into echo and quickly realised the driver and other passenger in front were armed, but clearly syndicate. There wasn’t anything I could sense nearby.
“-made name for myself with chimera pens, it’s still a lucrative business even in this day and age. People will pay a lot to watch freakish creatures fight it out, the creepier, the better,” Jacob was explaining to Kellen, who had a mixture of genuine interest and disturbed on her face.
“R-right,” she said, shooting me a side-glance. I was well aware the syndicate was involved in such things. By the time I was old enough to add the pieces together I never asked Heppenheim. He was the closest thing to a parent I had, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t just an assignment by the syndicate to him. Which suddenly explained why he so clearly did not like Jacob. Even if Jacob as involved in those arenas, he couldn’t force me to go in there. Besides, a failed chimera wasn’t going to attract much attention.
“Kellen is not aware of everything Jacob,” Heppenheim said. “I was going to leave it to her uncle.” Jacob paused, realising he might have just messed up.
“I see, sorry Kellen,” he said. Not that it made a lot of difference. Kellen was clearly smart enough to add a couple things up. Her uncle was not the type to follow the law, that much she now knew. The limo pulled up outside a tall building of what was once white bricks, now faded to a dingy grey by the elements. We went to an office on level four and Heppenheim was handed another envelope.
“It would be better if the kids waited outside,” Jacob said.
“Juliette is a part of our work so she needs to be here for whatever you have to say,” Heppenheim replied. Something about the way he said sounded like a challenge.
“Oh, I see,” Jacob replied, eyebrows shooting up. “Carl,” Jacob said to one of the two men who been silent thus far. I think he had been the guy in the passenger seat.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the staff canteen, you must be hungry,” he said in a much friendlier tone than I expected to Kellen. She hesitated, clearly not wanting to leave our side, but reluctantly went. The moment the door closed behind her the smiley facade dropped.