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In the meantime, get the most recent draft here:
Read the latest words below this line:
“Jill and I both insisted that you not have access to certain exo-tech. Mainly because we didn’t know what it would do to a human brain,” Julio said.
“Yet, I assume you found out,” I said.
“Yes. See, because you just would not let it go.”
“Oh, it’s my fault?”
“No! Not in the least! You were 16. It was my responsibility to keep you safe. I was the adult. It was the promise I made your parents and I failed them and more importantly, you.”
“Specifics please!” I was understandably impatient.
“Yes. There was this tech we had from Firania that we were trying to find a buyer for. Firania is a planet who’s chief export is educational material. They’re known for being the best gatherers of knowledge and information and they’re pretty good at distributing it, too. It was a hard piece to trade because Earth isn’t exactly known for it’s intelligence.”
“That doesn’t surprise me too much, I suppose.”
“Stellar folks came to me for weapons, for starship system parts, for defensive gear, stuff you use in war.”
“So, this Firainian thing was what then?”
“Well, it was an educational device at its core. It could be loaded with any number of lessons. You loved the idea of it because from what we understood, it would teach you whatever you needed to know without you having to take the effort to learn it.”
“That does sound pretty cool.”
“That’s just what you said when you first heard about it. You were so interested in it, you wouldn’t let it go. You hounded me and then Jill to let you use the thing. Thing was, we didn’t know how to use most of the tech that we came into contact with thanks to The Trade. After a while I realized it was like a gorilla coming across a smartphone. Yeah, the gorilla isn’t a complete idiot–they can learn sign language–but can they really understand what they are holding in their hand?”
“Yeah, probably not.”
“That’s what we were like. We knew enough to keep The Trade going, but beyond that, we were gorillas. And speaking of gorillas, the Grona, brutes that they are, were the catalyst to all of this. They didn’t like the trade we’d worked out for them and they decided to come back to, uh, renegotiate.”
“In other words, they were going to kill us if we didn’t make a better deal?”
“Exactly. And you knew that was going to happen the moment they showed up at the store. I told you and Jill to hide but instead, you broke into the garage and hooked yourself up to the Firarian Educator and, I don’t know what lesson you selected, but it filled your head with something that tought you how to change yourself. To be something stronger, faster, more brutal. Or maybe it just tought you how to adapt? I’ve never been sure.”
My feelings were welling up inside of me. It felt like a combination of excitement and terror. Like when you’re on a roller coaster only you have no idea what it looks like. I felt a tear roll from my right eye and immediately wondered where it had come from–I wasn’t sad or scared. Or, maybe I was.
“So, you raced back here, and I gotta say, Little Jacob, your timing was perfect. Your sister and I were surrounded by eight Grona beasts in our alley, just outside the store. They were all armed and armored and as I stood there, I could tell the negotiation they’d promised was not going to happen. Then, they turned to see you racing down the alley from the street–I looked and could see you looked bigger somehow. The same you, but bigger. I remember feeling horror that you seemed to think you could do something to save us. Then I noticed your claws and your skin had turned gray and it looked like your clothes were all too small. Then you took your first swing–do you really want me to tell you this?”
“YES! DAMN IT, JULIO!! JUST TELL ME!”
“Well… you tore into the first Grona thug, sending his organs across the wall. Then you picked up the next one and tore the armor from his body and then you…”. Julio paused and glanced to me. My eyes were full of tears but I nodded to keep him going.
“…you tore him to pieces right in front of us. You made bits of him, Jacob. You made bits of all of them. You were not our Little Jacob. You were something… else. You killed them all, Jacob. All of them. You saved our lives but you were terror personified. I lifted the concentrated energy rifle I had in my hands to deal with the Grona and found myself aiming it at you. I was worried–no–I was sure you weren’t going to stop with the eighth Grona. I was sure you were going to turn your horrible might against us. Oh, Jesus, Jacob, I’m so sorry, I wanted to kill you. I was going to kill you. You saved our lives but there you were about to take them, I… oh, Jesus…”
He paused again, wiping his eyes with a napkin from the table. Then he stared at the floor for a while. I finally was able to croak out the words “please go on.”
“But right when I was going to pull the trigger–RIGHT when I had my finger on it and was starting to pull it back, one of the Grona stood up and despite his torso missing a large chunk of it and its entire right arm, he approached you from behind and pulled you back to the ground. He got on top of you and as you threw your right claw upward he caught it with his left and held onto it. I heard him yelling something but my brain was too scared to make any sense of it. Then I realized he was leaning on your hand like it was a crutch. Then, he fell off of it, to the ground next to you. I could see your palm beneath your claw. There was a strange black triangle on it, with a ring around it. All of the sudden you grunted and passed out. Your arm fell over the Grona next to you.”
“You saw a black triangle? Inside a ring?”
“Yes. The only reason I mentioned it was because it was gone a few minutes later. I ran to your side as you slowly changed back to your normal self. I looked up at Jill who had backed up against the door jam and slid to the ground. She was crying her eyes out.”
“But the triangle!”
“Do you know what that was? Does it mean something? It obviously turned you back to normal, but, what was it?”
I found a pen and drew a triangle inside a ring on a napkin and showed it to him. “Does this look like the thing on mutant-me’s hand?”
He nodded, “What is that?”
“Wise saved my life with it back on that asteroid.”