September 10, 2031 – 11:50 PM
Tom sighed, slamming another file on his already overcrowded desk. He rubbed his temples and groaned, “This is hopeless.”
“Giving up already?”
Tom didn’t need to look up from his lamenting to know that it was his lab assistant who had addressed him. He let out another groan, this time wordless, and was greeted with her soft, teasing laughter.
“I know you don’t think I have enough experience in this field–“
“Clara, no one has experience in this field,” Tom pulled himself out of his hunched position to glare at his assistant.
Many of his male colleagues deemed him lucky to “snag such a girl.” Between her towering height, slender figure, and fashion sense, the others had dubbed Clara Ross the model of the A.O.P.U.E. However, Tom had only chosen Clara for two reasons: her ability to separate her personal feelings from the experiments, and the remarkable swiftness at which she could learn new procedures. She was adaptable, which was a trait he admired.
He knew one day soon she would have to become the head scientist of another division or organization, and he would have to let her go and hope to find another assistant who could keep up with his ideas.
“I don’t even have experience in this. Ever since the agency took over, they’ve been asking the impossible of me. We’re people of science–we are not magicians.”
“That may be true, but what if I could find the candidates they’re looking for?” Clara hastily dropped what she was holding, prompting Tom to realize that she had been carrying a box of files.
She continued her explanation, pulling out folder after folder, handing them to her superior. “They said we could look anywhere for these candidates, right? They don’t exactly seem like the kind of agency with boundaries, so I felt these would be easily accessible. We have their addresses on file, so learning their schedules will be a cinch. Once we have visual or audio confirmation, an extraction team could bring it back for testing–Tom, are you listening?”
The head scientist of the newly acquired division-turned-black site of the A.O.P.U.E. was astounded by his assistant’s assertion. “C-Clara… How did you decide on these candidates?”
“Oh.” The young woman brought a handkerchief to her mouth, clearing her throat. “I ran an algorithm through our database that checks all medical records for the desired anomalies. Then I used the satellite to scan the addresses on those files. Each and every one of them is giving off high levels of radiation–much too high for any normal child…”
Clara paused, studying Tom’s expression as she asked, “Is that your concern?”
He shook his head. “Not at all. On the contrary–teenagers run away from home all the time. Especially those who’ve lived lives like these kids.”
Location: Jacksonville, FL
September 10, 2031 – 11:55 PM
Yani was startled awake by an abrupt sound. It came from downstairs, and the sound was met with dead silence.
“Eddy, did you hear that?” she whispered as she peeked over to the left side of the bed.
It was empty.
Yani glanced around the darkened room–she was all alone.
Without another word, she quietly eased off the bed, opening her nightstand drawer and grasping the pistol in her clammy palms. Yani aimed the gun at the door as she made her way around the bed and swung it open.
The hallway was just as dark and empty as her bedroom, with the door to Trudy’s room wide open.
Yani fought to contain her panic as she stepped toward her youngest daughter’s bedroom, aiming her weapon inside. It, too, was void of light or life. The panic rose as she turned and continued down the hallway, ignoring the closed rooms and instead began to descend to the first floor.
Upon landing on the bottom step, another loud clanging sound hit her ears. It was coming from the kitchen, reminding Yani of her daughters accidentally dropping the metal mixing bowls on the wooden floor. The more Yani thought of it, the more she realized that the only lights in the entire house came from the kitchen and the hallway that was leading her directly to it.
She lowered her weapon to her side and peeked around the corner–
“Shit!” Lira huffed, unintentionally blowing out one of the candles she had just lit. “Way to go, Trudy. You woke up Mom and ruined the surprise.”
Trudy had been in the middle of filling the dishwasher when her elder sister had addressed her in an accusatory manner. “What–?” The young teen locked eyes with her mother, her chocolate-brown eyes exuding defeat. “I’m sorry, Mom–“
“Don’t be, baby. I’m just glad all that noise was you three and not a burglar.” Yani said, hoping her words would comfort Trudy.
Her husband closed the distance, chuckling a, “Happy Birthday, mi amor,” before embracing her and whispering. “We will talk about this later, Yanara. Go spend time with your daughters.”
Then he took the pistol from her and ran up the steps two at a time to return it to its place.
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