Legacy

BY : Rina76
Category: Final Fantasy Anime > Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children
Dragon prints: 1511
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII Advent Children or any of the characters from the film. I am not making money from the writing of this story.

Part 10. Lab Rats.

"We never had normal parents like you, Cate," Yazoo tells me. "Our Mother did not come from here. She hails from far, far away and from a time well before us, well before anything ever existed."

He speaks reverently, as if she is a goddess he worships every day.

"She is ancient and divine and she came to this planet after a very long journey. She flew here on the wings of the stars, the light of the moon guiding her way."

Trying to put his mysterious, cryptic words into some kind of order, I hazard, "What, you're telling me she's from another galaxy or something?"

"Exactly."

If it was anybody else speaking I'd laugh and call him fucking nuts but he's sitting there so calmly serious, looking at me with those aqua-jade serpentine eyes, an arresting and distinctively unusual feature that nobody outside of this lair has. The same eyes that Loz possesses, the bigger brother sitting beside me in an equally serious and sombre manner. It's those frighteningly beautiful eyes that make me listen to Yazoo and start to believe every word he says, despite how incredibly insane they may sound.

"Centuries ago, Mother came to this world with the intention of becoming its wise and wonderful Queen but she was imprisoned - and injured - shortly after she got here. Her body was collected some years later and taken away to a secret location where it has been kept ever since. We are trying to find her. We spend most of our days searching for her and questioning people who may know where she is. Mother is not...alive... like you and I but she is still aware and she still speaks to us."

"Or to Kadaj anyway," Loz grumbles jealously. "She never speaks to me."

Looking at my confused face, Yazoo says apologetically, "But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start from the beginning, shall we?"

"Beginning is good," I encourage, wanting to learn the highly puzzling mystery surrounding these three enigmatic and extraordinary brothers.

Gazing at me, Yazoo begins, "We were not born like you or other humans. We woke up in a tank of fluid. We were created artificially in a laboratory, produced in Mother's image from her very cells. We spent most of our lives underground, in a scientific facility. That's why we're so pale. No sun, you see."

Blinking at him, I stammer, "You're...you're clones?"

"Why do you think we look so similar?" He glances at Loz who despite his obvious size difference has the exact same coloured hair and irises, the same white skin and the same type of facial features. The only differences between them are slight and the resemblances are too strong to deny.

"We were cloned," Yazoo confirms. "From Jenova."

"Hold on a second," I interject in disbelief. "You mean, THE Jenova? The alien life form that supposedly crash-landed here two thousand years ago and tried to take over the world? That's the Mother you're talking about?"

He tilts his head at me. "Ah, you've heard of her."

Of course I have. Everybody knows about the huge fissure in the planet called the Northern Crater and everybody's heard the legend of how it came to exist. But I thought it was just that – a legend, a tale. A myth, created by frightened tribes-people who'd never seen a comet smash to the ground before.

"You're telling me what happened at the Northern Crater is actually true? Jenova was real?"

"She still is. We're living proof." Yazoo spreads his hands in an elegant gesture. "You said it yourself; nobody human can move like we do."

"And Jenova is a woman?"

The stories usually speak of the Crisis that fell from the sky as being genderless, an 'it', sometimes a male, but not female.

The man who impregnated me speaks up. "We've never seen Mother but Kadaj has, when she appears in his visions. He says she's beautiful. He says we all look like her." Loz smiles mistily at his younger brother. It's obvious by his adoring tone that he reveres this Jenova creature. Loves it deeply, even. Yazoo too.

Hoping I don't make them mad, I nevertheless have to question, "But isn't Jenova evil? Didn't it – she – try to destroy the planet? According to the legend, didn't she infect people with a virus that turned them into monsters?"

"Mother was misunderstood," Yazoo says simply. "She wasn't trying to destroy the planet, only make it better. People were afraid of her because she was different and not from this world. So they captured her. Hurt her. Locked her away."

"Poor Mother," Loz mumbles sadly. Yazoo pats him on the shoulder.

"Don't be sad, Loz. Everything will be okay when we find her."

After shaking my head and letting out a long, bewildered breath, I surmise, "So, Jenova is your mother. Your mother is an alien."

Yazoo nods. "We weren't just created from her. Like all children we have a Father and were given genetic material from him as well. His name is Sephiroth. Perhaps you know of him too?" The slender beauty looks to me questioningly.

"Wait...Sephiroth?" An alarm bell is ringing very loudly in my head. "You don't mean that crazy asshole who killed a bunch of people and tried to blow up the world with a massive fuckin' meteor?

"He wasn't crazy," Loz butts in defensively.

"Oh, really?" I drawl, giving him a challenging look. "I suppose you're going to say he was just 'misunderstood' too, huh?"

"Yes, actually. He was," Yazoo quietly returns. "And please, Cate, I would prefer it if you didn't refer to our Father in that way."

He's as polite and softly spoken as ever but I get the distinct feeling I've offended him. Disrespected him.

"Sorry," I mumble. "I'm just going by what I heard in the media."

"Well, you heard wrong."

Except for the fact that he was clearly a madman, I guess I didn't really pay a lot of attention to what the media were saying about this Sephiroth person. The news of mass murder and impending global disaster was gloomy enough as it was. When that kind of stuff happens I tend to switch the television off and I certainly don't buy a stack of newspapers to read up on it otherwise I'd get too depressed about the sorry state of this planet and go hang myself. I search my brain, trying to recall some useful information about this man who was allegedly Loz and Yazoo's other DNA donor. I think he was a General or something but try as I might, I can't even picture his face. It happened over two years ago, after all, and the only thing I can remember about Sephiroth is that he was defeated and killed, the world was saved and life went on as usual.

"How did you get cloned from him when he only died a couple of years ago?" I ask in bafflement. "You guys are all in your twenties. Well, except for Kadaj. He's gotta be...what? Nineteen at the most?"

"Eighteen," Yazoo fills me in. "When Sephiroth was around his age, even younger, his cells had already been harvested and stored. Even then the scientists knew he was something special. We received his cells at a later stage, after we'd awoken from our stasis. Admittedly, we were not cloned from him as such, merely enhanced with his genes."

"Forgive me for being blunt, but why would anyone want to keep that guy's chromosomes? Weren't they deficient?"

"Not at all," Yazoo murmurs. "Sephiroth was perfect."

"Tell her, Yaz. Tell her how awesome Father was," Loz chips in proudly.

Doing just that, Yazoo explains about Sephiroth and how he was a top-class member of a military-style organisation called SOLDIER. He tells me about the General possessing strengths and abilities far beyond anyone else in his rank, far beyond anyone who ever lived before. Sephiroth was given Jenova cells along with everyone else in SOLDIER and that's what made them so powerful. But nobody was as powerful as Sephiroth. He was the ultimate warrior, a walking, living weapon of destruction, and according to Yazoo, the only thing sharper than his Matsamune sword and quick wit was his piercing green gaze. The same green gaze that his young replicas now share, two of which are looking at me right now, awaiting my response.

"Okay, so Sephiroth kicked major ass. I get that," I grudgingly admit. "But if he was created from your mother's cells like you guys were, wouldn't that make him your older brother?

"I suppose it would seem so," Yazoo concedes. "But since he came first and we were given his biological matter, we choose to refer to him as Father. He was a great man. I wish we had gotten the chance to know him."

"You never met?"

"He died before that could happen," Loz says sorrowfully. "People call us Remnants, because we're all that's left of him."

Then he brightens again. "But he's gonna come back one day. You'll see. After the Reunion we'll all be together again."

"On this planet life and death are not absolute," Yazoo says mysteriously. "Sephiroth is not here anymore but we believe he will soon return. In fact, we're counting on it."

I stare at him, not getting it. People don't die and then come back. I should know. I haven't seen my parents alive since I was a little girl and I sincerely doubt that they'll just climb out of the Life Stream and walk though the front door to play happy families once again, like Loz and Yazoo seem to think their father will do.

Attempting to clarify a very confounding situation, I slowly conclude, "Okay, you're saying that your mom is a two thousand year old extraterrestrial being, and your dad was a genetically-enhanced super-soldier, and you were all test-tube babies cloned from them in a lab and that's why you have freaky powers and weird slit-eyes?"

"That's about it," Loz says with a shrug. Then he frowns at me. "Hey! I thought you liked my eyes. You said they were pretty."

"Well, they are but..." I look uselessly between the two of them and their identical reptilian gazes. "This is all just really, really bizarre. And confusing as fuck."

Yazoo smiles but I'm not sure if it's in sympathy or perverse amusement. "I'm sure it is. However, I will try and describe our unique...upbringing... as simply and clearly as I can for you."

Continuing along, he explains about how he, Loz and Kadaj grew up in a top-secret compound, built below-ground for scientific experimentation and testing. They were each small boys when they were first released from their developing tanks and were housed in the same cell together. From the way he describes it, it was a cold, clinical environment but they had clothes, beds, toys and even a television. They were all part of an experiment called the Jenova Project. Yazoo tells me about mako energy harnessed from the core of the planet that was injected into their father Sephiroth and all the other members of SOLDIER, giving them super-powers and making their eyes gleam with unnatural light.

Glancing at Yazoo's bright green irises and then at Loz's matching ones, I guess, "You guys got mako too."

"We got lotsa things in the lab," Loz embellishes. "We don't even know half of the shit they put into us."

Finishing Loz's sentence like a twin, Yazoo adds, "But whatever it was, it made us grow fast. Grow strong. Quick. Agile. Our levels of physical endurance, fitness and strength were phenomenally high. As was our tolerance of pain. Just like Father."

"Nothin' could hurt us," Loz brags. "Not for long, anyway."

"Along with everything else, we were given the ability of tissue regeneration. There were tests. They'd cut us, burn us, break our bones," the long haired Remnant states matter-of-factly. "Just to see how much stress we could take and how quickly our bodies would rejuvenate. Our injuries would always heal in a matter of hours and leave no trace, no scar. We'd hardly even bleed. In return for our co-operation, the scientists gave us everything children could want. Toys. Comic books. Electronic games. Candy. Everything except our freedom. We knew what the outside world and all its inhabitants looked like because we'd seen it on our television screen but we'd never spoken to anyone without a white coat on and had never made a friend, smoked a cigarette or petted a dog. We'd never felt a single blade of grass under our bare feet, swam in a cool, clear lake or smelled the scent of an approaching storm."

For someone who doesn't usually speak a lot, he's awfully good at it, his words almost poetic in description.

"But even the longing for freedom wasn't as hard to endure as not being able to see Mother. The scientists promised that if we were good they would take us to her and in that way they were able to control us and our behaviour. For a time. Eventually, we realised it wasn't going to happen. No matter how good we were, how much we co-operated or how much we suffered in silence, we never got what we wanted most of all. Kadaj was the worst affected by this denial, since he was always closer to Mother than we were. He could sense her presence the strongest and knowing that she was out there somewhere, calling for us but not being able to get to her...It nearly destroyed him."

"Poor Daj," Loz mutters, still remembering how much his little brother pined for their absent mother.

"So, when were teenagers, we started plotting our escape. In truth, Kadaj did most of the plotting. We were just on standby to act when he told us to. We didn't even talk about what we were going to do, not out loud anyway. We were recorded and monitored almost all of the time so any talking we did was silently. As you can see, one of our special abilities is to be able to communicate telepathically, to speak with our thoughts alone." He turns to Loz.

"Loz, what am I thinking about right now?"

The older male squints at Yazoo, reading his mind. Then he breaks out into a devious grin. "I can't say that in front of her, Yaz! It's too dirty."

Yazoo smirks back, the two of them obviously sharing some private joke.

"That's pretty cool," I comment in an envious mutter, wishing I had a couple of cloned brothers to voicelessly share disgusting jokes with.

"Being a clone does have its good points," the graceful middle brother reinforces. "But there were more bad than good, in our case. After so many years of being studied and tested-"

"Tortured is more like it," Loz grunts.

"-and cooped up like three rats in a cage," Yazoo carries on, "all we wanted was to get out of there and find Mother. It was all we thought about. We hated that place and we hated everyone in it. Outwardly, we were exceptionally well-behaved so nobody suspected what were planning. One morning, Kadaj gave us the signal we had been waiting for. When they came to take us for another round of tests, we attacked the lab technicians, left them for dead and stole their access cards, using one to open our door. We took down the guards outside with their own stun-guns and then set off down the hallway. It was almost too easy. Because we were just kids and had always done what we were told, nobody expected us to suddenly attack. As soon as they realised we were out, the whole facility went into evacuation mode and then lockdown. Nobody could get in or out but that didn't stop us. We tore the whole place apart looking for Mother, flattening anyone who got in our way. We went systematically from room to room, turning everything upside down, searching everywhere. But she wasn't there. We couldn't even unearth a trace of her; not a single cell. They'd hidden her away where we couldn't find her. All that time they'd been deceiving us and had no intention of letting us see her at all."

"Lying, two-faced cunt-fuckers," Loz growls, still angry about it. Yazoo soothes him with a hand on his arm and an unspoken word.

"We did find something else, though. We discovered a room of glass tanks, like the ones we woke up in," the more feminine male reveals. "Floating inside those tanks were bodies, in all stages of development. Embryos, foetuses, children, adolescents. All of them were pale-skinned and silver haired. And all of them were alive. Not awake but clearly living and functioning, kept in a state of suspended unconsciousness until they too would one day be removed and experimented upon. There appeared to be three models, each based on Loz, Kadaj or I, each having our particular traits and characteristics."

Loz exchanges an uncomfortable look with his slimmer sibling.

"To see row upon row of own faces...we were stunned and sickened." Yazoo gives a reflexive swallow, delicately licking his dry lips. "We had no idea there were more of us, backups, in case we turned out unsatisfactory or imperfect. If any of us died during one of the tests, another copy could simply be plucked from a tank and the testing could continue uninterrupted. We thought we were the only ones in existence but there may very well have been others before us, other clones that weren't as strong and didn't survive as long as we had. For a long time Kadaj didn't say anything. He just stared at them, at these unfortunate, pale creatures that didn't ask to be made and didn't know what atrocities were yet to be performed upon them. Finally, he picked up a metal bar."

I feel Loz's hand tightening on mine. Also sensing his older brother's unease, Yazoo pauses. "Do you want me to stop here, Loz?"

The other gives a short shake of the head, pulling his fingers out of mine and running them through his hair, trying to hide how they're beginning to shake. "Nah, I'm cool. Keep going."

After searching Loz's face, Yazoo continues speaking. "Kadaj lifted the bar and broke the glass front of the closest tank. Liquid gushed out and a naked body slid to the ground. It was a child about six or seven human years of age. It was a Kadaj model, identical to him in every way. Kadaj knelt down and stroked its face but the clone-child didn't respond. It was completely comatose, as though brain-dead. Very quickly and humanely Kadaj broke its neck and ended its suffering, if it had ever felt anything at all. He ordered us to follow suit and together we started smashing the tanks open, one by one, letting the bodies slide onto the floor and extinguishing whatever miserable spark of life they may have possessed. The embryos and foetuses we left alone for they would soon die without being immersed in the fluid that sustained them. With the bigger, more developed ones we had to make sure they were dead, finishing them off by twisting their necks or with a hard blow to the temple. When released from the tanks most of them, like the first child, were unresponsive and inanimate but a few opened their eyes and looked at us."

Here Yazoo halts and stares off into the distance, his gaze vacant and unblinking, plainly haunted by the memory. I glance to Loz and he's got his trembling fist pressed to his mouth, frowning down at the floor and fighting against his overwhelming feelings. As hard as he tries to hold back, a tear falls down his cheek, followed by another one until he's crying in tormented silence.

"We killed them all," Yazoo drones numbly. "We killed our own brothers. Every last one."

"My Gods," I gasp in horror and shock, my own tears spilling over at the thought of all those helpless, innocent dying children. And babies.

They left tiny little babies to die on the cold hard floor.

"How could you do such a terrible thing?" Through blurred vision I look between Yazoo and Loz, my voice choked with appalled repulsion and bewilderment. "How could you kill ch-children?"

"We had to," Loz emphasises, his anguished watery eyes pleading with me for understanding. "Don't you see? We couldn't let them end up like us."

"Being locked up, experimented upon and brutally tortured every day...That's no life. Not for a child," Yazoo quietly agrees. "That's a waking nightmare and we had to make it stop before any more of our brethren suffered the way we had suffered."

"We were just kids, Cate," Loz mumbles, sniffing regretfully. "We thought we were doing the right thing."

"It's true. What we did, we did out of love," Yazoo whispers. "We set our brothers free."

"My Gods," I utter again, but this time I don't sound like I'm accusing them of murder. I just sound overwhelmed. Wiping my face, I try to think rationally instead of reacting emotionally. Who am I to judge these troubled young men for what they did in their past? I wasn't there. I didn't see what dreadful things they endured; I didn't experience it. I cannot possibly comprehend what these two, and Kadaj, have been though as a result of their unwilling creation and as such I am not entitled to lay blame or cast accusations over things I know nothing about.

Yazoo is trying to make me understand, though. What he's telling me is something he hasn't told anybody before - revealing the dark, damaging secrets of their past - and I appreciate how difficult this must be for him. And for Loz. Listening to Yazoo describe it all in detail must be like reliving it over again. I can tell by the lines of Loz's face and the stiff stance of his body how distressing it was, and still is, for him. Yazoo is better than Loz at containing his emotions but even the normally controlled sniper can't conceal his pain completely. His eyes are devoid of expression but that doesn't mean he's not suffering terribly inside.

"I'm so sorry," I eventually apologise to them, my tone meek and quiet. "I didn't mean to accuse you guys of anything. I can see how hard it was for both of you. It's just..."

I drop my gaze, instinctively clasping my rounded stomach.

"You're pregnant. Of course. How insensitive of me," Yazoo chides himself for talking about the babies they left to die. "Perhaps I should have skipped that part of the story."

"No," I hurriedly dissuade. "Don't skip anything on my account. Go on, Yazoo. I want to know the rest."

"Are you sure?" Loz peers at me worriedly. "We could continue this tomorrow if you're tired..."

"I'm not tired. If you stop now I won't be able to sleep anyway. Tell me the rest," I implore Yazoo. "Please."

Yazoo's slim fingers absently twist a long lock of his silvery hair as he nears the end of the story.

"After that, Kadaj went wild. He was punching holes in the walls, smashing furniture and screaming with rage, furious at not having found Mother and furious at what he'd been forced to do to his own brothers. He started stalking the scientists unlucky enough to be locked in the facility with us, finding them where they were hiding and murdering them on the spot, without an ounce of pity. As did we. We were all taken over with violent fury, wanting to make them pay for what they had done. Together, we slaughtered everybody in the building and then torched it, watching in satisfaction as the flames engulfed everything. We got up in the ceiling and crawled through an air conditioning duct, knowing that it had to lead to the surface somewhere along the line. Thick smoke was pouring in and choking us but we kept going. There was one point where the duct got quite narrow. Kadaj and I squeezed through it but Loz, being bigger than us, got stuck there. His wide shoulders wouldn't fit. He courageously told us to go on without him, to leave him and save ourselves but we couldn't do that. We all go together. That's our motto. So, Kadaj and I took hold of his arm and pulled with all our might. We had to dislocate his shoulders to get him through the space, one after the other. Though it must have hurt badly, Loz was so brave. He didn't even cry."

Here, Yazoo slants his big brother an admiring, proud look. Loz shrugs abashedly, like it was no big deal.

"We popped Loz's shoulder joints back into their sockets and navigated the rest of the way to the surface, climbing out into the city above as though we were being born, covered in blood and emerging with no worldly possessions but the clothes on our backs. On that day we were barely adolescents. We had no money and no home. We had no life experience outside of the lab and had nobody to guide us and show us how to survive in this complex world. We had to learn that by ourselves. We thought perhaps the people working on the Jenova Project would come after us and attempt to capture us again so we hid for months on end in dank caves and abandoned buildings, scavenging whatever scraps of food we could, taking turns to keep watch while the others slept. Eventually we realised they weren't coming. We weren't anything more to them than failed experiments. Just escaped laboratory animals. We weren't even important enough for them to search for," Yazoo says bitterly.

"Or else they just assumed we were dead. They created us and brought us into this existence but in the end, we were on our own. And we still are. We don't have any real friends or anyone we can rely on. All we have is each other. I know it looks like we've done well for ourselves now but everything you see here, we have worked hard for. We were once filthy, starving little street rats. We had nothing. If it wasn't for Kadaj finding us employment and turning this cavern into our home...we'd still have nothing."

Then he sits back, falling silent. The tale is over. And what a tale it is.

"You poor, poor boys," I whisper, reaching out to take Loz's hand. "What you've been through...I had no idea."

"Well, now you know," he says hoarsely. "Now, you see why we don't trust strangers."

Yazoo looks to me in caution. "What we've told you, Cate, you can never tell anyone else on this planet. Our very lives depend on it. Perhaps the Jenova Project is no longer operational but there still could be organisations out there that would pay to get their hands on us. Somebody still has Mother which means somebody is still interested. The world cannot know what we really are."

"I won't tell a soul," I vow. "I swear it. After all, my baby's life is at stake here too."

"We'll protect your child," Yazoo answers, knowing that it's my biggest fear and concern. "Family means everything to us. That's why we need to find Mother. When we find her we won't feel so alone. Our family will be complete."

I nod, understanding why they need to search for her so badly. If I knew my mother was out there somewhere, waiting for me to find her, I'd be doing the very same thing.

Even if she WAS an ancient creature from outer space.

"I must say, you're handling this quite well," Yazoo remarks with a lifted brow.

I smile humourlessly. "Oh, I'm totally freaking out inside, trust me."

"But you believe us?" Loz asks earnestly.

"I do. As far-fetched and impossible as it all sounds, I believe you. Though I gotta say, your story is even weirder than I expected. Clones? You guys are like something out of a science fiction film!" I even laugh a little. "Lucky for you I like sci-fi."

Loz seems immensely relieved that I'm not screaming my head off and trying to climb up the wall, even though that is certainly an option. I actually am a lot more freaked than I'm letting on. Finding out that aliens really exist is a bit of a mind-fuck. The fact that the baby I'm carrying is part-extraterrestrial also freaks me somewhat. But I've had five months to prepare myself for this. I always knew Loz and his brothers weren't human. Not entirely, anyway.

Yazoo gazes inquiringly at me with those unearthly glittering turquoise-green eyes. "What's your story, Cate?"

"I've already told Loz my story." I make a wry face. "Compared to yours, it's downright boring and ordinary."

"Loz did mention about you being an orphan and getting shuffled around various foster homes. It must have been tough for you, growing up without your real parents."

"It wasn't so bad," I reply quietly, thinking that nothing I've lived through compares to being locked in a laboratory and getting sliced apart on a regular basis. "As for the rest of my life...well, I after I finished high school I became a florist. I've been married and divorced. I rent an apartment in a shitty suburb. Now I'm knocked up with your brother's alien baby. There's not much else about me to know, really."

"How have you been since we last saw you?"

"Sick. That's partly why I haven't shown up earlier," I confide. "I wasn't well enough to set foot outside let alone do any detective work."

"You've had morning sickness?"

"More like all day and all damn night sickness." I grimace, remembering how many times I had to crawl to the toilet bowl or grab a bucket beside my bed. "At least for the first three months. Shit, I've never been so ill in all my life. I felt like I was dying. It was that bad."

Loz appears startled. "Is that normal?"

"I guess. Extreme morning sickness is pretty common," I tell him with a shrug.

Still gazing at me interestedly, Yazoo asks, "What were your symptoms?"

"You mean aside from puking my guts up every hour?" I reply dryly. "Let's see, there were dizzy spells, hot and cold chills, muscle cramps, joint pain – the works. Most days I'd be curled up in bed shivering and sweating simultaneously. I ached all over. I swear even my bone marrow ached. And there was this weird metallic taste in my saliva too." I swallow, testing my tongue against the roof of my mouth. "I can still taste that sometimes."

"Hey, Yazoo?" Loz turns to his brother with a frown. "That kinda sounds like..."

"Yes, it does," Yazoo answers, reading Loz's mind. He ponders me thoughtfully for a few moments. "That wasn't morning sickness, Cate. That was mako poisoning."

"What?"

"That's precisely how we felt after our injection sessions. Right down to the metallic taste. That's the taste of mako."

"No way!" I exclaim. "How is that possible?"

"Our bodies have extremely high concentrations of the substance. It's in all our fluids. Including our...DNA," Yazoo explains tactfully.

Not quite as tactful, I repeat in disbelief, "You're saying Loz's jizz made me sick?"

"But I used a condom, Yaz," Loz insists. "When I took it off, it was full. I don't know how she got pregnant, let alone poisoned by it."

"It wasn't your fluids that caused the poisoning."

"What was it then?"

Yazoo turns to me. "The baby is like a ball of mako sitting inside you. Your body tried to reject it but it appears your system has finally accepted this foreign substance, grown tolerant of it. That's why you're not sick anymore. With the mako and our alien cells, it's a miracle that you're still pregnant at all."

Glancing down at my belly, I lay a hand on my 'miracle'. "Like I told Loz, this kid reallywants to be born."

"It would seem so," Yazoo muses.

I clear my throat. "I've also had other interesting...side effects...of this pregnancy as well."

Yazoo and Loz are staring at me with twin sets of glimmering mako-eyes, waiting for further information.

"I've been getting...um...images. Visions of you guys. It can happen anytime, anywhere. I just suddenly see you all in my head, like little flashes of a movie. It's like hallucinating."

"Visions, huh?" Loz looks at his gun-toting sibling. "Kadaj gets those. Doesn't he, Yaz?"

"Yes. He can see things in his head - events, people. Such as Mother. That's how he can talk to her."

"What sort of visions did you get about us?" Loz enquires curiously.

"Just you guys doing regular stuff. Like snippets of your life - sitting around the table eating dinner, talking, joking, training with each other, riding your motorcycles. Mostly they were of you, Loz. One I had recently showed you on your bike in the middle of the desert. A big snake came across your path and I thought you were gonna ride right over the top of it and kill it. But you didn't. You swerved around it, like you didn't want to hurt it."

"Well, I didn't. It has a right to live on this planet just like we do. Just because I'm a hit man doesn't mean I go around killing things for fun," Loz states in his own defence. "Besides, I like reptiles. They're cool."

"So, that really happened? What I saw was real? Not a hallucination?"

"Yeah. It happened last week. Ask Yaz."

"It's true," the other Remnant confirms. "I remember him coming home and telling me about it, excited about how long this snake was."

"It was HUGE," Loz repeats in awe. "I wanted to bring it back here with me but I knew Kadaj wouldn't let me keep it."

"I can only assume these visions come from the baby," I respond. "The first time it happened I thought I was going nuts but over time they got longer and more frequent. I'd space out and sometimes mutter things. Crazy things that made no sense. At least, that's what Shandi told me."

"Who's Shandi?" Yazoo asks.

"My roommate. Well, ex-roommate now. I was with her at the club. Tall, dark skin, black dreadlocks?"

"Ah, yes. I remember her. What happened? Why did she leave?"

"She moved in with her girlfriend a couple of months ago. The visions kind of weirded her out. I don't remember saying anything while I was having them but she said I did. She said it didn't even sound like me. I think I scared her and this may have been the real reason why she left."

I feel a pang, missing her friendship but knowing it's too late to repair it.

"Lately, I've been getting them all the time. Even in my sleep. I guess it was the baby's way of saying that I should find you. The baby wants to be with you guys. That's what it's been telling me. It wouldn't let me rest until I came here."

Both Loz and Yazoo are intently eyeing my stomach, as if they expect a little clone child to pop out and say howdy to them. But nothing happens, of course. The baby's not even moving right now. Normally, it's quite restless, shifting around and kicking me, letting me know when it's upset or when it wants me to do something. Like back in the forest. I'd get a heel in the ribs if I started going the wrong way. Damn kid's not even born yet and it's already telling me what to do. However, since I've entered this cave it's been very settled. Peaceful. I guess it's happy, now that I've found its father and uncles.

"So, what do your green genes mean for the baby?" I press the other two clones, needing to know. "What do you think it's going to turn out like?"

"I don't know. We've been careful not to breed with anyone before. But at a guess, it should look human. Mostly," Yazoo predicts. "It may have our eyes, it may have our hair. It may not, either. It may take after you."

"Doubt it." I snort. "If the kid's full of mako I'd say it's gonna take after daddy here."

I look to Loz, who still seems guilty that he got me pregnant and poisoned in the first place.

"The child should be very healthy," Yazoo says confidently. "It probably won't get diseases or illnesses. We never do."

I brighten. "That's a plus."

"It may have special powers." He glances to his bulky brother. "Possibly incredible strength, like Loz. Or even lightning-speed."

"Oh. Not so plussy," I mutter in trepidation, visualising a cheeky silver-haired toddler zapping away from me in a blue streak every time I try to do a diaper change or ripping the doors right off the kitchen cupboards to get at the cookies. "So, I might end up with a super-baby?"

"Quite likely. It appears that the infant already has some psychic abilities, if it's able to share visions with you."

Imagining all the possible parenting issues that could happen in the future, I groan, "Oh Gods, how am I going to be able to control a kid with super-strength and speed? Normal children are bad enough!"

"Don't worry about it. If they get too much to handle, just pass 'em over to me," Loz announces with a hint of fatherly authority. "I'll scare the brat into behaving."

"Right. We'll see," I drawl with a sceptically lifted eyebrow. "You'll probably be the softest dad in the world and won't even raise your voice at them. I bet they'll be able to wrap you around their little finger."

Yazoo gives a low laugh. "You may be right about that, Cate."

"Shut up, Yazoo!" Loz rebounds in annoyance. "I'm NOT soft!"

"Yes, you are. You're a big marshmallow."

"Well, you're a big bitch!"

"And your point is?"

Though I'd love to sit here and watch Loz and Yazoo bicker and tease each other, I find myself yawning, only just realising how late it is. "I should go. Can you please call me a taxi, Loz? On second thoughts, you better just take me home yourself. There's no way I'll get a cab driver to come all the way out to Freaky Forest in the middle of the night. It was hard enough getting one to bring me here in the first place."

"Don't leave!" Loz immediately protests. "Stay here. That's okay, isn't it, Yazoo? If she stays?"

"Of course. Our home is your home now, Cate. You may stay as long as you wish." The gracious, long-haired Remnant gets up from the couch, his leather coat creaking as he straightens, rolling his gloves off as he heads towards the exit. "I'm going to bed. If you have any other questions about our past, feel free to ask me in the morning. However, I'm sure Loz can help you with anything you need to know. He was there too."

"Okay. Oh, Yazoo?"

He pauses at the doorway and turns back to me, looking over his shoulder. "Hm?"

"Thank you for telling me everything and for being so honest." I offer him a smile of gratitude. "And thanks for not snipering me before, in the forest. I appreciate that as well."

Yazoo's lips twitch. "Don't mention it."

He leaves the room, disappearing down the corridor.

"Are you tired now?" Loz asks me. I nod, covering my mouth again as I yawn.

"Yeah. Sorry. Not that your story wasn't fascinating but it's also a lot to take in. My brain is exhausted from all this new information."

"C'mon. You can sleep in my room. I got a king size bed big enough for both of us. And your baby-belly."

"Sounds good," I reply, taking his helping hand and getting awkwardly to my feet. I'm both scared and excited to be spending the night alone with him. I know in the back of my mind that I'll be sleeping next to an alien but strangely, I'm not as worried about that as I probably should be. I've already gotten probed and impregnated by him.

What else could he possibly do to me?



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