A Time For Answers, Part 3
Location: Tina Cyparissus' apartment, Shady Side, Maryland
Timeline: December 28th, 3pm
Lauren frowned, confused. Her hairline glowed a little more as she stared curiously at Bryan. Why on Earth did he look so familiar? “I’m sorry... have we met, aside from this morning? You seem familiar, but I just can’t place where I could know you from. Perhaps I knew your father or mother...? Where do they live?”
“The answer to question is going to take us someplace you might not want to go, Lauren,” Bryan replied honestly. “I’m going to give you a choice you didn’t have before. Stay here, listen, and learn the whole truth or you can walk away. Go back to your happy, peaceful life and forget all about me.” He held up a finger. “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more.”
“I remember that from a movie,” Deo frowned. “All that is missing are a red and a blue pill.”
“Yeah, I liked the sound of it and it applies, so sue me.” Bryan shrugged mildly.
“That was the Matrix, wasn’t it?” Lauren gave a small frown. “I think I saw that one. I don’t really understand how it has anything to do with our conversation.”
“I can tell you, but you won’t like the answer.” Bryan took off his glasses and looked her in the eyes. “I can tell you this much: you’re in no danger from me or mine. In fact, you’re like family to me.”
The lavender colour of his irises when his glasses were pulled away made Lauren gasp, backing up a step. That colour wasn’t natural. “H-how could I be like family to you? What’s going on here? Tina?”
“She needs to know the truth, Bryan.” Tina said softly. “I can’t keep it from her forever, and unless you can stop the change...”
“Change? What change? What are you both talking about?” Lauren’s hairline glowed brightly, and a similar, if muted, glow came from her stomach through the soft purple sweater she wore. “I don’t understand what is going on here. Who ARE you?”
“Deo too?” Bryan spared a second to ask Tina.
“I was hoping you could confirm that for me... but yes. I think so.” Tina nodded with a soft sigh.
“At this range I can read it in him--he’s positive, though not active yet. It was probably a glimmering.”
“Okay, can somebody start from the beginning?” Deo struggled to sit up, his voice straining with frustration.
“Coffee, cookies, let’s keep it calm,” Bryan instructed Tina before turning his attention to Deo and Lauren. “Okay, truth time. Have a seat.” He took a chair facing them. “First off, the name is Bryan Kestrel. I represent the Townsend Academy. We’re a private institution based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Publicly, we provide a world class education for those with sensitive security concerns like heads of state. Privately, we offer shelter, training, and life opportunities for mutants.”
“My hair...” Lauren turned to Tina with wide eyes. “My skin... you think that I’m a...”
“I know you are.” Tina said softly. “I’ve known you were for a long time.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Lauren scoffed, shaking her head. “I’m not a mutant! That’s... that’s impossible!”
Tina closed her eyes tightly before turning to Deo. “I didn’t have any hint that you were, Deo, until last night. Taking a shot like that, that close up, right in the chest... you should be dead. I thank the gods that you’re alright, but the fact of the matter is that no non-metahuman has a healing factor like that.”
“Gods?” Lauren frowned. “Since when are you a pagan?”
“From your definition of the term, since I was a little girl.” Tina sighed tiredly. “But that’s another story.”
Deo wanted to feel...something, but right now he only felt numb. “Is there a test or something I can take--you know, to confirm it?”
“Authorities currently don’t have a test to confirm mutation. Current policy is location and containment of mutants once they go active.” Bryan informed. “Townsend Academy has means to test for the X-gene. We have a scanner that pings in the presence of mutants and we can tell when mutation is latent or active. Neither of you register as active at this time, but, you both are X-positive and you’re displaying signs of going active at some future date. We call such signs ‘glimmerings’. Lauren’s hair,” He pointed out. “Deo, you survived a shot that would have killed an ordinary man, says a doctor.” He directed their attention to Tina. “I’m here to offer options you might not have otherwise.”
“This is preposterous!” Lauren scoffed, picking up her purse as her hairline and stomach glowed brightly. “I’m leaving.”
“If you walk out that door, Lauren McArthurs, you put not only yourself but everyone around you at risk.” Tina insisted urgently. “Consider, just for a minute, that we’re telling the truth. You awaken, it’ll be powerful. Anyone around you at the time is in danger. Do you want to risk that it’ll happen some time when your kids are around? What would you do if you accidentally took out Olivia or Jake? What about little Bryan? Would you be able to forgive yourself?”
Lauren’s hand trembled as it paused on the door handle.
“There is a part of you that is scared right now, I get that.” Tina’s voice softened. “But I know that there’s a part of you that thinks this makes sense, and I think that scares you even more. It’s the same part that thinks Bryan looks familiar. It’s the same part that made you see me as a Seraph on Christmas Eve. Those dreams you’ve been having... Lauren, you know that they’re not just dreams.”
“Seek the Seraph, and she shall guide you to Ma’at’s feather.” Lauren whispered softly.
“She brought you here, to the next step.” Bryan stood and leaned against the wall next to Lauren, where she stood still holding the door handle. “I’m here to take you down the rabbit hole, Alice, but I’m not going to push you down. You need to make that leap yourself and trust that there are people who love you waiting at the bottom to catch you.”
“What are you suggesting?” Lauren asked quietly. “And why do I feel like I should know who you are?”
“Because you should. Once upon a time, in another life, you used to bake cookies for me. You used to pick on me about my language and my bad habits. You never bought into me as a bad kid even though I did my best to play one.” His lips curled smartly. “I still do. Thing is, Lauren; this was pushed on you before and it was bad--really bad; people died, like Tina.”
“I got better.” Tina quipped, in her best Monty Python impersonation. “Sorry. Tension. Humour. Ignore me.”
Deo grinned despite the tension, “that was great.”
“Never could resist a good Monty Python quote.” Tina smirked at her cousin.
“What do you mean, ‘died’?” Lauren asked worriedly.
“That requires a trip down the rabbit hole.” Bryan heaved a sigh and stepped back into the room. “First, I need to establish my cred. Things that only someone who knows you personally can know about you.” He thought back and smiled. “Your parents are Sharon and Anthony Evans. Your mom is a bit of a worry wart, to put it mildly, but she means well. Your dad is the epitome of the strong, quiet type. Bookish, studious, you got your love of books from when he used to read to you at night.”
He paced a few steps reminiscing fondly. “Olivia wants to be a princess and Jake thinks she’s dumb. You bake cookies to relax when you’re stressed. You love the life of being a mom, but it’s a little boring. You have a crush on Antonio Banderas and I got you pictures of him naked for you. You hit me every chance you got for that, but the pictures always disappeared. I wondered where they went…” he gave her a sly smile. “You love Irish accents and don’t know why. Your first time with Paul was lousy--”
“Okay, okay!” Lauren interrupted, eyes wide and her glow nearly incandescent. “How the... how on Earth could you...”
“Don’t look at me, I didn’t even know about Antonio Bandaras... though that does explain a few things...” Tina smirked. “For the record? Bad sex IS an acceptable reason to end a relationshi...”
“It’s fine!” Lauren protested quickly. “And none of your business! Any of your businesses!” She seemed to be breathing quickly, turning her back toward the door and staring in horror at Bryan. “H-how... how do you know any of that? No one knows about... well... I’ve never told anyone...”
“He sat down and gestured for her to return to her seat. “I know because you told me. I told you as much about me, but you don’t remember; at least, not yet. From what Tina says, you’re starting. Oh, but remember what? I can see it in your eyes. Sit, and join me at the bottom of the rabbit hole. I promise, at the end you can get up and go right back to your life if you want. What do you have to lose?”
Lauren glanced over at Tina nervously before turning back to Bryan. “Before I do... I have questions.”
“I’m here to answer.” He gestured grandly.