Lydia woke up to the sound of someone knocking at the door downstairs. Knocking was probably an understatement actually. It sounded like whoever it was wanted to batter the door down. Lydia froze. She was good at freezing, and remained perfectly still for a number of seconds.
“Lydia!” Called her dad from her parents bedroom, “get that will you?”
“Why can’t you get it?” She shouted back. For a few seconds he didn’t reply.
“Nope,” he shouted back, “I got nothing. Can’t you help a man out in his old age?”
“But it’s cold!” Lydia complained.
“You can do it! I believe in you!”
Lydia sighed and slid herself out of bed. Standing up, she walked over to her door, unhooked her dressing gown and pulled it around herself. The weather was getting colder as winter drew closer and Lydia was feeling the chill.
Heading downstairs she hurried to the door. Whoever it was they were really insistent. She reached out to turn the handle but paused. Maybe it was… no. People weren’t like that in this area. It wasn’t like her old neighbourhood. So who was it? Maybe it was one of the others… last evening had been pretty hectic. She didn’t really remember much after Amadeus got shot at, just vague, blurry images of walking home in the gathering dark.
She opened the door. Alexis nearly fell into the house. He looked like he’d been running, his face was red with exertion and his breath came in gasps.
“Oh!” Lydia took a step back, “Alexis what are you doing here?”
“Hello Lydia,” Alexis righted himself and made a vain attempt to tidy up his clothing, “I think we need to talk. After last evening…”
Lydia’s heart suddenly started beating faster. She exhaled slowly.
“It’s about Amadeus,” Alexis said, “You saw that… I know him.”
The pumping in Lydia’s chest decreased, but only a little.
“Yeah,” she motioned for him to step in and swung the door closed behind him. They walked together into the kitchen, “you seemed pretty angry with him. How do you know each other?”
Alexis took a deep breath in. The flush in his cheeks had been given ample time to fade, but had not. Lydia watched him, unsure whether he was going to reply or simply leave her question hanging. Eventually he spoke, his voice low, almost apologetic.
“Well… It’s sort of a long story. We know each other because he’s the success and I’m the failure.”
Lydia pulled back a chair and sat down. She looked up at Alexis questioningly.
“What do you mean?”
“He’s,” Alexis paused. He suddenly found himself unable to meet Lydia’s gaze, “he’s super-human. But he wasn’t always super-human. He was made.”
“Yes,” Lydia nodded, “Adelaide said something about that last night…”
“Well,” Alexis continued, “my parents are biologists, that’s why we moved to this area, they got a job offer. My parents were studying… they were studying the Source. As in, you know, the source of super-human powers. My parents found something… a gene. They were certain that it was this gene that created super-humans, that this was what differentiated them from normals. So they decided that they’d test it out.”
Lydia listened in silence, unsure of what to say. Unsure, more importantly, what to think. Alexis looked like he was about to cry. A feeling of powerlessness swept over Lydia.
“I was the experiment,” Alexis said slowly, “In Vitro fertilisation. They tweaked the gene they thought caused it, the gene they’d spent their whole careers searching for. It didn’t work. In the end they were left with a little, powerless baby. They didn’t tell me this, obviously. But I found out. I’m… I’m supposed to be super-human.”
Alexis clasped his hands around his head and blinked rapidly, holding back tears.
“Anyway,” he said, “the… job my parents got when they came here was helping in Project Prodigy. That’s Amadeus. They found the source and they used it to make him, to turn an ordinary kid into a… a rank five. I was just angry because it should have been me. It should have been me.”
Lydia’s eyes were also moist. She reached out and put a hand on his arm.
“Are you saying,” she murmured, “that you actually want to be a super-human?”
“I do,” Alexis couldn’t meet her eyes, “I’m sorry. I know life isn’t easy for you, I know you’re bullied and shunned… but I’d just like not to be a disappointment. Just once.”
He felt a hand on the side of his face, the scales rough against his skin. He looked up at Lydia and their eyes met. She smiled at him and leaned forward slowly.
“Well,” Lydia’s dad walked into the kitchen, “this is new.”
With a yelp of surprise Lydia spun around, nearly falling off her chair. Twin sprays of red shot out of her face and splattered her father, who raised his hands in shock. Alexis, similarly surprised, really did fall off his chair with a crash.
“Alexis!” Lydia rushed over to him, “Are you alright?”
“What about me?” Her dad groaned, “You just sprayed blood all over me!”
“Sorry dad,” Lydia helped Alexis to his feet, “but you know what happens when I get surprised.”
“What just happened?” Murmured Alexis dazedly.
“An unfortunate habit of my dear dear daughter,” Lydia’s dad walked over to the sink, picked up a cloth and started to wipe the front of his t-shirt down, “is that, when surprised, she has a tendency to spray a concentrated stream of blood out of her eyes.”
“Like the horned lizard?” Alexis looked at Lydia with wonder in his eyes, “that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Indeed,” Lydia’s dad grinned and raised a quizzical eyebrow at Lydia, “who is this new friend of yours who knows so much about reptiles, Lydia darling? I like him already.”
“This is Alexis,” Lydia drew back a chair and Alexis sat, “I’m going to be helping him to get some super-human powers.”