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The Villain

Chapter Five

'15th December 2991

The whole place went into a Level 4 lockdown. I have no idea what happened, but I have heard them call out for medics, people were injured. Weapons were fired. I wonder if Diana is ok. Nobody will tell me anything.'

'15th December 2991

They told me that Diana turned. I don't know what that means, I've never seen it happen, but Todheim has finally agreed to allow me and only me to see her. She was smaller than I remembered, and I wasn't sure whether that was because too much time had passed since I last held her or because they have put her through torturous trials that simply kept her from growing.

''She is a weapon, Matthew' Todheim spoke to me, a cold certainty in his voice. 'But we can't study her, she won't let us. Some on the team want her dead. The President wants her dead as well. I said I will make that happen, but...I think it would be wrong.'

I took Diana into my arms. She was quiet, but I could tell by the puffy, dark circles under her eyes that all she had done was cry. Her skin was pale and dry, her cheeks had lost their colour. She looked like she was dying. I shifted my attention towards Todheim. There was a strange pause in his discourse. He was going to ask something of me or make an outrageous suggestion, I had learned to read him. He was choosing his words.

'The way I see it, we can use Diana in the future. Humanity will continue to expand and there are other species out there, with some inclination towards working with us, or none at all. Maybe her own keen will come looking for her, we could strike a deal with them, have them as allies. My point is, she looks and acts human, and I have reason to believe that, due to the way she has connected to you and the team, she can learn behaviours and attitudes at an impressive rate. She can be moulded into what we need. But not now, not like this. If we teach her violence, she will only respond in violence. I don't want to be the one that initiated the end of the human race by pushing an unknown weapon to its limits.'

He paused again, studying my face, trying to foresee my reaction. I asked him to speak his mind.

'You have lost a child, haven't you? A daughter. I can make this look like Diana has been taken care of. I can make everything look like it has been taken care of. Take Diana home, raise her as your own. Give her a family and an education. Nobody but me will know.'

I could not believe my ears. I could not believe the level of conspiracy Todheim was proposing. But, as risky as it all was, it was also tempting. I did not feel like I could leave Diana in the hands of just anyone. I would have had to lie to Sandra to keep her safe, in case this ever came out. But I could be Diana's father, see her grow up, see Sandra happy again.

'What can she do?' I asked Todheim.

He said she could morph. He said she was like nothing anyone's seen before, his scientists were unable to unlock her DNA, to reprogram cells collected from her to do anything. She was a unique creature that could take the shape of anything and anyone and control her genetic material even after it left her body.

'One of the scientists overdid it while taking a blood sample, hurt her too much, so she turned into one of the freaks you met on her planet, and clawed everyone to death. She is bulletproof, Matthew.'

She was so small, wearing a plain, sterile looking onesie, lab clothes, like another guinea pig. She grabbed my finger and held it tight, while her little head rested in my hand. She was starting to grow hair in soft, dark patches. I was finding it hard to comprehend how someone so very small could be so dangerous.

But it wasn't unprovoked.

'How do I know we will be safe once I get back home with her?'

'I said I'm taking care of everything.' Todheim answered, fixating me with an ice cold stare. 'I've got a shuttle ready. I've disabled the tracking signal.' he explained, while walking me to the hangar bay doors. 'You need to go to the Architect Station in the Kuiper Belt. Don't talk to anyone, don't stop for anyone. There is a masking kit in your shuttle, use that to change your appearance. Buy a floating pram. You're a single father going back to your parents' house, on Mars, in case anyone wants to know. Buy a ticket for Mars, but don't board the transport. You have a ticket for the Moon, Legacy Station, waiting for you in the shuttle, next to your kit.'

As though he knew what I was going to ask him next, Todheim continued:

'I have already flown every member of your team out of here. As far as the UN officials are concerned, you have been questioned and released. Your implication in this matter was limited and there was nothing you could have done to prevent this shit storm. Nobody will look at troubling you, believe me.'

I took one good look at Todheim before he shut the hangar doors behind me. I had no idea how much I could trust him. He said he will take care of everything one too many times for someone who was actually able to take care of everything. But I had signed up for this when I accepted to lead the mission on Generon 72X. And now I had Diana to think about, and I had to take her out of there as soon as possible. I was going to provide for her. I was going to take this chance and try again, try again to have a happy life within a happy family.'

'Diana'

Her mother was standing in the doorway, a panicked look on her face. Her fine features seemed stretched now and contorted. She recognised her husband's journal in her daughter's hands. The crisis was at her doorsteps, knocking.

'You knew all this time' Diana reproached, tears filling her big, brown eyes, heartbreak written all over her face.

'I told you never to go in there. I told you...'

Diana threw the journal on the floor, angrily wiped her eyes and stood up from her table.

'You lied!' she growled, furiously.

'I was protecting you. You were to never find out the truth, your father and I agreed to that.'

'Really?' Diana spat. 'You agreed?! It sounds like you were impossible to live with. Have you ever thought of anyone other than yourself? Have you ever thought of how your rejection affected him?'

'I was hurt. I was in pain, I felt like it was my fault we lost Sella.' Diana's mother argued, her chin shaking, while tears formed at the corner of her eyes.

'You could have at least told me that you had another child before me! What am I saying, I'm not even yours! It surely explains a lot...' she continued, turning her back at her mother and running up the stairs, and into her room. She slammed the door behind her with such force, framed pictures fell off the walls in the hallway.

'That is not true, Diana. I have loved you the moment your father brought you home. The moment he placed you into my arms, I felt as though you were my own flesh and blood.' her mother cried outside the door, her breath rushing out of her chest.

Silence fell for a few moments. When Diana opened the door, she was fully dressed and ready to go. She pushed Sandra out of her way ever so slightly and went into the downstairs hallway. Sandra shortly came following, and found Diana on her knees, crying, with her face in her palms.

'I am a freak. I am an abomination by the sound of that journal. And you kept that from me!' Diana shouted, tears streaming down her face. 'I am the villain in this story!'

Her mother got on her knees next to her, and wrapped her arms around her. It was something she'd not done enough of. The feeling was quite foreign to Diana, but she welcomed it for a few moments.

'Diana...', her mother whispered.

'I do not need your consolation. Tell me what happened to my father. To Matthew' she corrected herself, while picking herself up the floor.

The mother looked up at the daughter and realised then and there that they were lost to each other. It hurt to understand that when Matthew disappeared, so did her bridge to Diana. The truth was that Sandra was not her mother, she never birthed her, she was not there when she emerged from that cocoon, she did not offer the protection that Matthew did. She was a hard parent, sometimes harder than needed, but it was just because she'd seen other children slip with the passing of time. History taught her that. Her own parents had been stern to her, and it helped her live her life in a straight line, to not end up selling herself and being a disappointment.

'He resumed his test pilot career, some months after you were brought to me. He flew away one day and never returned. He never came back to me.'

'You lie! You're lying to me again!' Diana barked, grabbing Sandra by the shoulders. There was a mad look in her eyes, they seemed blood-thirsty for a moment, and that terrified Sandra.

'I swear to you, Diana. That is all I know. Legacy Station gave me access to their findings, and it turned out that your father's ship malfunctioned. He blew up above the Moon. I never got to see a body, I refused to do a funeral for him and told everyone that he disappeared. I refused to acknowledge his death. He left me once, a long time ago, after we lost our baby. I could not admit to losing him as well, I had buried one too many people I loved. I just could not do it.'

Sandra's voice cracked and became a shadow, trapped by her own weeping. Diana looked at her and all that she could see was an utterly broken woman. A woman who had been the villain of her own story, all her life.

'Don't wait for me' the girl said, put her coat on, and left the house.

She came back late that same night, found her mother asleep in her father's chair. She had emptied the decanter, and some of the contents were still in a glass she had left on the table.

Diana decided not to wake her up. She went to her room, packed a bag and her father's journal. She was going to try and find Todheim. She was going to try and find her home planet, she was going to try and recover her story. She left that night and never once returned to Legacy Station. She never wrote, never kept in touch with Yace or Sandra, and after a few years, it was like she had never existed. Sandra left Legacy Station and restarted another family on Architect Station. She changed her name and never once spoke about Matthew, Diana, or their history together.  

THE END

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