Éttienne Jrovin: Log Insert: 1

There was nothing in my life that I allowed to happen that I hadn’t planned. Nothing. I had no room for second chances and I had no room for foolishness. What began as a curiosity has become an obsession, and now many of my plans lay in ruins. It was that kid’s fault, but I couldn’t blame him for my own weakness. Pion thought I was kidding when I told her about him the time Francene had pulled me from that café. There was something in his eyes that I couldn’t forget. Something I had in common with him. It took me a couple minutes to figure it out.

We were both alone in a vast forest of idiots.

I couldn’t get his eyes out of my head. I was distracted from the work that I loved. I spent hours just wondering what he was doing. It was unspoken in civilian law that we stayed well away from all those BW’s, I mean, Black and Whites. It was unfair that the rest of us who were not BW’s were not born with the freedom that they were given, not to mention they all got two chances at life. The Govs always had their tight hold on civilians, even making sure they knew where we all were through our ID card logs. It was exhausting work to elude them when I wanted to be invisible.

That’s why I was on the road to change the whole system. My plans to Reboot Sinclair were just getting underway when I came across the kid. Now he’d gotten in the way and I didn’t want to see him leave.

It was sick, because I didn’t even know his name and for the few seconds that I had to study him, I would guess he was 17 years old at most. Which meant I was at least four years older than him.

As the Master Technician I had my hands full. My personal staff shared my home. They helped, but only when I asked them to. Pion was second to none with my trust. She was in most things as deep as I was when it came to the Reboot we planned for Sinclair. Pion said it was because she wouldn’t have been able to stand it if I got all the fun. As if this work is fun. We were trying to gain more support within the other clans, and it was very slow going.

Normally, Pion and I held a small conference before we headed out for the day. And, as usual, she sat on my large, overstuffed, king-size bed as I dressed. She had her short bob of red hair pulled back in two low pigtails and wore nothing but a small summer dress. Any other guy in his right mind would have wanted to roll her back onto that mattress and leave her and the bed irreversibly rumpled. I had other concerns. Plus, she’s practically my sister, so… ew.

“Éttienne,” she said. “If I have to eat at that café one more time I’m going to spew all over that damned waitress. We can’t be going there today. I’m not interested.”

I looked over at her and sent a glare down my nose. “Then I’ll be going alone, won’t I?”

“Look,” she held her hands up in entreaty. “I know you’ve suddenly fallen in love with their coffee, but there’s better stuff. We’ve been going there for the majority of three months! Gimme something new! I’m kinda aching for a good steak.”

I knotted my tie with a frown. Women, they can’t enjoy a little bit of static, can they? “You can meet up with Ward and Haler if you really want to. I hear Ward has found an interesting pub.”

Pion wrinkled her nose.

For the life of me I could not understand it: there are many people in my house, and out of all of them, the Red hated our Policer. True, he was a Gov lapdog, but I was willing to look past that. He was useful to have around since because of him we didn’t have to call the PPT, otherwise called the Police Public Transport. Figures she’d complain about the one of the handier people on my staff.

“You can still join me,” I reminded her.

“I think I’ll just eat at the MMC today. I should get some work done.”

“The Medic Center? Eh. Suit yourself, though I don’t know why you don’t just get a lunch from Jerome. Cafeteria food has never been very edible. And now I’m going to look very pathetic and that horrible waitress is going to hit on me. Again.”

“If you’re so scared, take Francene with you.”

No and no, a thousand times. The single moment I had to talk to the BW, she had dragged me away before I could get over my shock at seeing him. She had spoiled it. There was no way I was going to chance that again. I paid Pion a disparaging look and left the subject to die.

Pion stretched and climbed off of my bed. “I may stop by. But don’t wait for me. See you tonight if not sooner. Jerome is making some of his incredible sandwiches for dinner. Take care!” She left my room with a jaunty wave and I turned to my giant aquarium wall. I made the mental note to add fish food to the supply list.

Once I was ready for work, I went downstairs to get a snack for the trip to the main part of the city. Jerome was already hard at work in the kitchen. His deep purple hair that normally reached the tops of his shoulder blades was braided back.

He looked up with his light eyes when I entered and smiled warmly. “Good morning, Éttienne. How did you sleep?”

“Fine, as usual. How did you sleep?”

“With Dame, as usual.”

I smiled at his poke at my single state. Jerome and Damion had been together since I had brought Damion home with me a year and a half ago. I wasn’t as surprised at their immediate infatuation as they were. It was interesting having a steady couple in my home, since they made it feel like a home.

I hadn’t been looking to acquire a member of each clan, but I wasn’t about to ignore the guys beating up on a young man because he was gay, either.

The fucking Govs promoted too much hate. They told us to hate all that was not normal and productive. Which covers a lot of ground in their eyes. We weren’t even supposed to be kind to people in the other clans except to reproduce or exchange in a working relationship. To put it simply: hate everyone but breeders and plain civilians, be polite to everyone else, and be glad you’re still alive.

I hated it and the whole damn system.

Jerome set a plate with two pieces of toast and a simple poached egg with a slice of tomato on top in front of me. A large glass of orange juice followed with today’s newspaper. “Are you going to stay in here and take a seat, or are you going to the dining room?”

“The dining room, of course.”

“Of course,” His smile grew as he turned away from me. His hands patted down the crust he was putting into a pie pan, he was already preparing tonight’s homemade dessert.

I made my way to the dinning room and set up on the end of the table. The windows streamed in bright, morning sunlight and as I ate I snapped open the paper and read the headlines. There was nothing to note. Some Educators and Creators were just bitching about the rest of the “ignorant” society. It was a slow news day, like every other day.

My morning stayed slow, work was pleasing but simple. I wanted to feel challenged for once. At lunch I hadn’t gotten a call from Pion, so I assumed that she was, in fact, staying at the MMC to eat. My walk was short to the Blue Sun Café. The door chimed as I entered and I slipped my card into one of the empty patron slots next to the door. The waitress was there again and leered at me as she approached. One menu was in hand, but something told me it didn’t mean my meal would be a lonely one.

“Good afternoon, Master Jrovin. Are you alone today?”

“For now. The usual spot, if you will…?”

Behind us the door opened and a light breeze blew in. The Purple’s expression became one of curious disgust. Her eyes followed something behind me to the ground and I heard a thud.

I spun to see what had happened and felt that I must have been hallucinating. It was the BW kid that I had been waiting to see again. He was sprawled across the threshold, unmoving. His black-and-white hair was more disorderly and rough since I had last seen him and the bangs were long enough to put his eyes into shadow.

Time hiccuped and caught up with the rest of us. The Purple girl screeched, causing people to come running to see what was wrong.

I couldn’t think with all the sudden talking and shouting. Patrons stood and craned their necks to see the spectacle of a BW in such a state. The purples of the shop tried to calm people down, but they were frazzled, too. Their flustered hand waving and shouting to be heard was just making matters worse.

I climbed onto a chair and reached up high enough to clang the bell above the door, doing so until I had everyone’s attention. “Shut up and help, or leave us alone. Back to your meals, Policers will be here shortly.” That part was a lie, of course, but they didn’t have to know that.

It got quieter finally, and I crouched next to the BW. My stomach dropped when I saw the bright purple bruise on the left half of his face. There were dozens of small cuts and scrapes littering the skin that I could see. I touched the bruise lightly and the kid flinched away. Now I knew he was still semi-conscious. My frown deepened at the noise that must have come from him. It was the most heart-wrenchingly pathetic thing I had ever heard. I tried to touch him again to brush aside his bangs and he scrabbled frantically tried to get away from my hand. He made that sound again, but I understood him well enough this time. He thought I was going to hurt him, his now wide silver eyes betrayed nothing but blind fear. Determination and livid rage twisted inside me. Something had happened to him and I was going to find out what. Anyone who thought they could get away with fucking with this kid was going to be finding out they should have done otherwise very soon.

“Are you awake? I’m here to help.” I tried to get him to respond to my voice.

No such luck. His eyes, although still wide, were flat. I doubted he was actually seeing anything.

“Hey!” I barely held in the thread of curses that I wanted to use, instead I turned to one of the Violets. “Damn it! Get me water and I need someone to call the Main Medic Center. Get a Pion Lancer on her way here on Master Jrovin’s orders.”

No one moved.

“What are you waiting for? Get the fuck moving!”

They moved at last, and within five minutes Pion was jogging up to the café. She spotted me next to the kid and paused. It wasn’t often that I ordered her around and it had thrown her off. Now she questioned what I wanted of her as well as my mood. I gave her an impatient look.

She drew to my side with a rueful smile. “Enjoying your lunch?”

“I would be if I wasn’t dealing with a comatose kid.”

Pion mustered up a stern look, the kind a mother gives her kid who just brought home a new pet. “What the hell is this? Didn’t I tell you to stop picking up strays? We’re running out of space at home.” Her blue eyes swept over him for a quick assessment. “I’ve seen him before… on that day Francene wouldn’t stop ranting about a BW…” she looked to me then looked to him. “Ah. I get it now.”

I resisted the urge to shove her over until she fell on her ass. “Just give me a hand. But be nice,” I grumbled.

Pion’s mouth hung open as she stared at me. “You’re impossible,” was all she had to say about my change in behavior, then she settled into her Medic mode and got a better look at the kid. “You have no room to tell me to ‘be nice.’ It’s you we all have to watch out for.”

Properly scolded I grumbled again. “Help or leave.”

Tossing her hands in the air, she matched my grumble. “Idiot. I’ll get him on the stretcher and we’ll take him to the MMC.” She was already pulling the corners of the transportation out of her med bag attached to her belt.

“Fine.” I stood out of the way and surveyed the area while pocketing my ID card. The goddamn Purples were still watching with interest, I noted the two Grays that were approaching, too. A bad sign as I had yet to actually call for them and would rather avoid them and their Gov masters at all times. “Make it quick.”

With the corners properly placed around the BW on the ground, Pion activated the stretcher and lifted the kid easily. She left it hovering at waist height. The energy cloth gave under the kid’s slight weight. Pion smiled at me as she settled her grip on the edges. “That quick enough?”

“Yes. Let’s go before those Policers think we’re interesting, I’m growing tired of their questions.”

“As usual.” She steered the stretcher towards the Main Medic Center.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked as I walked on the other side of the kid.

“Once we get to the MMC, I can tell you. But until then, I have about as much of an idea as you do. I mean look at the state he’s in. Seen better days, that’s for sure.”

“Then walk faster,” I didn’t like this one bit. I knew by the look of pity that Pion thought our new companion had seen better years. It twisted my gut when I took the time to count all the injuries that he had. Some were obviously old, and healed -though hastily- before the kid was sent out for another round. A round of what, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know.

My Red friend allowed the silence to continue for a while then hesitantly asked. “Why are we helping him?”

It was unlike Pion to be so cautious with me. And I felt the need to be honest with her, which was never a good sign. I didn’t like being honest on a regular basis; it always had a way of turning on the one who spoke frankly.

I held my hand over the bruised cheek, but didn’t make contact. “My reasons are purely selfish. I assure you.”

“Ah.”

There was more understanding in that tiny word than I had gotten from Pion all day. I would have asked her to elaborate, but we were already heading up the stairs to the Medic Center. We went through the doors and Pion marched right up to the front counter. I could see the Red behind it was not pleased with the idea of putting a BW in one of their rooms. He waved his hand in a dismissing manner and my Red leaned over the counter to snarl at him. I was amused for a moment as I watched her use the techniques I used to get my way. Call on their sense of clan and duty, then make sure they can imagine the pain they would be in if they refused to help. I admit that Pion was pretty good.

With a room now secured, Pion met back up with me and led the way down one of the many sterile halls. Once we were safely inside, she shut the door and locked it. Turning to me I saw how mad she was; as rare a sight as me helping someone. Today was going to be one to remember, that was for sure.

“I cannot believe some people! We’re Reds! We’re supposed to help anyone! It’s in our fucking instincts!” She reigned in her voice to a lower octave. “He tried to tell me that a BW is not worth saving, because they’ll be throwing away this life, anyway. Bastard.”

I said nothing as she maneuvered the kid onto the single bed in the room. I scowled when I saw him flinch at the contact of the mattress. It made me wonder how many more injuries he was hiding under the clothing that was hanging off of his small frame.

“He looks starved, Pion.”

“I know. And so abused that I don’t know if he’ll recover. His body might, but can you imagine the damage to his mentality? I’d bet he sees everyone as enemies.”

“So, now what?” I asked, as she took a blood sample.

Pion shrugged her narrow shoulders. “We can try and get some fluid in him. But his muscles are all locked. Why don’t you go and get some while I check out this Med Band.”

“Those are still in development. I’m not sure why he would be wearing one. I haven’t even leased them to the Reds in general, just the Prison Medical Clinics. It seemed like it would be easier to track the inmates with such a device…. So, make sure you give me the Red’s info too. I want to know who is using my tech.”

“Of course, Éttienne.”

I got ice from the little vending machine down the hall. By the time I returned to the room, Pion was gone. I assumed she was making the call to the Medic who made the Band. It was an annoying feature for us right now, but only the Red who set up the Med Band could get it off. Unless I wanted to spend a few minutes hacking it, of course.

Pion returned to the room while I was trying to get the BW to eat some ice. She told me the name of the Medic, but I didn’t care about that. My world had narrowed down to a pair of thin, chapped lips on the bruised face of an abused young man. My new obsession was right next to me and I was really looking forward to getting to spend some time with him.

I wasn’t ready when the control was taken from me.

Everything shifted when that damn Cherise Robins showed up and sense got thrown overboard and lost at sea. She made it seem like the kid was stupider than goldfish and then we got to witness him getting up and walking out of the room. All without even some sort of “thank you” or “by your leave”. I should have been happy to see that the BW was healthy enough to move around but my stomach was threatening to empty itself instead.

When they left, I met Pion’s eyes and knew she was thinking the same thing I was. “What the fuck?”

“Did you see that, Éttienne?” Pion asked, her eyes betraying her uncertainty.

“Yeah,” I didn’t try to stop the scowl that settled on my face.

Silence swallowed us as we turned to look back over at the door. Something was going on here and I had the feeling that we were going to be in some deep shit real soon if we tried to help the kid anymore. Too bad for Cherise Robins and the rest of the BW’s, I was a bit stubborn and had a hard time learning how to give up.

There had been something wrong with the way the kid had moved. He had been more like a robot than a human; there had been no grace in that mechanical walk.

It would only be a matter of time before we got this all figured out. We had a name now: Temps Robins. Unless his sister was married already… but I didn’t entertain that notion for long. She had seemed a little unsavory and if she was, in fact, married, I felt extremely sorry for the guy. Now we had someplace to start and I was looking forward to the challenge. With his name, I could pull his file from the Medical Database and let Pion look over it undetected. Normally, one would have to have the ID of the patient inserted into a Medic’s clipboard to see anything of the sort; but, then again, I was the Master Tech. This part was going to be a cake walk.

Neither Pion or myself could hope to focus on our work for the rest of the day, so we took a long walk home. It was silent for once between us, both of us wrapped up in our own thoughts. I knew she was berating herself for getting involved, she wasn’t interested in a good challenge like I was. I walked in-step beside her and soaked up the sunlight. People with brightly-colored hair passed us by and I never seemed to make note of the colors unless it was a Gray or BW. It’s like I wanted to see the bleaker reality than the technicolor that assailed us all the time. Needless to say that my actual thoughts were set firmly on the matter of the Robins kid. I was quite happily obsessed with something other than work for once in my life, and I was going to milk it for all it was worth.

We made it home and headed right upstairs to my study. We gave absent hello’s to Damion and Jerome as we passed them on the stairs. I was relieved that Pion was as focused as I was on the case. I felt like I had slipped into some variation of a mystery novel.

What ails the young man? Will our hero be able to figure it out in time? And what role does the young man’s sinister sister play in this deadly act? Tune in next time to find out in the exciting continuation!

Or something like that.

I unlocked my study and let Pion in before I closed it behind me again. “So, Watson… what do you think?”

She gave me a blank look before scowling. “I think you need to stop reading that old fiction and focus. And why are you so suddenly calm? You could barely hold still before.”

I let my voice drop low, the cold edge leaking into my tone as I strode to my desk. “Believe you me, I’m not calm. I am about ready to sign someone’s death certificate. Personally.” My teeth clenched once before I went on. “I would recommend that you not forget that. I am simply still to conserve my energy. That was a very long walk and I have the feeling that this will be a very long night.”

A single red eyebrow rose in response to my scolding.

I turned my attention from Pion to my computer. At my waking touch, the screen formed out of the desktop and hovered in front of me. I ignored the keyboard and touch pad, preferring to plug into the system then try to manipulate it from the outside. It was simple enough to get into the Medical Database, I just latched onto the end of someone else’s in-going communication. Once past the clearance point I had free reign to look at any chart I wanted. The only problem was getting the info out of the MD and onto my own computer screen without being tracked. Of course, this all might have been hard to do if I hadn’t been the one to develop the newest version of the database. I had Robins’ chart collected quickly then encoded it into my own chart. Satisfied that there would be no tracking of of the kid’s ghost chart, I slipped out of the MD and back into my own head.

Pion snapped to attention when I sat forward and rotated my stiff shoulders. How long had that taken? My friend was sitting across one of my other chairs and yawned before she could ask me something.

I pulled my ID card out and slid it across the desk to her. “Pull up my chart and his will also be there. Anything else?”

Pion shook her head. Putting on her glasses, she asked, “You want to wait here while I read it over or should I get back to you?”

“Why bother asking? I’m staying here. Just tell Jerome to send us up our dinner when you run down to the Med Room to get your chart.”

“Right.”

Pion left and I settled in for a long night. I pulled one of my “old fictions” off of the shelves lining my walls behind my desk. This time it was a history text, focused on the development of Sinclair. My Red returned to the room with Jerome and Haler in tow. She looked flustered and they looked far too curious.

Haler, our Educator, always wanted to know what was going on; even the smallest gossip made her head swivel. Her eyes would get big and her ears even bigger. It was nice to have her around when I needed to send someone out to spy at a gathering of some sort. She just soaked up all the noise and sorted though it in her daily meditations. She was my little social database.

Jerome was simply concerned that we were taking dinner in my study instead of with the rest of the house in the dinning room. He always worried that I worked too hard. Somehow he’d gotten convinced that I would die from any sort of malady, and Jerome had taken it upon himself to make sure that I was fed and rested properly. He was the mother I never had the luck to have when I was little.

I stopped their inquiries with a glare, took the plate of sandwiches from Jerome, and sent them away again. Pion looked up at me with a small smile, as she settled down into a chair again before she dove into the dual chart with the half-sandwich already in hand that she had taken from Jerome when he had followed her up. I curled up in my chair again and set to my own reading. I was too nervous to eat anything. I promised myself I’d force a sandwich down once I heard that the kid was alright.

An hour passed before Pion tossed her electronic chart to the floor in exasperation. I winced as the piece of technology bounced once before settling on the carpet. Pion spoke quickly without looking up. “According to this -as Cherise Robins writes- Temps Robins is in perfect health. The Med Band is noted as a form to control his ‘violent disposition’ and that a simple sedative is in use to control his outbursts. But,” she shoved her hand through her hair, dislodging the pig-tails. “Some of the things she says don’t add up. It’s like she wants me to believe that two plus two makes twelve and not four. According to her logs, she’s seen her brother almost once a day, if not more. The reasons or injuries are not mentioned specifically, the Red only states that he is now prone to accidents because of the drug since it has ’caused his sense of balance to decline.’” Pion’s bright blue eyes were troubled when they finally rose to meet mine. “If I hadn’t seen how he moved with my own eyes, I would have believed this chart. But now nothing seems to fit. A proper Red would have noted something about his joints to explain the awkwardness. A deeper explanation of the reason for the sedative and a detailed note of what was in the sedative are missing too.”

I set my book on my desk and studied her for a moment, then said what I knew she didn’t want to say. “You think she’s got his real chart hidden away and this is just to appease curious Reds.”

Her silence confirmed my statement. I knew little of the Medics and how they worked, so I assumed Pion knew what she was talking about. “What can we do about it?”

“The only thing we have left that might shed some light in this dour situation is the blood sample I got from him. We need it tested. Once we get that back, I can tell you if something is foul in this game that the Robins’ are playing.”

“Until then, we wait.” I forced myself to take a bit of a sandwich. It stuck in my throat when I found it hard to swallow. What could the BW have possibly done to warrant such dishonesty?

 

After pulling some favors, Pion had the blood test back in two days. The lab techs are sure to get fat on all the sweets she had Jerome make them. They had really liked the chocolate covered donuts he’d made. They wanted to know if Pion needed any more favors before she was out the door with our results.

We settled into my study again, this time fending off the curiosity of Francene, my Creator, as well as Damion the Envio, Jerome, and Haler. Francene was still trying to get me to agree to join her in a romantic setting. I wasn’t biting, so she convinced herself that I needed saving from my new obsession. Damion, on the other hand, had heard from Jerome that I was not eating. It seemed the two of them were bent on making me a fat man with how much they wanted me to eat.

Work had seemed to take forever after Pion called to tell me the lab guys had told her they were done. I was far too apprehensive to even sit down for dinner, which had brought the situation to Jerome’s attention again. Thus the attention of the others when our resident mother hen started clucking. We shooed them away again and ate as Pion read the report over.

I plugged into the system again to see if I could track some of Cherise Robins’ actions. I noted her common route of living in the Red dorms to working in the CMC. She didn’t seem to have a favorite place to eat or have anyone to spend time with. The only contact with her parents that she got was when they consulted her on a matter involving her younger brother’s health. Before I hacked into her personal files, I felt a tapping on my shoulder.

I returned to my body and pulled the plug from the base of my skull. I met Pion’s troubled gaze and felt my stomach drop to my feet. “Find something?”

Her lips thinned and deepened into a frown. “I believe I have, but I really hope I’m wrong.”

“What is it?”

She flipped her chart around for me to look and highlighted some chemical names. “When they are separated, these don’t do much harm. Put them together and it’s not pretty, they can fuck a person up bad.”

“How?” What the hell had we gotten into?

“Mind control.”

“What!” I jolted upright. “I thought that was unconfirmed? They, the Govs, were supposed to put a stop to those experiments… right?”

“It’s still experimental, that’s true at least,” she conceded. “And there’s more.”

“What’s the ‘more’? Or do I really want to know?” I mumbled the last part and Pion ignored it.

“It’s been mixed with a highly addictive element,” she flicked the chart. “As in, three or so hits and you’re stuck for life.”

I sat back and regarded at Pion over my desk. The screen shimmered between us, giving me an idea. “Can you make a counter agent? Something that could get between Temps Robins’ mind and the mind controlling agent?”

“I can’t, but Lucille should be able to. She’s been asking to help out with the Reboot for a while now.”

“Good, I want you there with her though. I trust you to do this right.”

Pion gathered her things with a sigh. “Why are we risking so much to help this kid? You’ve realized by now that he’s the son of the BW Directors, right? We shouldn’t be meddling in their affairs, selfish curiosity or no.”

I met her eyes with as much honesty as I could muster, harder said than done. “He’s much more important than some stupid politics. I want to at least get the chance to talk to him before too long.” I said.

Pion left me to my own thoughts after a quick goodnight. I stayed in my chair, lost in thought till the sun was threatening to rise. It was Cherise Robins that knew something, I was sure of it. It showed in her manner. Her every motion was embedded in my mind for constant review. She knew exactly what was going on, or she was behind it. The idea that his own family had allowed this to happen to him appalled me. And if they were not going to take action to care for him properly, I would.

A while later, I started at the sound of light knocking. My neck was sore and I scrubbed a bit of drool from my chin. I grumbled at the circle of moisture that had passed through my shirt and was making my skin cold. I looked to the door at the second knock and found Ward in the doorway. His warm, brown eyes and gray hair was immaculate as ever.

“Yes, Ward?” As my Policer, he had been in my little family just over two years, and came in handy. He was my little watch dog that could still get inside intel from the Govs that he could share.

“Ah…Éttienne, do you want a ride to work?” I saw him sweep his gaze over my room. He took in my plate of untouched food, the book lying open on my desk. I sure he noted the small fact that I hadn’t changed from my clothing from the day before. However, it was polite of him to not say anything about the state he had found me in.

“I don’t think I will need one today, Ward. Thank you for asking. I’m a little tired.”

He stiffened and turned his critical eyes on me, refusing to look too long on the drool on my shirt. “Why? What’s wrong?” he demanded.

“Well,” I tried to work my neck muscle cramp out. “I seem to have taken an interest in a BW and I’m hoping I can help him out of a tight spot he’s in.”

“You? Helping someone? Really?” He seemed genuinely surprised at my statement. “A BW, too? What has Jerome been feeding you?”

I rolled my eyes. “Nothing of note, and my reasons are private, Ward.”

He grinned. “What’s the lad’s name?”

“Temps Robins.”

For an instant Ward looked as if I had slammed his head into a cement wall. He blinked and the grin vanished; it was replaced by a superficial mask of a smile. It wavered as he groped for some response.

“You know the kid?” I prodded.

“Ah. Yeah. I told you I was BW before I was a Gray, right? Robins is a famous freak on the Complex.”

Work totally forgotten, I beckoned him to sit with me. “What do you mean? Tell me what you know of him.” Anything at all that I could learn about Robins was worth dealing with Ward’s prickly mood.

Ward stayed standing and looked pained as he remembered his past. “He’s the Directors’ kid, their little star that could do no wrong,” he responded bitterly. “That changed when he took the life of a fellow student when he was thirteen. And even though he had proved himself a danger to the Complex and Sinclair, if he got out of hand, his parents could somehow condone his actions. He’s a killer, Éttienne, and you’d best avoid him.”

I heard the sincerity in Ward’s words, but I couldn’t believe it. Something still didn’t settle right with that summary. Out of the blue the kid decided to kill someone? Not likely. I would have bet a week’s labor on the fact that there was something that happened that forced him to kill. I couldn’t believe that Robins would do that. When we had met, I saw something hidden in the depths of his silver gaze. It was dark, but not malicious. Desperate, but nowhere near dangerous. If he was hurting people, I was pretty damn sure there was a good reason, and he was damn sure to be hurting too.

Did I trust the word of my family? Or did I trust myself?

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