As soon as they got back to Abbie's apartment, Nate went into the living area and grabbed the only bag he'd brought, a tidy messenger bag. He flopped down on the couch and started rifling through it.
Abbie watched in amazement. "Well, aren't you a man on a mission." She scoffed.
"There we go." Nate announced, avoiding his sister's comment. Instead, he pulled out a folder, one of many as far as Abbie could tell. The one in question was a simple purple pocket folder, the kind you grab off a clearance rack. The contents, however, were far from ordinary.
"What are these?" Abbie asked, pulling out a clump of papers, paper-clipped together, along with a photo. "Medical records?"
"In a sense." Nate answered. "Go ahead and look it over. It's bestseller material."
Abbie didn't respond; instead, she did as was suggested. Sure enough, the file contained the rather unusual medical history of a girl named Alexis. If the recorded birthday was accurate, she'd be about 6. In the picture, she couldn't have been more than 3. Besides her basic stats, there were almost a dozen pages of medical notes, each accompanied with a date and a signature. They were so detailed, like mini-physicals. There was a blurb for every sniffle, or so it seemed.
"Nate…" Abbie started, but Nate suddenly launched into a full explanation, one worthy of a tenured genetics professor.
"The one you've got there is the youngest girl. Here's her brother." The file he shot across the coffee table was for a boy named Matthew. He and Alexis shared more than a birthday; they had the same blond hair and the same striking blue eyes. Their health had been much the same as well.
"If they were trying to create the perfect human, I'd say they were pretty close to their mark." Abbie mused.
"Yeah, only after them." Nate corrected, gesturing to four other folders. He picked two of them up and leafed through them. "The year we turned three, they tried again."
Abbie caught glimpses of the photos. They showed a teenage boy and a teenage girl, both brunette with brown eyes.
"This is Julia and Cole." Nate continued, handing his sister the photos.
Julia was gorgeous, even though it was obvious that she wasn't trying. Cole was handsome as well, only something was off. His eyes were shielded by dark glasses, slim frames that formed a seamless bar across his face.
"What happened?" Abbie asked, not able to take her eyes away from the picture.
"Something went wrong during development. Cole here was born blind in both eyes." Nate explained. "So, the scientists did some tweaking, and they got these two."
Emily and Jake looked like slightly younger versions of their predecessors, save the fact that Jake's eyes were unshielded, displaying their full poignant green.
"Looks like they hit the nail on the head. Why try again?" Abbie wondered.
"They probably wanted to make sure they could duplicate it." Nate blew through the last explanation, obviously eager to move on to the next stage of his so-called "brilliant" plan. Abbie could see this coming and stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Nate, I am horrified that this was going on behind closed doors and there were people who knew about it and did nothing. You know that, right?" She stood up as she spoke, walking into the "kitchen".
"Abbie, what are you saying?" Nate sounded like a scorned lover, so hurt and confused. Abbie knew what he was feeling. She was confused, too, very confused. Confused about what to feel and what to think. It was all coming too fast, and she felt like each new piece of information was a wave, knocking her down again and again. Still, as soon as she got knocked down, Nate would say something that would bring her gasping to the surface. "Confused" was actually putting her feelings mildly.
"I'm saying," Abbie spoke slowly. "that…" Suddenly she was scrounging for words.
"What?" Nate prodded.
Abbie breathed out hard and fast. "I'm saying that we're two people against an entire organization. It's us against the world. We'd have to be more than perfect to pull this off."
She pushed past Nate and started to walk out the door before he spoke up.
Abbie paused at the door, her hand brushing against the knob as it fell to her side.
"What makes you say that?" she asked, hooking her hair behind her ear absentmindedly.
"Your face." Nate replied. "The way you talk." He camp up and put his hands on her shoulder. "It's okay to be freaked. I didn't want to believe it either."
"So, why do you?" Abbie shot back. "Why do you want to ruin everything we have? What could be so important?"
Now she turned to face him, one park of dark eyes looking into another. Nate pulled her closer, and she laid her head on his chest.
"I have to know, Abs." he whispered in her ear. "I just have to know."