Her brother was back, her brother was back, her brother was back.
Naomi smiled and grabbed her brother's arm as they walked down the hallway, "What do you think?"
"You all have put a lot of work into this," Joseph said and looked around with awe, it used to be practically condemned."
"Your room is probably the smallest one," she told him, "Everyone rushed to pick their rooms, they fought over which ones were in the better shape. I had to fight to keep you from getting the drafty attic."
Joseph frowned, "I take it that not a lot of the group was happy with my leaving."
"You're lucky they didn't put your room in the flooded basement."
"How angry are they at me?"
"Very," Naomi said and was quiet for a few seconds, "I think that when the excitement wears down that you're back, it'll probably be harder for you. You were the leader and you left, just like David did. And you didn't even tell anyone, you just left for a month and a half and none of us knew where you were or if you were even alive. I'm not sure if you're aware of this but a lot of people do care about you. You're going to have to do a lot of making up for what you did. Everyone looked up to you because you were supposed to be more responsible and more reliable than David was. And the reason David left was because he honestly thought the Guardians were set to kill him. You didn't have a reason other than you were angry about mom."
"Is that why they're angry at me?" he demanded, "Or is it because you're angry?"
He'd hit the nail right on the head. Everyone else was angry with him because their best fighter or their friend or their transportation was gone. Naomi was angry at him for a little more of a shared reason.
"She's my mom too," Naomi reminded him, "And I don't know what you were planning to do, but it wasn't right that you were going to do it without bringing me along or letting anyone else know. We're supposed to be a team, do you remember that? Do you remember what happened to me when I got on my own with no contact or anyone to help? And you walked right into Starkson's headquarters, Joseph. You know part of the last fight we had was because I went with him and then there you are chatting him up over what's going to happen."
"Because I wanted information. Meanwhile he told you something that could've been a lie and you went with him. It's different between me and you."
"Oh is it?"
"Yeah, he wants you; he couldn't care less about me."
"Well guess what Joseph; believe it or not you're just as important to this team as everyone else is. You're supposed to be the leader, you're supposed to be the emotional stronghold because you've been through it all and you survived. I mean, you can't go off half-cocked and disappear for months. This isn't like you Joseph, it goes against everything that you were saying when it came to David and then you go and do the same."
"You know what; maybe I'm tired of drowning in this little problem we've found ourselves in. Did you think about that? We got the Guardians wanting us, Bernard wanting to kill us to get to you, and now we may have the Government on our tail. And not only that, but we're looking for a scientist whose hiding who created us and the only lead we have is a clone who doesn't like humans. Did I leave anything out? Our lives suck and I'm tired of having to sit around trying to find information that I know is probably falsified by the Guardians and having to wait and react to everything that happens to us. You're right, I am a leader. And a leader makes sure that nothing bad happens to their team members and they form a plan. And that's what I'm doing. You're going to have to trust me this time Naomi. I need to get everything set into place before-"
'Before what?" Naomi asked, but from the panicked look on her face she had already guessed.
He took a breath and tried to calm himself, "Starkson told me that I'm the first one to die. I need to get you ready."
Her eyes widened and a tear unexpectedly slipped down her face, "Well then he lied."
"He doesn't lie when it comes to you. You told me that."
She drew in a breath, "And what else did he tell you?"
Joseph knew this would be his one chance to tell her the truth. About how Starkson was her son who was somehow raised to come back and create the Guardians and distribute the serum that would make them what they are. He wanted to explain to her that this was why Starkson was always incredibly respectful and courteous toward her when he wasn't kidnapping her or having her tortured. It wasn't just because he thought she was the one person to defeat Bernard Harving. It was because he wanted to get to know his mother.
But he couldn't tell her; the very thought sickened him. If he told her that the son that she would probably have dreams and aspirations for one day would turn out to be what…Starkson was, it'd kill her. He'd been right, their lives sucked, but for right now it was a…content life in its own way. If he told her that Starkson was the son that she'd one day have then it'd push her right over the edge. There was no way she could recover from something like that
And when she found out that he knew this and didn't tell her then she would hate him. And she would have every right to because she told him about their mother as soon as she found out. He'd look like a hypocrite but he didn't care. This was his sister and no matter how old she got, it was his job to protect her.
"He told me that you and David would get married someday," Joseph told her. It wasn't a lie, Starkson had said that, "And he said that you will be happy."
She gave a sad laugh and shook her head, "I wish you trusted me as much as I trust you."
"That's what the man said," Joseph said defensively.
"Don't take me for an idiot," Naomi said, "You know; I thought we were closer than this. I thought things were supposed to be different than what they were before but you're still running off and hiding things from people. You better be careful because you and David are starting to look a lot alike."
She turned and stormed to her room and Joseph turned on his heel, took a step and teleported right into the motel room that he'd just teleported into. It was dark with the exception of a small lamp that hardly lit up the room.
"And how did it go?"
Joseph sighed, "Fine. I'm back home now but I was able to get in with Starkson."
He turned and nodded to Frederic, who was sitting in the chair that he'd occupied for the better of two weeks.
"And what was the price of getting the information that we need?"
Joseph sat next to him and ran his hands through his hair, "They want Naomi's cooperation."
Frederic scoffed, "Good luck with that."
"I didn't give it to them," Joseph stared ahead as the information that he'd digested over the past few hours sunk in, "Why didn't you tell me that I died first? You were there in the future, you told me that David said everyone died, but you didn't tell me that I died first."
"It's not something that you want to tell your son when you're finally making amends with him," Frederic said.
"That's a good point;" he said tiredly. He really hadn't wanted to make amends with his father, especially after what happened to Jane. But Frederic had answers and he wasn't as secretive about what he knew as Starkson and the price was a lot lower, "Most of it was for naught though. Starkson doesn't have mom, Harving does."
Frederic sat up with a start, "What?"
"Yeah, I need to pull you back into the group as soon as possible if we're going to get her back. Things are going to have to speed up a bit. I can't juggle you, them, and the Guardians. So, you're going to be making an entrance soon. Try to stay away from Jane; she's still a little sore over Kyrie stabbing her in the back while you were shooting it."
"How soon will you bring me in?"
"Probably about two days. Maybe a bit longer if they start acting aggressive towards the fact that I left."
"Wonderful," Frederic muttered, "Anything else that I might want to know?"
Joseph didn't say anything at first. He had to tell this secret to someone, "Naomi doesn't know this yet, none of them do. But I have figured out who her son is."
Joseph sighed, "Starkson."
"Oh," Frederic said and then looked ahead as well. Behind his emotionless face, Joseph could see anger in his eyes, "Starkson, "That's not what I expected to hear."
"No," Joseph said, "And it's going to haunt my dreams for the rest of my life."
"So what do you want to do now?" Frederic asked.
Joseph was silent again. He was hoping that his father could tell him but that didn't seem like it was going to happen. They had had a good solid plan and now that was all destroyed. Joseph put on a big game but he knew that he couldn't kill his sister's son. Especially if he knew full well who he was. Naomi may end up hating Starkson with everything she had but she would never forgive Joseph if he did that
"I'll think about it tomorrow," Joseph said and stood, "Right now I'm going home to get some sleep. Try not to call me; they're going to be screening that sort of thing. I'll call you when I think or hear of something."
Frederic watched while Joseph teleported out and as soon he was gone, Frederic kicked the coffee table over angrily and ran a hand through is hair.
Starkson was Naomi's son. He had a part to play in that. HE would never forgive himself and she would never forgive him.
He could never forgive himself.
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Miriam opened her eyes to find herself in the familiar surroundings of the bare dank room that she'd been sitting in for the past…how had it been since she'd been brought here? She'd lost track of time after what she was guessing was the third day. She didn't know what time it was since there was no window. What would've been the point of that anyway since it could be an illusion?
She was shaking, so it must've been cold but it felt like her body went numb days ago. The chains that had chafed all the skin off her wrists shook slightly as the reality of her situation hit her once again.
She was probably going to die here.
Every time she woke up from her drug addled sleep, she weighed her options. She was growing weaker as time passed. Whatever Bernard was injecting in her to keep her hydrated and alive wasn't working anymore. She'd lost so much weight and she could really do with some sort of sip of water.
He hadn't physically abused her…as far as she knew. Most of it was emotional and mental torture. He'd give her an illusion that was so real that she was certain it was. Maybe she was with her husband or with her children and she believed it. He was good at his ability. He knew how to read her in order to show her whatever she needed to see. Only to rip it savagely away and leave her for hours in this cold dark dank room.
The door opened and Bernard Harving strolled in with a water bottle, "Feeling chatty today, Miriam?"
There was such warmth in his voice that sounded like they were old friends. She shivered at the thought and lowered her head, hoping that he'd think she was asleep.
He grabbed her by the back of her hair and forced her to look up at him. In his other hand was the water bottle. He held it up so that she could see it, "Where is she?"
She was so thirsty. It would be better to just refuse to tell him and die that way but she knew he'd probably force her to drink enough to keep her alive, but not enough to quench that thirst completely, "I don't know."
Bernard dropped the bottle just out of her reach and she couldn't help it when a strangled sob escaped her lips.
He smirked at her sob, "I wish you could get it through your mind that I don't want to hurt your daughter."
"You've done a great job convincing me you're harmless," she spat.
He pulled up a chair and sat in front of her, "I have the opportunity to change the world as I see fit. I have the chance to make it into something better than what it is. War, hatred, overpopulation…it's all gone wrong. People have destroyed what humanity it supposed to be. Guardians have applied that destruction to a whole new level. And Naomi is in danger of being destroyed thanks to the Guardians and the role they're forcing her in. But with me she'd be…practically royalty when I'm done dealing with some of the problems of the world," his eyes darkened, "…she's going to join me anyway, I think we should just cut to the chase and you tell me where she is."
Miriam shook her head, "She's never going to join you."
"You'd be surprised what people can do with just the right push. Your daughter, thanks to you and your husband in a sense is mentally and emotionally weak. I'll bet it takes less time to break her than it has you. At any rate, she'd be safer with me than the group she's with right now. Starkson and company have made off with her how many times now? I guarantee you that Neanderthal brother of hers is going to get her hurt more than she already is right now. I wouldn't allow that to happen."
"You'd destroy who she is."
"I'd help her reach her full potential."
"Everything you touch becomes tainted," Miriam spat, "You're following a fantasy. Naomi wouldn't join you. Not after what you'd end up doing to me after I told you where she was. Not after what you're going to do to her loved ones."
His piercing green eyes darkened and she saw the insane man that she knew Bernard Harving was briefly showed. He was starting to get desperate and it was only a matter of time before he snapped completely.
"Well," he said, the faux warmth returned to his voice and he smiled "It appears I need a new tactic to get what I want out of you."
He picked up the water bottle, unscrewed the top and let the water pour out and hit the ground. She felt some of the water hit her leg and she closed her eyes.
"I think you can survive without water for another day," he sad and dropped the bottle on the ground.