Author's Note: Chapter One has been rewritten. Unfamiliar words used in this parallel universe will be explained at the end.
"It sounds like you're sweet on Emily," said Elsa smiling.
"I cannot stop thinking about her even now. I knew how to put Thea in a better mood last night – by listening to her lecturing me on her coin collection. But while I seemed to attend to the value of an Electrum Lucky compared to a Platinum Plate, I was really thinking about the lovely hybrid. The delicate shape of her nose, those exceptionally fine cheekbones, those Smaragdisch lips…" he flushed. Elsa looked amused. "Well I will interview her again this evening," he said firmly.
The VP in the corner began to blare out a news byte about a jewel heist at Hampshire House. Evidently the Duke of Hampshire had lost some diamonds. Thea was interested in jewellery as well. This news byte would get her attention. Leo wondered what his wife would make of the jewel bright Emily.
The next interview took place in the laboratory once again. The Raumschnecken crowded up to the crystal pane once more as soon as Emily came in.
"I would really like to learn more about them," she purred, gesturing at the creatures pressing up to the pane.
"I can teach you," said Leo importantly, "they are part of my research. But first, the interview…"
Leo began with a question that he had long considered very relevant to the hybrids:
"How have your origins affected your sense of identity?"
Emily's dark eyes widened. "They have everything to do with my identity," she said, "you know of the old scandal already. How Genutec – that horrible research facility in the twentieth century – also set up the Maximum Fertility Clinic. And yet the clinic was a fraud. All their donor sperm came from a single source. A being created from scratch in a lab. A being they codenamed the Seeder. My father." Her husky voice quivered slightly. From a pocket in her nurse uniform she removed a tiny cube. A holocube. She placed it on the table before Leo. "I keep an image of him close to my heart at all times," she whispered. "You can see what my feelings are."
Leo picked up the cube and switched it on. Immediately it glowed with a beautiful jade green light and an image coalesced on the table top. It was that of a youth, bright vivid green from head to toe and with a perfectly formed face. So this must have been an old news broadcast from the twentieth century remastered to be playable on a holocube. The holocubes were a twenty-first century invention.
"There is my father," breathed Emily. Leo could see a resemblance between them, especially with the shape of their cheekbones. The green creature spoke and his voice had the same husky quality as Emily's. "I am the DAX. That is, 'DNA Alteration Experiment.' I am a GEM. That is, a Genetically Engineered Man and designed to be the first of a pair of opposites - the Existence Emeralds. Genutec have code named me the Seeder because, because…" here the green creature stroked his cheek and looked apprehensive. "All their donor sperm actually came from me. And I was created in a lab and artificially grown in the belly of a machine. I cannot atone for the damage Genutec has done to so many families. I can only offer the truth. Krystal, that is, the Southern Star's top detective reporter erm… rescued me from Genutec's underground complex. Genutec have a bizarre and terrible scheme. I am the life of their scheme. My purpose has always been to bring life. But I know that they intend to create my opposite. The second in the set of Existence Emeralds. A fiend who personifies death…" The image flickered and went out.
Emily gazed at Leo expectantly. Did she want him to ask another question? Leo decided she must want him to give his thoughts on that broadcast clip. "Genutec broke the law, experimenting with human DNA," he said, "the law has never changed. How does it make you feel to have enhanced human DNA?" He had often wondered this. The hybrids were in a unique position. They had inherited the Seeder's genetic immunity to delta radiation – radiation that behaved like a sickness. He secretly thought that the law should be more flexible. Think of what could be discovered if proper research could be done on the human genetic blueprint.
"I and Genutec's other creations were a cornerstone in history," Emily murmured, a faraway look in her eyes. "There's a lot of archived news about it."
Leo picked up the holocube again and fumbled with it. He was particularly interested in how the Seeder was the first ever being to be immune to delta radiation. Sure enough, a menu flickered into view entitled 'Delta Radiation Immunity – Historical Precedent.' He selected it. He became aware of Emily's dark eyes fixed upon him again. Was her expression anxious?
The holocube issued forth a glaring light. Emily gave a start and shrank back in her seat as the glare suffused the little table and the image of a vividly green, musclebound giant took shape. His lips were drawn back to their fullest extent, revealing rows of teeth like pointed gravestones. His wicked black eyes seem to glow from within with a crimson fire.
"The Reaper! Genutec's last creation. The fiend that was the opposite of the Seeder!" Said Leo. "So this is that broadcast he splashed onto all the networks."
Emily gave a curious squeaky, scratchy noise, her dark eyes wide and she shook her head, but at that moment, the Reaper began to speak. His awful grinding voice seemed to reverberate in Leo's skull.
"Tremble in fear, all you swine watching and do not bother to adjust your sets, for I am on all the networks," grated the Reaper, "I am Genutec's last creation and the only true great one. I am so much more than my creators. I have brought death to them to punish their presumption and that is only the beginning." The monster held up a model globe. "I will bring death to all of humanity. Starting with the primitive brutes of the Africas. I will fire Genutec's delta weapon on the continent and they have no military defence. Let it be yet another plague for them. And let it be a demonstration of what the whole of humanity deserves! To the grotesque Seeder – if you are watching this - I am going to come for you and for your hybrid spawn as well. Death is pure! Death is perfect! Death is the solution!"
At this point Emily burst into tears and the light from the holocube went out and the evil voice of the Reaper faded away.
Leo's heart sank. Clearly the broadcast had upset her. How could he have been so stupid as to let it? He hastily got to his feet and then took her in his arms. She hugged him back, sobbing onto his shoulder, her tears soaking his collar and her silky hair brushing his cheek. Her firm breasts were mashed into his chest. His body reacted to her touch once more.
"That monster took my father from us… you know the rest of the story…" said Emily between sobs.
"Yes, it was the Seeder who went and stopped his horrible scheme," said Leo, hugging her to him. "Your father turned out to be a hero. He was immune to delta radiation so he could infiltrate the Genutec complex, even though the Reaper had flooded it with delta radiation."
Emily clutched him tighter and taking her head from his shoulder, put her face close to his. She was extremely beautiful, even though she had been crying. The whites of her eyes looked faintly green tinged. Of course, she had green blood… He could smell the sweetness on her breath of some confectionary she had lately eaten.
"I am proud of my father, but the horrible Genutec people didn't just create me, they created the abomination. The Reaper," she growled. "Who wants a connection with such a horror? And the monster is dead, so I can't get even. I don't think I can deal with this any longer. I need someone wise to help me through it. Someone as wise, kind and beautiful as you. If anyone could help me find out more about myself and come to terms with it, it's you."
Leo's felt a warm glow at those words and it was as though his heart melted within him, leaving him all gooey inside. How could he refuse? She was so charming and clearly so astute if she could recognise a good man when she met one.
"We can work together," he said, "I do in fact have connections. I know who the journalist is. The one who took the Seeder from Genutec's old complex."
Emily hugged him again and rubbed her smooth cheek against his. He felt his manhood rise. Well he could not deny that he dreamed of working alongside someone like her…
At that moment, the Cobra, a notorious jewel thief had just carried out the heist of the Duke of Hampshire's diamonds and was now hiding underground, literally, in the network of sewers beneath the city. On the crumbling stone banks of the rushing sewer water, a heavy wooden door was set into the slime encrusted walls. The Cobra pushed the door aside and entered an old, winding passage, the way lit by special glowstones set into the walls. Eventually he entered a roughly hewn stone chamber. His fortified retreat. No human could intrude here.
But he was not alone. There was the sound of a harsh, rattling breath from the corner where a shadow stirred. The Cobra raised his photon gun. "I warn you, I'm armed." He said, his voice steady.
There was a shape in the dark corner of the chamber concealed by a heap of fabric. It spoke, its voice a hoarse, rasping sound, as though the speaker had suffered some horrendous injury, "I am also hiding from the buffoonish law enforcers. I have evaded them for eighteen years. I appreciate sharing your hideout, but you have something else I want even more."
"You are not getting any of my diamonds," said the Cobra tersely.
"Not your diamonds," rasped the shadowy form. And then it cast aside its wrappings, revealing its terrible, true self. The Cobra scarcely had time to cry out in shock before the horror tore him limb from limb, strewing steaming viscera about the stone chamber.
"Not your diamonds, but your heart," hissed the fiend. "I can make good use of yours in rebuilding my physical form. I am the Reaper and I have returned to bring death to the world."
Smaragdisch = a green genetically engineered fruit, like an emerald green cherry.
VP = Virtual Projection, like a 3D TV.