Authors: Karen Luellen
The Metahumans Emerge
Book 1 of The Winter’s Saga
Winter’s Awakening: The Metahumans Emerge
By Karen Luellen
Copyright 2011 Karen Luellen
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, or people, living or dead, is coincidental.
My best friend and husband, Dan
our children Kathryn, Connor, John and Caiden
“… whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
“Be at peace. Keep your eyes and your heart to heaven. We’re walking right beside you.” ~The Angels’ Song
(12 years ago)
Location: The Institute of Neurobiological Studies
The little girl was crying even before the door opened. Huge droplets streamed down her plump cheeks. Large dark eyes widened as the man in the white coat entered the room. She looked so small, so helpless.
Dr. Margo Pullman stood looking into the girl’s room through a one-way mirror. Everything in the room looked staged, out of place and plastic, like a bad set-up for a play. It was supposed to look like a little girl’s bedroom, but they couldn’t mask the true intent—it was a laboratory.
The floor was plastic and dipped slightly toward the center where there was a drain like the kind found at the bottom of a shower. The walls were bleached white and bare. Built-in green countertops had a series of electric outlets across the backsplash.
But that wasn’t the worst thing about this room. The worst part was the bed. Straps were obviously positioned at the head and feet. Straps on a child’s bed! Why would they need to tie her down? Oh dear God, what were they doing to this little girl?
The look in the little girl’s dark eyes was tragic. She was terrified but too exhausted to care and the combination came across to Margo as clearly as if she had spoken the words. “Just get it over with. Kill me quickly so I can feel peace.”
The child knew there was no escape. Margo’s heart broke for her, and she ached with a pain she’d never felt. This little girl was past hope.
Even as the child cringed into a fetal position and let out one anguished sob, a man in a white lab coat was poised over her with a syringe behind his back.
Margo couldn’t watch anymore, but she knew Dr. Williams was measuring her for a reaction, so the young doctor pretended to study the sign below the one-way mirror.
This little girl was called “Case M57” according to the sign. “M” indicated her class: Metahuman. She wasn’t four years old yet and she had been a test subject since she was an infant.
Margo’s stomach churned. This was just a baby. What had they done to her?
All Margo wanted to do when she became a doctor was help people. She focused on research in her studies. She felt compelled to help in the development of a cure for neuroscience disorders like autism. Everything she had done was theory until two years ago when she was hired as a researcher in the pathology lab here at The Institute of Neurobiological Studies (otherwise known as “The Institute”).
Margo worked herself to exhaustion in her quest to find answers that would someday bring hope to those who lived with autism. The closer she felt to a cure, the harder she would push herself. She got noticed by the company’s chief executive officer, Dr. Kenneth Williams, for her “drive and ambition.”
Margo was given a promotion and assigned to the company’s pet-project. It was categorized “Top Secret” so she had no idea what she was getting into when she naively agreed to the assignment.
Now, here Dr. Pullman was, staring at one of several “case studies” that would be part of her new work, and she felt like she was going to throw up. Her stomach churned loudly as her tour guide, Dr. Williams, continued his sales pitch.
“And in this room you’ll see the ongoing study of the effects on a two-year-old male subject.” Margo was afraid to look. Truly afraid. But she also couldn’t stop herself. What would this little boy be like after two years of “treatments?”
Her eyes scanned the room. At first, she didn’t see him. Then she saw the lumpy bundle under the bed. He was hiding, or sleeping, or both.
As Dr. Williams continued sharing information about “Case M61,” Margo had to look away and concentrate on her breathing so she wouldn’t let her panic attack show.
“And last, but not least, here is our newest addition to the test subjects. Case M74 is a one-week-old male. We acquired him in a similar fashion as the other subjects. What started as an unwanted pregnancy now has a purpose.” The doctor’s voice took on a strange tenor as though he’d switched to preacher-mode and went on to add, “Now his life will be put to use as we perfect our work in him. He was just given the most advanced version of the formula an hour ago.”
Dr. Margo Pullman couldn’t stop staring at the tiny baby lying all alone in his industrial-looking metal crib. The company hadn’t even gotten around to setting up the room to look like a nursery. It had the same design as the other two, plastic floors with a drain in the center.
But this room looked even more heartbreaking with dusty cardboard boxes shoved against the opposite wall labeled “Archives Case M1 through 24.”
The baby was crying so hard, his lips quivered with the effort. His tiny arms were in the open, startled position. Every ounce of Margo’s humanity screamed in pain for that innocent baby. She wanted to reach in there and steal him away.
“The subjects we treat here are expendable in the grand scheme of things. We’ve lost dozens already and these three cases are no more likely to survive, but their lives will have saved millions. The Infinite Project was named because the possibilities are just that, infinite!”
Margo tried desperately to contain her rage as she realized all the years of effort she spent thinking she would be helping children. Instead, she was part of a machine that was torturing and killing them!
That’s when she snapped.
Chapter 1 Meet the Winter Family
The three of us shuffled around the kitchen yawning, half asleep as we gathered the fixings for breakfast. We’re obviously practiced at this task. Alik grabs the milk and pours just enough into the bowl of eggs I’m stirring with a whisk and Evan sets a pat of butter into the pan as it gets hot. Yummy breakfast smells filled the air.
A soft whimper came from under the kitchen table. Apparently, Maze wanted us to be quieter as he finished his beauty sleep. Silly animal.
I’m Meg, the oldest at fifteen. Fixing breakfast for the family is our usual chore. That’s why we’re all so automatic about it. We can almost do this in our sleep. Almost.
I grabbed a spatula from the drawer and began stirring pieces of ham into the sizzling pan. I’m sure I looked a mess standing there in my fuzzy pajamas with my dark, curly hair in a knot at the back of my head, but I really didn’t care. Who was I trying to impress?
We were homeschooled and the nearest neighbors lived twenty-five miles away. I loved living on the ranch, but lately it was starting to feel a little stifling. Okay, a lot stifling.
Slumped in his seat at the kitchen table was my younger brother Alik. At fourteen, he was the middle child who had an easygoing way about him. Alik stood at least six feet tall and naturally carried a lot of muscle mass so he outweighed me by sixty pounds. Next to his size, it was his crisp blue eyes that were his most striking feature. Not that I could see his eyes this morning. Apparently, he was looking for cracks in his lids. The poor kid was exhausted.
Evan, the youngest in the family at twelve, was setting the table with drinks for everyone. He is my height, about 5’6” and growing fast. His sandy blonde hair hung into honey-colored eyes. I was more than capable of cutting his hair, but it was a rare day that he’d hold still long enough for me to trust myself with scissors around him.
Evan was very well read. That kid has read every book in mom’s huge home library. Come to think of it, he’s probably read half the books twice just out of boredom. And here I think I’m feeling cooped up on the ranch. Poor Evan was itching to devour more knowledge but there just wasn’t anything left for him to learn inside these walls. Mom couldn’t bring home enough books to satisfy him.
A quick glance at Evan’s concentration as he filled each cup with the same amount of orange juice had me shaking my head in wonder. I remember him as a baby and even then he seemed so much older than he was.
What will he do when he grows up? Maybe he’ll be some kind of engineer. His brain seems to understand how things work. He can build anything. He can take things apart, use pieces of various things and put them together to make other things. He’s amazing.
And Alik? He has an awe-inspiring photographic memory. He’s agile and quick, too. I suppose he could do about anything with those skills. For some reason, he was really interested in law. Specifically, law enforcement. He would make a great investigator or detective.
As for me, I have to get out of here soon, but it’s a little scary. Mom has always been super protective of us. We live in a bubble, and I’m not exaggerating. We don’t own a television or a radio. We only listen to mom’s old records. So we’ve grown up listening to Elvis, Neil Diamond, The Bee Gee and ABBA. We get no mail, newspapers or magazines. Like I mentioned before, mom has a huge library of books for us to read and she does homeschool us so we’re all really good at history, math and literature.
Personally, I’d just like to eat at a restaurant and go shop at a department store. Sounds like a simple dream, but what can I say, I’m a simple girl.
Mom flew into the kitchen all smiles and full of good morning kisses for everyone. It never ceased to amaze me how she could wake so chipper every morning, no matter how little sleep she got the night before.
“How are my handsome babies this morning?” she nearly sang to her sleepy crew as she poured herself a cup of coffee. Maze came out from under the table and sat patiently waiting for a rub between the ears. He’s so predictable.
“How can you be so awake, Mom? You must have stayed up half the night working on that speech.” Alik echoed my thoughts exactly.
“I’m too excited to be sleepy. You know how long I’ve been working on this project. To be able to share my results with the scientific community is a dream come true!”
She had worked hard. We’ve been watching her, helping when we could. But most of the time we just tried to be quiet and let her work in her lab at the back of the house. This morning she was positively bubbling.
“Okay, so here’s the plan,” mom began a play-by-play of the next two days for the umpteenth time. “I’ll leave here in twenty minutes and drive the four and a half hours to the DFW airport to catch my 1:47 flight to Los Angeles. I’ll call to let you know I landed safely at 7pm your time. My conference begins with that big boring dinner at 7pm Pacific Standard Time, that will be 9pm your time. I won’t call afterward because it will be too late and you had better be sound asleep.” She said all this without taking a breath while adding to her ever-growing list of chores we were to accomplish in her absence.