The car-ride from the hospital was silent. Both Evan and Julian felt partly responsible for Sarah’s death and their grief brought a sense of shame with it. They didn’t really know what to say to each other. Even though he’d promised Julian some answers to the reasons behind the kidnapping, Evan didn’t breathe a word while Julian was at the hospital, saying that it was not safe to talk about it just yet. Julian understood Evan’s concern, but nonetheless he was very frustrated that he had to wait for the answers he so desperately craved.
When they reached the MacCormack estate, Evan didn’t waste any time. They had no sooner brought Julian’s luggage in when Evan ushered him into the family’s library. Evan opened a secret compartment on his late father’s desk and revealved a keypad. He typed in a tweleve digit code and one of the many bookcases opened into a stairway.
“Follow me,” he said, simply. Julian had lived here all his life and he had never seen this entryway. “Dad had this built before we were born as a bomb shelter. I didn’t even know about it until I was in college. Dad knew I was interested in science so he had it converted into a lab for me. That’s where all my work started.”
Julian was intrigued by all of this, but his need to know about Evan’s current research superceded that. He tried to think of a way to be diplomatic about it, but he couldn’t. “Evan,” Julian said, “I don’t mean to be blunt, but what does all this have to do with the kidnapping?”
Evan didn’t seem to mind Julian’s straightforwardness. “Of course,” Evan replied. “Let’s not waste any more time.” He motioned to the stairway and he and Julian descended into the expansive lab below. The lab itself was circular with a particularly high roof. There was a control room riddled with computer equipment to the right as you entered. In the center of the room was a large container filled with a gelatenous liquid that was translucent blue. It was connected to some electronic equipment that most likely was used to monitor the container in some way.
“This is it,” said Evan. “This is Project Caelestis.”
The mention of that name made Julian wince. Even though Evan said it with a bit of pride, it was a tender subject for Julian. Evan noticed Julian’s displeasure and his face softened to a look of understanding. “I know, Julian. I know.”
“So what is it you do here?” Julian asked, trying to get past the awkward moment.
Evan took a deep breath in. “Project Caelestis is the realization of my theory on genetic enhancement.”
“Yes,” Evan continued. “At the very basic level, it takes the host subject and alters the genetic code to augment traits of my choosing.”
Julian was clearly taken aback. “My God, Evan. Why on earth would you want to play with that?”
Evan seemed a bit annoyed with that comment. “The possibilities are limitless. All you need is the right key and you’d be able to help humanity in numerous ways. Disease would be a thing of the past. We could alter the genetic makeup of the human immune system, for example.”
“It just seems like dangerous territory to me,” Julian said.
Evan frowned. He knew what Julian was thinking about. “Yes, it is. In the wrong hands, this could cause a great deal of damage.”
“I’m sorry, Evan, I guess I don’t have the…”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s a lot to take in.”
Julian walked over to the container that held the blue liquid. He turned to Evan. “Since the ‘wrong hands’ did get wind of your project, what do you figure their angle is?”
“If my suspicions are correct, and I have no doubt they are, Crey Industries had something to do you and Sarah’s capture. They’ve always had their hands in this kind of thing. They were after the research because it would be something they could position to the government. Any government. Altruistic as I am, I think genetic enhancement equals curing the human race of disease. Those bastards would present a way to enhance the physical prowess of the military to any government that was willing to fork over the money for it. They’d been pressuring me for weeks before your capture to work with them or sell my work to them. I wouldn’t have anything to do with them because I had a sense of why they were after it. Their reputation for selling to the highest bidder preceded them.”
Julian thought for moment. “Crey’s got geneticists of their own, if I remember the news reports correctly. Is this theory that improbable that they couldn’t have figured it out?”
“You’re right on that, Jules,” Evan agreed, “but I did some research on my own on their projects and the results of all their experiments were wholly unstable. The test animals they used never took to the enhancements and ultimately their subjects would rejected the process.”
“So, your theory and implementation, was a stable version of their work then?”
“No, not at all. My implementation was revolutionary, a completely different approach that proved stable in many test subjects.” Evan motioned to the container. “That’s my theory in a nutshell.”
“Pardon my ignorance, Evan, but…what the hell is that?”
“Well, it’s a genetic soup, basically. It’s code name is ‘Ambrosia.'” Evan walked over to the control booth. “It’s basically useless in it’s raw form, but when infused with a little electrical energy, it allows any creature submerged in it to absorb the genetic material within and incorporate it into their genetic makeup.” Evan walked inside of the control room and proceeded to type a few characters into the cosole keypad in the room. Suddenly, the tank of liquid came to life, shimmering with a soft bluish-white glow. A moment later the glow faded away.
Julian couldn’t help but ask as the container looked large enough. “Has this been tested on a human being?”
Evan shook his head. “Not yet. It’s my hope that one day I’d be able to do so, but I don’t know if I could allow myself to use another human being as a guinea pig until I’m sure that my theory holds.”
“Say you were to use a human being in this,” Julian said. “What would it do to him?”
Evan paused. “I know what you’re thinking, Jules. I’m not going to use you. If anyone is going to be the guinea pig, it’ll be me.”
“Evan, you didn’t answer my question.”
Evan’s cheeks flushed with emotion. “And I’m not going to answer it, dammit. I’m not going to put you in any more danger, Julian. Sarah already paid the price for my pride.”
“You’re going to do something with this yourself, aren’t you?” said Julian, eyeing Evan.
“That’s none of your damned business!”
“Like hell it is, Evan.” Julian walked over from the container to the control room. “I’m already in danger, Evan. I need to be as much a part of this as you. Now, what are you planning? What’s in that tank?”
Julian could see Evan’s internal conflict play out in his body language. Finally, he gave up. “A superhero…”
“The genetic coding stored in that version of ambrosia would imbue a human being with super abilities. Strength, agility…the ability to heal oneself in a fraction of the time a normal human being would. I thought if I could create a super human being out of myself, then I could make them pay for what they did to you and Sarah…” Evan broke down. “This is all I’ve been working on since I admitted you into the hospital that night, when I found out that Sarah didn’t survive…All I could think of was revenge.”
Julian knew those feelings all too well. “Don’t blame yourself, Evan,” he comforted. “If only I-“
“No,” Evan interrupted, “it’s not your fault. I should have-“
Julian stopped him from continuing. “Evan, the only way we are ever going to be able to live with ourselves is if we do something about this.” Julian thought for a moment. “I have an idea.”
“Let’s talk about it over dinner,” Julian told him. “It’s going to take a while to explain.” With that, the two men headed upstairs.
Dinner turned out to be more debate than conversation.
“The answer is no, Julian,” said Evan, his face twisted with anger. “It’s not something I’m willing to risk.” He hadn’t touched his dinner for a solid fifteen minutes while trying to convince Julian of his beliefs.
“It’s not your decision, dammit!” Julian fired back. “I’m the best person for the job…you can’t deny that.” He rose from his dining room chair and walked towards the large cathedral style windows that lined the west side of the dining area.
“That’s not my point!”
“Well it’s mine, Evan,” said Julian. He looked out the window, which had a breath-taking few of the MacCormack Estate’s garden. Memories of the time that Sarah and he spent in the garden dreaming and talking permeated his thoughts for a moment. “If we do this, we have to do it right.”
“There is no ‘we,’ Julian. This is my problem.”
Julian spun around to face his foster brother. “Stop being so damned stubborn for one second, Ev, and listen to what I am saying. We both cared about Sarah deeply. We both need to see this through.”
Evan was ready to blast back a reply when he stopped himself. He let out a large sigh. “I don’t want you to be the guinea pig, Julian. I’ve put you through enough.”
“Look at this logically with me for a minute, ok?” He paused. “You’ve got the technical know how to make this happen and fix it if it breaks. I don’t. I’ve got the combat training suited for the job. You don’t. It’s the right choice to make, Evan. You’ve got to trust me on this.”
Evan couldn’t take his eyes off of Julian. In so many ways their bond was that of true brothers instead of foster ones. He felt a passion for this project within himself, but he could also sense it in his foster brother. No matter how much he wanted to protect him, he knew Julian would find a way to be involved in paying back Crey for what they had done.
“Ok, Jules,” Evan said, finally. “We’ll start in the morning.”