“You know?” the Origin asked, turning sideway. Open wonder, as well as a measure of satisfaction, filled the Origin’s face.
“Part of me did, I think. I just couldn’t believe it.” Luc’s gaze held mine. “The Daedalus obviously didn’t give you the same serum they gave me. You’re not aging well. What did they give you?”
“What didn’t they give us? Maybe if you stayed around long enough, you would’ve noticed that we were different than you—than Archer and the rest. That what they gave us was aging us rapidly,” the Origin explained. “A souped-up version that included more than a dash of growth hormones. After all, if we aged more quickly, we would’ve been more useful, wouldn’t we? Imagine going through years of puberty in months. It’ll make you slightly moody.”
“And really psychotic? Is that your excuse? Is that why every last one of you turned into miniature serial killers in training?”
“It definitely had something to do with it, I imagine. You freed us and then you left us.” He looked over his shoulder. “For her. Then you came back and you gave up on us.”
Luc flinched. “I didn’t give up on you. I let you go. I let you escape, because I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“You killed all of them and you did let me go.” The Origin stepped away from me, his attention fully on Luc. “You didn’t look for me. You didn’t even take a second to find me. You rushed back here for her.”
Luc said nothing for a long moment as he stared at me. “I did look for you. You were gone.”
“Did you? You must think that. Just like you think you destroyed the Daedalus.”
The breath I took got stuck.
“Where do you think I’ve been this whole time?” he asked, and Luc didn’t show a single reaction to the suggestion the Daedalus was still operational. “Took me long enough to get here, but you don’t know that. You’ve had other, more important priorities. But I’ve been here. Shadowing you. Watching. I’ve been so close, trying to figure out how you could just”—he looked up to the sky and shrugged—“let me go. But then I saw her at the club and I knew.”
“I let you escape, because I was operating under the false belief that you weren’t a sociopath. That out of all those little creeps, you were the one who was going to make it. Obviously I was wrong. You’re just as psychotic.”
My eyes widened slightly.
“So, what’s the point of all of this? You came and you found me, then you waited, and now what? We’re here. You and me. That’s what you wanted,” Luc continued. “Let her go, and then you and I can work this out.”
“If I let her go, I don’t think she’ll make it very far,” he replied. “And I’m not talking about what I did to her. I’m talking about what you had them do to her.”
Luc turned his head just the slightest. “What does that mean?”
“I’ve seen some things. Learned things,” he said, and I could hear the taunt in his voice. “You have no idea what’s coming. I do.”
Luc raised a single brow. “Well, that’s incredibly vague.”
“It’s really not.” He paused. “By the way, looked into her thoughts. She thinks I killed that family and that guy at some party. That wasn’t me.”
“And I’m supposed to believe that? Because you’re obviously a trusting and sane individual?”
“Perhaps I would be trusting and sane if you just paid attention. If you tried with me like you—”
“You’re right.” Regret tightened the lines of Luc’s face. “Maybe if I had done something differently, you would’ve turned out differently.”
“Maybe,” the Origin agreed, but then dipped his chin and smiled. “Then again, I was always smarter than the rest, wasn’t I? I hid it better. Even from you, the great and powerful Luc. The most powerful Origin ever created. The prize and ultimate disappointment of the Daedalus.”
“You’re starting to sound like a fan,” Luc replied, his tone bored.
“But I know the truth.” He circled Luc, coming to his back, and Luc still didn’t take his eyes off me. “There was one fatal flaw the Daedalus didn’t engineer out of you.”
“Is that so?” Luc murmured, his gaze dropping to my hands.
“Humanity,” he answered. “They didn’t eradicate that from you. That’s why you let me escape.”
Luc fell quiet as the Origin made it to his side, standing only a few feet from him.
“I want you to say it.” The Origin cocked his head, solely focused on Luc. “Say my name.”
I let go of one side of my shirt and reached over, placing my hand in the loose, rocky soil. I dug until I found a decent-sized rock.
“Your name no longer matters.” Then Luc looked at the Origin. “And you’re wrong about the humanity thing. It comes and goes. I just hide it better.”