Free looked up at the pictures. “So, I come from the same place as Sha and I have the same progenitor as Carla?”
Sha’s fists clench and unclench. She might have been angry at being so closely associated with them or having her history laid out like this, she wasn’t sure.
“This is frightening,” Carla said, a frown crossing her face.
Skittle squirmed out of Snake’s grip, but leaned on him for support.
“Well,” Snake smiled optimistically, “look on the bright side. You all are practically family.”
“No,” Sha sounded certain.
Snake held Skittle close. “What do you make of all this?”
Skittle leaned forward to examine the photos closer. “They all came from the same place. Maybe the brotherhood—” He stopped himself, thinking better of where he was about to take the conversation. He changed direction. “Maybe the brotherhood is after them too.”
“Perhaps it’s just God’s way of showin’ us that we’re all connected,” Free tried to convince himself as Carla gripped his hand tighter.
“Sure,” Snake was done with the God discussion. “Aren’t we supposed to go north?”
Carla nodded. “We need to know why we were created.”
“If your progenitor is still alive, you might be able to ask him.”
Skittle climbed up Snake like a tree. “Free said Drakonta killed him.”
Free nodded in confirmation.
“And what of Drakonta?” Carla asked.
Skittle laid his head on Snake’s chest. “I killed him.”
Free crossed his arms over his chest and shuddered. “He did bad things to me in there.” He pointed at the workshop.
“What kind of things?” Snake asked, more than a little concerned about the answer he might receive.
Free continued, his voice shaking slightly, “He poked and prodded. He even cut me. It was like he wanted to open me up or something. And he hit me with a stick when I didn’t do what he asked. When I made mistakes.”
Skittle searched for something to say. He knew there were words that should do something to fill the awkward silence that followed Free’s admission. He felt like he known them once. Not sure if they were right, he settled on, “It’s okay. He’s gone now. You don’t have to be afraid of him anymore.”
“He was also kind to me. He called me ‘son’. He could be very gentle.” Free got a little lost in thought. “He was like anybody, I guess. He could be kind or cruel.”
This time, when no one filled the silence, Skittle couldn’t think of anything. “Are we ready?”
They met Sha on the front steps. She had Dr. Jensin’s journal cradled in her arms.
“Are we ready?” Skittle asked again, suddenly worried that not only was he talking too much, but he was also beginning to repeat himself.
Sha looked down, pondering her shoes. “Where are we going next?”
“We need to go to Prince Albert, Ms. Sha,” Free offered.
Sha petted the journal. “All I have that is left is this.” Then she looked up at Free. “It’s Prince George.”
Free paused. “What’s Prince Albert then?”
“A piercing,” Skittle answered.
Free touched the hoop in his left ear. “Is this a Prince Albert?”
Skittle buried his face in Snake’s shoulder, suppressing a laugh. Snake chuckled and ran his fingers through Skittle’s hair.
Matter-of-factly, Sha added, “Alternatively, he was a man born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld to a family connected to many of Europe’s ruling monarchs. At the age of twenty, he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, with whom he had nine children. At first, Albert felt constrained by his position as consort, which did not confer any power or duties upon him.” “Poor guy,” Carla said.
“If he was in love with the queen,” Free said, pulling Carla closer, “then he was lucky because he got to be with the person he loved.”
Sha, still on facts and caring little for Free’s romantic notions, corrected him. “Often times in the royal court, love and marriage had nothing to do with each other. Mostly marriage was a matter of position and standing. A way to further the royal blood. It’s also what caused most of the genetic defects within the royal line.”
“Well,” Carla didn’t even realize she was correcting Sha, “not directly the cause, but definitely a precipitating factor.”
Sha raised an eyebrow, but before she could retort, Skittle interrupted.
“Are we ready?”
Sha went to retrieve Calogero, who, in usual form, insisted on not going. However, since he’d been kidnapped the last time he didn’t go, it was decided among the majority that he clearly could not be left alone. So, Snake and Skittle, having nothing in Canada, agreed to stay and look after him.
They hide the car near the border and get in through the fence, since none of them have papers.