Paradigms Lost — Chapter 37

Chapter 37: Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

I rubbed my temples, trying to take this all in. “Okay, let’s see if I have this straight. You are some kind of genetic experiment? And this wanted-poster stuff about you is all lies made up by the Evil Government Conspiracy?”

If Kafan had been a cat, his fur would have bristled; as it was, he did a pretty good imitation by glaring at me. “I don’t like your tone of voice.”

“Gently, Raiakafan.” Verne said sternly. “The story is not one to be accepted easily. Jason has a mind that is open… but not so open that he is utterly credulous.”

Kafan snorted, but turned back to me. “It’s not the government, except a few key people. At least that is the impression I got. The group that… made… me is a self-contained organization. There were some references to a prior group that they belonged to, but I never really heard much. Educating me was not what they were interested in.” He stood up again, as he had many times during his story, and paced a circle around the room like a caged lion. “Why do you find this so hard to believe? I haven’t been here that long, but I know that genetic engineering is part of your civilization, while magic is not, but you accept Verne …”

“That’s why,” I answered. “First, I’ve seen Verne and other things like him in action. I don’t ignore things that I actually see. But I know a fair amount about genetic engineering, at least for a layman, and I do know that we haven’t got close to the level of technology we’d need to make something like you claim to be. And other elements — this ‘super martial arts’ or whatever it is you say got you out of their holding cells …” I chuckled, then looked apologetic. “… sorry. But that kind of stuff comes out of video games and bad Hong Kong flicks. Accepting it as ‘real’ just isn’t easy.”

Kafan shrugged helplessly. “I can’t help what you believe. I know what I am.”

“What happened after you killed Dr. Xi?” Sylvie asked.

Kafan’s gaze dropped to the floor. He stood still for a moment, and just the slow sagging of his shoulders told us more than we really wanted to know. “I failed.

“I found where they were keeping Gen, Kei, and Kay. And I got in. But by then the Colonel had organized a counterattack. I was separated from them… I had Gen, but Kay and our daughter …”

Syl put her hand on his shoulder; he turned his back on her, but didn’t pull away; his back shook for a moment with silent sobs. Then he turned back. “They were back in their hands.”

“And the Colonel?”

The iron-cold expression returned. “I tracked him all the way to Greece, where he had a secondary headquarters. But he’d tricked me. Even as I killed him, he laughed at me. I’d come all the way across the continent and all the time Kay and Kei were still there, in another part of the lab complex!”

I winced; Sylvie just looked sympathetic. “So what brought you here?”

“In my travels across the continent… I started remembering other things of my past. The few things I told you, Mr. Wood. And I thought that America was the best place to begin looking, especially once I saw the news about the werewolves and realized that there was someone here who was able to deal with such things.”

“So can you prove this story of yours?” I asked.

Kafan narrowed his eyes, then smiled — an expression that held very little humor. “I think so.” He turned and looked out the archway, towards the entrance hall where the stairs ran up to the second floor. “Gen? Genshi! Come in now, Gen.”

There was a scuffling noise with little scratching sounds, like a dog startled up and starting to run on a wooden floor, followed by a thump and a high-pitched grunt. Then a small head peeked around the edge of the doorway, followed by an equally small body crawling along on all fours.

The little boy had a mane of tousled blond hair, bright green eyes… and a coating of honey-colored fur on his face. His hands were clawed, as were his feet, and canine teeth that were much too long and sharp showed when he gave us a little smile and giggle, and crawled faster towards his father. His long, fur-covered tail wagged in time to his determined crawl.

“Genshi! Walk, don’t crawl.”

Genshi pouted slightly at his father, apparently thinking that crawling was more fun, but pushed himself up onto two legs and ran over to Kafan, jumping into his arms and babbling something in what I presumed was a toddler’s version of Vietnamese. Kafan replied and hugged him, then looked at us.

Sylvie was smiling. I was just speechless. “Can I see him, Kafan?” Sylvie asked.

Kafan frowned a moment, but relented. “All right. But be careful. He’s very, very strong and those claws are sharp.” He said something in a warning tone to Genshi, who blinked solemnly and nodded.

Sylvie picked up the little furry boy, who blinked at her and then suddenly wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her. Syl broke into a delighted grin. “What a little darling you are. Now, now, don’t dig those claws in… there’s a good boy …” she continued in the usual limited conversation adults have with babies.

I finally found my voice. “All right. Can’t argue with the evidence there. I find it hard to believe, though, that you were the only product of their research. They couldn’t have built a whole complex around you alone.”

Kafan’s smile was cold as ice. “They didn’t. When I went to kill him, I found that the Colonel was no more human than I am. Some kind of monster.”

“Crap.” I didn’t elaborate out loud, but to me it was obvious; if Kafan was telling the truth, these people were not only far ahead of anyone I’d ever heard of, but they were also crazier than anyone I’d ever heard of. Trying out experimental genetic modifications on yourself? Jesus! I thought for a moment. “But… something’s funny about your story. If you were a lab product, what’s this about Verne being your father, or your being trained by this whoever-he-was?”

“That,” said Verne, “is indeed the question. For there is no doubt, Jason, that I did, indeed, have a foster son named Raiakafan Ularion — Thornhair Fallenstar as he would be called in English — and there is no doubt in my mind that, changed though he may be, this is indeed the Raiakafan I raised from the time he was a small boy. Yet I knew Raiakafan for many years indeed; he could never have been the subject of genetic experiments. Yet here he is, and there is much evidence that these people he speaks of exist.

“These two things, seeming impossible, tell me that vast powers are on the move, and grave matters afoot. For this reason, I must tell you of the ancient days.

“I must speak… of Atla’a Alandar.”