1. Decision

Gary, we can't keep them here,” said Tricia Parker in a hurried whisper. “We're harboring fugitives.” She took a long drag from her Pall Mall cigarette and released the thick smoke into the already stale air, “Meredith said she has a friend who heard of a couple who just got caught hiding a 15-year-old boy. He could change colors. They took the wife and the boy without anyone telling the husband anything all for a young boy who could change his color.” She paused for a moment. “What do you think they’ll do to us for having them?” she gestured to the living room. “God knows what they can do… ‘Just don’t touch the boy’ is all he said,” she suddenly stopped speaking with panicked breathing.

“There not fugitives, Trish. And we can't just put them back on the street,” said her husband, Gary. “If we did, you and I both know they'd find ‘em… And probably kill ‘em. Maybe us too.” Gary sat across from his wife at their kitchen table looking down at his hands folded in his lap. Tricia was tapping her cigarette out in the nuclear orange ashtray as he continued, “Let them sleep here tonight. We'll call the agent in the morning and see what he can do,” he said raising his head to look into her eyes as she looked up at him.

She wasn't necessarily happy with the options of keeping them or the prospects of them being found or killed either. Gary was husband was right though, they weren't fugitives per se. Nonetheless, it was a dangerous game they were playing and an overall perilous time to sympathize with modifieds. But putting them on the streets in the city was a death sentence. Not only for the children but perhaps for themselves too. Helping modifieds, children or not, was guaranteed punishable. And the severity was judge dependent. Even though Seattle was considered a safer city than most, for sympathizers and modifieds alike, the law was law, unregistered or unescorted modifieds were illegal, and those harboring them were not given leniency.

Tricia stood and shuffled across the kitchen floor stopping at the entry to the living room where five children slept soundly. She took the time to look at each of them for a moment before turning around to Gary. Tricia wiped a slight tear from her eye, she wanted to help, and she enjoyed having children in her house, even these children. But she was scared.

Standing behind Gary with her hands draped over his shoulders and onto his chest she continued, “I know they can’t help it, it’s not their fault they’re like this,” she sighed, “but they need a better place to stay than here. We can’t give them what they need. We can’t protect them.”

“And what do you think they need?” retorted Gary. The words exited his mouth harsher than he intended.

“A real home. A place where they can be with- well- their own kind.” Anywhere but here, she thought.

Gary put his head into his hands with his elbows the table and gave an exasperated sigh before saying, “There’s nowhere they can go to be with their own kind Trish! Not without being used, experimented on, or outright hunted.” Gary was frustrated with his wife, but he knew where she was going with this. He and Tricia were not modifieds; they were ordinary people who didn’t have a license to deal with them or keep them in their home. They’d have to go.

Through a friend, Gary got his and Tricia’s name on an unofficial list to help modifieds by opening their house for a week at a time. This was usually enough time for the Service to find them another home to stay at or help them disappear altogether. However, this situation was a little different. These were kids, five young kids, and all siblings. What would be best for all is to break them up to two groups making it easier to move them, however, Aja, the oldest of the five Keen kids, wasn’t going to allow this to happen.

Most people on the list accepted one or two at a time which made the logistics of housing, feeding, or moving modifieds a lot easier. But the five Keen kids had become somewhat of an issue in the logistics area. But a promise was a promise.

Over the last year Aja was promised, several times, that the Modifieds Assistance Service wouldn’t separate them as they worked out how to get them to a safer place. Perhaps they'd make it to Chile or Peru or, maybe even the Norwegian outposts. She was told so by MAS’s de facto leader, Alicia Munoz, herself. Aja was warned that this put them at higher risk and the chances of them being captured raised every day. She accepted the fact that eventually they’d be caught. And it would most likely be by someone working for, or on behalf of, the AGEA, the Anti-Genetic Engineering Agency, a 20-year-old arm of the Department of Homeland Security. Other countries had their own version of the AGEA too. There were very few places modifieds could go in the world and be left alone.

Gary gently grabbed his wife hands as they lay draped over his shoulders. “We’ll call the agent and tell him we can’t keep them, that we don’t feel safe any longer,” he said to Tricia. “We can’t be the first to have done this.”

Tricia gently patted her husband on his chest as to say good choice. However, deep down, Gary didn’t want to give up so quickly. Nonetheless, he wasn’t about to give up his marriage to break the law either.

Lilly looked around the living room without moving her head. She lay next to Aja who was also awake and trying to listen to the conversation in the kitchen. Their two sisters and brother lay to their feet sound asleep.

“We’re leaving tomorrow,” whispered Lilly to Aja. “She’s convinced him. They’re calling an agent tomorrow.”

Aja looked back at her sister and gave a slight smile. “Don’t change it; we’ll have to let this happen. We don’t belong here, and we can’t just leave, we wouldn't survive on the streets in this weather. We got them to worry about too,” she tilted her eyes towards her sisters Lada and Ekko and their brother Jareth. “Get some sleep, Lilly. There’s nothing we can do about it tonight. Just be sure to keep Jareth on point tomorrow, we don't need anything bad happening here- they tried to help us,” Aja whispered.

As she lay there, Lilly thought of the last house they were in. She’d have to be on guard, she didn’t want her little brother to accidentally kill anyone again.

This is part of my short web-serial, fiVe. Read the rest of the series here.

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