Edit (10/21/12): You can still read the first chapter here, but I should probably mention it’s on sale now!
So, in celebration of (finally) being very, very close to actually getting Children of Hephaestus out on sale–since it’s finally done-done–I’ve decided to post the first Chapter before the book is out officially, just because you guys are awesome!
This is by no means a stunt to hopefully get you interested in the book so you’ll buy it the second I get the copies out for sale & printed. Nope. None of that here. *coughs discretely to the side*
Either, way! Check below the cut for the entire first Chapter of Children of Hephaestus! Thanks for reading!! :D
Children of Hephaestus by Grey Liliy
“He can be calm when he wants to be.”
“When has your brother ever been calm?” Abel’s coarse chuckle could barely be heard under the hissing and bubbling of metal sizzling under the heat of a small iron. He had to tilt his head sideways to see around the sparks flying. He was half-way done with the latest upgrade to the project’s hardware, and was hoping to be done before the day let out. Finishing early was the only way to clear enough room in his schedule for a private project next week. Abel smiled over at the boy watching him work—taking care of a child didn’t exactly add to your free time. Abel soldered another piece to the circuit board. “Even when he’s not upset, he’s still pretty jittery.”
“You don’t see him when he’s reading his favorite books,” Hecate answered, “he gets quite drawn into fairy tales.”
The doctor paused in his soldering to look up at the young boy kicking his legs back and forth from his perch on the high work counter. Abel noticed the sleeves of his sweater were starting to fray from the constant wear and tear. It had been knit as a gift from Lucy in the programming lab, and Abel thought the emerald green matched the boy’s fair complexion well. Considering how much he liked the sweater, Abel was surprised Hecate didn’t take better care of it. Abel glanced down at the frayed edge of his own sleeve that had caught on his soldering iron earlier that day. Didn’t take a genius to see where that bad habit came from. Abel put the soldering iron down on the table and removed his pink—he was never letting Giles near the equipment ordering forms again—goggles. “The same ones you said were boring and unrealistic?”
“They’re not that bad, I just think there was more to the Brontë novels, that’s all,” Hecate said, voice smooth and controlled. He watched Abel strip off his safety equipment, finished with his soldering for the afternoon. Hecate wondered if all those gloves and goggles were really needed for such small, delicate work. Abel wasn’t that fragile. “The complication and futility of the relationships in Wuthering Heights, for example, are far more interesting than the prince getting the princess after a single kiss. I just think it’s more fun to see what happens when two and two stop making four, don’t you?”
“I guess. I could never stay awake long enough to finish reading one of those things.” Hecate was too intelligent for his own good some days, but it was nice to hear him taking an interest in something he enjoyed. Abel’s charge was far too serious for someone so young, and living in a testing facility certainly wasn’t helping the matter. Abel ruffled the blond hair on the boy’s head, catching the child off guard for a change. Hecate laughed under the affectionate touch, much to the doctor’s delight. “Even after all this time, it’s still so weird hearing you say things like that.”
“Is it really, Dr. Moreau?” Hecate tilted his head, resembling a puppy who knows there’s a treat in its owner’s hand. It gave him a much better view of Abel’s eyes. He had heard in passing that the ‘window to a man’s soul was in his eyes,’ however, Hecate had difficulty seeing much more than an ever changing iris and mixing green and brown pigments. Though, he did think they looked nice—alive. They fit Abel’s tan face and brown hair, features that were so opposite from Hecate’s own.
“Might be,” Abel found himself smiling again before muttering affectionately into his hand, “observant little brat.”
“I’m supposed—” Hecate was unable to finish his sentence as a loud clang echoed from the corridor. Abel was on his feet in an instant and heading for the main door. He shed his protective work coat on the rack in exchange for a white, long coat. Hecate heard a few more thumps and shouts from the corridor and kicked his feet back and forth on the edge of the desk. “Dr. Moreau?”
“Come on, let’s go make sure your brother hasn’t hurt anyone.” The ‘again’ was left unspoken, and Abel waited for Hecate to drop from the tabletop. The younger boy’s worst offense in the lab was following Abel around like a shadow, but his elder sibling was another story completely. Now that boy gave new meaning to the word ‘handful’. What teenager wasn’t? Abel thought to himself. Hecate’s brother probably deserved a little more slack than he was getting, but he’d only get it if Abel got there first. “Hurry up now, Hecate. I don’t think Giles is in a forgiving mood today.”
Hecate didn’t believe Giles Firmin was ever in a forgiving mood when it came to the two brothers, but it was needless to say such a thing out loud. Hecate jogged up to Abel and took his hand. The good doctor squeezed back gently before locking his lab door.
Hecate held Abel’s hand the entire trip down the hall.
The laboratory turned daycare was as to be expected: a mess. It looked like a whirlwind had hit it and turned back around to stomp on it for a second go. The steel work table that normally stood in the center of the room, was tipped on its side. Its contents were scattered and broken across the ground, and looked to have been kicked around in a scuffle. Abel noticed an overturned laptop on the ground near the door, but it seemed to still be operating. The rest of the debris was restricted to pens and loose papers, to Abel’s relief. The damage looked to be superficial, save for the—a groan sounded on the other side of the table.
“Becky?” Abel dashed toward the overturned furniture, simultaneously jerking his hand free from Hecate’s grip. Abel was so distracted with getting to the other side of the overturned table that he didn’t take notice of Hecate’s frown. He found Becky propped up between the legs of the table, holding her arm close to her chest. Abel cracked a tiny smile, since she seemed more or less okay. Abel crossed his arms on the top of the table side to lean over Becky as she thumped her head repeatedly into the tabletop. He pointed at her wrist, spotted with purple and black. “Bruised or broken?”
“The arm? Bruised.” The woman lifted her good hand up to bat at Abel’s face. She honestly did not get paid enough to babysit that—that thing. She deserved far more than a six figure salary for the shit she went through. Becky hissed when she tried to move her injured arm. How the hell did Abel get the well behaved one? “Little brat threw me against the table at the end of his hissy fit.”
Hecate wandered through the room, taking the damage in as Abel tended the fallen ‘nurse.’ In reality she was only a technician, but considering the circumstances she was nothing more than their nursemaid. Abel had mentioned once this was a step up for the woman, career wise, however, Hecate had little interest in her or how she made her living. The boy tipped a chair leaning against a side counter back into its upright position with a shove to its backing. Things should make up their mind: either fall over completely or stand up straight. Speaking, there was one broken thing Hecate still needed to find in the middle of this wreck while their caretakers kept busy.
A frustrated growl and the sound of sneakers squeaking on the floor answered his query. Hecate trotted over to the corner of the room, target spotted. He stopped about a foot from the disheveled figure sitting on the floor. The ‘teenager’ was tightly folded in on himself, knees to his chest and hands over his head. Hecate watched as the boy shoved one foot back and forth, nervously, heel creating the squeaking sound Hecate had heard earlier as it rubbed against the tile. Messy brown hair covered the boy’s eyes, but Hecate imagined them shut tight. “Iacchus.”
“I wouldn’t be here at all if you hadn’t disturbed Dr. Moreau with all the noise.” Hecate mourned the loss of a good conversation. Iacchus was always doing this to him. Things were perfect and then his big brother goes and throws a fit getting all the doctors’ and nurses’ attention. It wasn’t fair. Hecate kicked his brother’s foot with his laced up sneakers. “So it’s your own fault.”
“Oh shut up,” Iacchus interrupted and buried his head further under his arms, shoving his face into his thighs. Hecate and his annoying calmness was not something Iacchus wanted to see right now. He got enough of his brother after hours when they were stuck doing homework together all night. Iacchus’ head hurt and he’d lost his temper again and he’d thrown Ms. Becky into a wall. No…it was a table—but that didn’t matter. She probably broke something…or rather, Iacchus had broken something. Of hers. Maybe. He could never keep his thoughts straight after his little ‘episodes.’ Iacchus glared up at Hecate from a small sliver of space between his arm and thigh. “Just leave me alone!”
“You should really stop these fits.” Hecate replied calmly looking down his nose. He could hear Becky and Abel arguing in the background, most likely about the fate of the pathetic boy in front of him. Despite the fact his brother looked to be five or six years older, he was definitely the more childish of the two siblings. Hecate rubbed his fingertips together as he studied the skin on his hands trying to look nonchalant over the issue. “You’re going to be punished worse than usual if you keep this up.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Iacchus answered, voice cracking. Hecate always made everything seem so easy. Iacchus’ fingers dug into his hair, flexing through the knots. “It’s not like I meant to.”
The teen looked up at Dr. Moreau as he leaned over the two of them. Iacchus didn’t notice when the man had walked up. Had he been listening to their argument? Dr. Moreau’s face looked concerned, but it was a common enough expression for him. Hecate took a few steps to the side to allow the doctor more room—and get out of the line of fire—leaving Iacchus alone under the steady gaze. Iacchus moved his hands out of the way just enough to see the doctor. “Yes?”
Abel dropped to sit on his heels, crossing his arms over his knees. Iacchus remained hunched in on himself, blue eyes peaking out from between his bare arms. Even at eye level, Abel felt like he towered over the boy. Abel prodded Iacchus gently in the knee with his hand. “Why did you hit Ms. Becky?”
Abel took in a long breath and hoped to resolve this before Giles paid them a visit. Abel had been friends with the man for years, but when it came to the boys he could get…moody. It didn’t help this was the third time this week Iacchus had caused an incident. Giles was getting tired of shelling out cash from his pocketbook for medical bills instead of microchips. If Iacchus didn’t learn to stop acting out with nothing but violence, there might actually be serious consequences in his future. And as much authority as Abel liked to believe he had, the fact is, if Giles really wanted to do something, he would do it. Abel rephrased his question. “Why did you throw Ms. Becky?”
Iacchus refused to look the doctor in the face, and pushed his face back into his knees. His voice was muffled by his pants, but still audible somehow. “She made me mad.”
The usually deep and strong voice was tiny, almost chided. Abel was reminded more and more of a small child who had just broken something by accident, due to unfamiliar limbs as they figured out their own bodies. Some days he was sure that Hecate and Iacchus had switched personalities when they were created. Their behaviors just didn’t seem to fit the skins they were in. Abel was sure Iacchus probably wouldn’t have such pressure on him if he looked the same age as Hecate. “And what did she do to make you so mad? I thought you liked Ms. Becky.”
“I didn’t want to do any more exercises.” Iacchus fumbled with the loose sleeve of his plain white shirt. Because he had tossed a computer through a window two months ago, they wouldn’t let him pick his own clothes anymore. Iacchus glared at Hecate standing so high and mighty in his dual-toned green sweater and khaki shorts. He didn’t have to wear the stupid clothes the technicians passed out because he was well behaved. The white hospital scrubs they had dug out of storage for him were ugly and boring. Iacchus was almost used to the horrible clothes, but he really missed wearing something with a bit of color. “She wouldn’t let me stop.”
“Why did you want to stop?” He tried to keep his voice as steady and soothing as possible. Handling Iacchus was like trying to diffuse a time bomb—only all the wires were the same color. Hecate hovered behind him, watching the affair cooly. Abel wished the boy would scoot back a bit and give his brother some space. “You know the exercises are good for you. They help you think straight, remember?”
“I did them. I finished them.” Iacchus tried to stress this point. He had been a good boy until she wouldn’t listen! “Ms. Becky wanted me to do them over.”
“Did she say why?” Abel ignored Becky snorting in the background as she pulled her sleeve up to look at her injured arm. Abel caught a look at the perfectly formed hand-shaped bruise and was slightly more relieved it wasn’t broken than when he first arrived. “Did you not do well?”
“I was fine!” Iacchus shouted. “I did it. I didn’t want to do any more. I hate my exercises.” The boy glanced at Hecate quickly before lowering his voice to a near whisper. Iacchus knew the doctor was probably struggling to hear. “They hurt.”
“It hurt?” Abel looked from the miserably shaking figure back over to Becky sharply. Arms crossed, hip cocked to the side and her face stuck in the ever so classic ‘your problem’ frown. He knew Becky wasn’t fond of the boys, but did she really have to take it out on them? Abel addressed Becky firmly, “Did he say he was in pain?”
Becky lifted an eyebrow and scoffed. She turned her back on the both of them and pushed down on a table leg to set it up right. Or tried, anyway. It proved to be heavier than she had expected. Becky frowned when it only moved an inch or two before falling back down. Becky left it alone, thinking it oddly appropriate symbolism for how her life was turning out. “We both know that’s irrelevant, Abe. Besides, Hecate does all of his exercises with no problem and in triplicate for comparison’s sake.” Becky shrugged her shoulders. “Iacchus should just bear with it.”
“Becky,” Abel sucked in a breath through his teeth. Her attitude towards the boys sadly reflected most of the facility. It was no wonder why Iacchus lashed out as much as he did. “If it hurts, something is wrong. That’s the one thing we all have in common, isn’t it?”
“Oh please, he’s exaggerating.” Becky pointed at Iacchus. “It’s not even real pain! It’s an annoying internal pulse indicating something is malfunctioning. At the absolute worst it’d be comparable to a headache. Besides, getting a shot hurts doesn’t it? But you don’t go ‘oh, poor darling’ if the brat getting the shot attacks you, now do you?” The woman pulled her hand back to point again with more emphasis. “He can’t fly off the handle every time he’s the least bit uncomfortable, and you need to stop babying the two of them.”
Hecate watched the two adults bicker with only the slightest of interest, focusing his attention back on his brother. Iacchus seemed to have accepted his fate and had his legs stretched out in front of him, no longer curled in on himself. His head was still down, however, in a slump. Hecate wandered closer and considered their required exercises. “Did it really hurt?”
“Yes.” Iacchus bit his lip. He wasn’t sure where he picked the tic up from, but it was always his first defense in fighting his anger. He opened and closed his fists in a steady pattern in his lap. The repetitive motion was oddly calming, which was good right now. Iacchus stopped the motion after a moment and rubbed at his pant leg. He couldn’t afford to lash out again. “It hurt. A lot.”
Hecate scrunched his face in confusion. “But you’re running such simple—”
“Finish that sentence and I’ll tell the doctors what you do at night,” Iacchus hissed through his teeth, fists now clenched so tightly he was sure, had he been normal, there’d be blood. Hecate had the nerve to smirk at his bluff—they’d both be in trouble if he told on Hecate. It wasn’t until Hecate spun a finger in a circle next to his ear and mouthed the word ‘crazy’ that the older boy shot up from the floor. He snatched the brat’s sweater in one hand. Iacchus pulled his fist back ready to plant it smack dab in the middle—
“Don’t you hit your brother,” Abel called over his shoulder. Iacchus slowly put Hecate back on the ground and Abel relaxed from his tense posture. The two boys had never been in an all-out fist fight before, and Abel had no desire to see it. Iacchus, however, was not the only guilty party this time around. Abel turned his head fully to look the younger one in the eye. “And leave Iacchus alone, Hecate. I’m sure he’s still running a little hot from all that exertion, so let him have his few moments to cool down.”
“As you wish.” The younger of the two sent one last lingering glare at his brother before returning to the doctor’s side. Hecate could deal further with his inferior brother later. The boy averted his eyes to the ground and shuffled his feet ever so slightly, trying to look innocent. “I merely wanted an explanation, Dr. Moreau.”
“I know, Hecate.” Abel put a hand on the boy’s head and waited for him to make eye contact. Abel waited for those bright blue eyes to look up before he repeated himself. “Right now your brother is upset. Leave him be, okay?”
It was Iacchus’ turn to smirk when Hecate muttered, “Fine,” to Dr. Moreau. Hecate glared at him, and Iacchus’ day was finally starting to look up.
The main testing lab’s door was wide open—that was never a good sign.
“What on earth happened in here?” Giles shouted from the hallway, looking in through the doorway. The slim man’s face was pinched with a hint of disgust as he took in the overturned table and bits of equipment on the floor. The man kicked a laptop over on its other side with the edge of his foot. At least there was no blood that he could see this time. “This lab was just cleaned up yesterday! Do you people think I’m made out of resources?”
“Iacchus had another fit,” Becky replied calmly and looked over her boss as he stood in the doorway, face red: Dr. Giles Firmin with his slicked black hair and pressed black suit. Save for the neon pink tie, his dress was clearly more suited for meetings and correspondence with clients than lab work. Becky straightened her back and smoothed her hair down to look less frazzled. The man had no clue what she dealt with on a daily basis, no matter how much he complained about the board. That child in the corner was worse than any nitpicky complaints some money grubbing investors could spit out. “I think he should be put down, personally. It’s the fourth time—”
“Shut up, Abel. The point is that brat is unstable!” Becky hated being a part of this project. She was a lab assistant forced into babysitting due to some stupid duckling complex those two brats developed. She was going to force Giles to add another zero to her salary for hazard pay. “You’d be better off scrapping him and putting all your attention on that one.” She nodded her head at Hecate, looking too young to be wearing a collared shirt under that stupid sweater. “At least his malfunctions aren’t dangerous.”
“Becky, you can’t be serious,” Abel said, face aghast at the suggestion. How on earth could she suggest they just be tossed out like some computer that could no longer be updated? They were just kids! “Yes, Iacchus has problems, but that’s why he’s here. To fix them. They can learn and adjust just like anyone else can.”
Becky’s lip curved downward. Iacchus rubbed the side of his arm, watching her like normal. “Not well enough for my taste.”
Abel’s voice rose to be heard over the smack from his hand slamming into the side-ways table leg. The metal echoed through the room as it bounced off the floor with a clang. “Because you’re not even giving him a chance.”
“He could have broken my arm!”
“Enough.” Giles held his hands up and silenced both of them. He’d deal with Abel later when they got together this afternoon, but right now he needed to reign in the woman currently making him miserable. “Iacchus remains your problem, Becky.” Giles decided it was time to bring out the same mantra he’d already said at least ten times this month. It apparently bore repeating one more time to drill it into Becky’s thick skull. “We both know that out of over 200,000 subjects from the Olympian’s Children, only two have shown the ability to think for themselves to date. We’re all aware those two successes were more or less accidents. We can’t afford to get rid of a successful subject, even if he is completely psychotic.”
“If his brain doesn’t work, then we shouldn’t have—”
“He can think outside his programming specifications and somehow has feelings. Figure out how it works, fix his issues and then duplicate it. Your mission hasn’t changed since the moment you walked into this laboratory. Punish the thing if you have to, but make it work.” Giles left no room for argument. Becky’s attitude was addressed and he only had one more thing to repeat. “And Abe, stop with the parenting.” Giles clapped his friend on the shoulder. Abel was far too attached to the little one to be healthy. “They’re not your kids and you are not their father.”
“You know me, Giles.” Abel put his hand on Hecate’s head, pulling the child into his side. Abel doubted Giles would ever understand kids. The man was too clean, too uptight, and too tangled in his own problems to care for another person. Giles was too childish himself to take responsibility—that was probably why Abel got along with him so well. Abel squeezed Hecate’s shoulder. “Can’t help but spoil them.”
“I noticed, but I’ll deal with it for now.” Giles shook his head and looked around the room. “Make sure you clean this mess up.” Giles took one last withering glance at the two subjects before stalking out of the room. He had a meeting at three, and two more after that. They needed to figure out how those brats were working properly, and soon, so he could get them out of his lab and off to production. Then they’d be someone else’s problem and Giles could start work on something else.
“That could have gone worse.” Abel sighed softly after the door to the lab slid shut and Giles was far from view. Abel wondered if something had been going on before he paid them a visit to be in such a foul mood. Then again, Abel was noticing a lot of things lately set off the man’s temper. Abel made a note to talk to Giles about this later after he’d calmed down, but for now he supposed dealing with the matter at hand was more important. Abel avoided eye contact with the still-fuming Becky as he addressed her. “I’ll just start the clean up and take care of the boys, then. Why don’t you see if Marvin will give you the afternoon off?” Abel swallowed. “Since your arm is still bruised.”
“You can have him for the rest of the week. I’m not dealing with him.” Becky pushed Abel in the shoulder as she shoved past him. She was going home, permission from her manager or not. It’s not like she was getting fired—Iacchus went crazy when she was gone for too long. “You make him do the exercises, since you’re so worried.”
“Maybe I will.” Abel mentally started going through his schedules to see what he could move around to make time. If he had to take on the responsibility of their social care as well as their physical bodies, so be it. He was not going to give up on Hecate and Iacchus, not when there was so much potential between the two of them. “Have a nice break.”
“Oh, I will.” Becky laughed and pulled one of her electronic cigarettes from her coat pocket. Blessing from heaven these things were; could even smoke in all the labs in the building. She shook her head, taking one last look at the stoic child and the glaring teenager from the doorway. She wished, yet again, they’d both be thrown in the scrap heap. “Androids. Who the hell thought that was a good idea?”