Kelly sat in the living room while everyone walked in. It had been a few hours since everyone had greeted Tom since he emerged from his room, and she told everyone she needed to talk to them. As Annabelle, Mirabelle, Scarlett, John, Gabe, Keera, and Cassie walked into the room, Tom stood in the other room and smiled. He knew why Kelly called everyone in and why she was so nervous, so while he stood outside the room he strongly focused on one phrase, one that he practically yelled into his mind.
"You can do this. Don't worry."
When everyone was in the living room, Kelly took a deep breath stood up in front of them.
"Okay everyone, there's something I need to tell you. But to be honest I really do not know how to say it. So I'll just demonstrate it." Everyone in the room, minus Mirabelle, took on a strange expression as Kelly reached up and put her hand to her head. "Alright, everyone think of something. Anything. Just pop it into your head. Don't make it a secret you want to keep or anything, just anything random."
Everyone shrugged and did so, and Kelly started pointing to everyone. "Scarlett, you're thinking of how strange this moment is. Annabelle, you're trying to come to grips with something someone told you yesterday, John, you are just now realizing what I'm doing. Gabe, you are trying to figure out 'what the hell' I'm doing. Cassie, you're thinking of Gabe. Keera, you think this is cool."
Everyone stood in place as Kelly finished up with one single two-word phrase. "I'm psychic."
"How... how is this-" Annabelle was about to ask before Kelly spoke up again.
"Have you come any closer to figuring out what caused it?" Scarlett asked.
Kelly shook her head. "No, I have searched every possible thing I could to figure out what may have caused my power but I couldn't turn anything up."
"Perhaps I can be of assistance." MIKE walked into the room and up to Kelly. Within a few seconds, he scanned her up and down, then stood in place for a few seconds.
"What are you saying?" Annabelle asked, "we're all poisoned by this radiation?"
"The radioactive material is not fatal." MIKE replied, "Even high doses do not harm living materials." MIKE then scanned her and continued, "Which is a good thing considering you, Annabelle Jade Kethrin, are enriched with the radiation even more than Kelly Jane Coen. A scan of the house indicates that one source of the radioactive materials is the vessel that you have hidden in the garage. Considering the ship and similar vessels of its origin have been used in radioactive hot-spots, the only possible solution is that the radioactive material came from the source of the vessel."
John was intrigued by this revelation. "So you're saying that this radiation that gave Kelly her abilities is Torran?"
"Correct. That is the only viable solution to the mystery. It seems the radiation is residue from the Torran vessel's faster-than-light drive system. Exposure to this residue is presumably the cause of the abilities that Kelly Jane Coen demonstrates."
"I'm not sure if I was exposed to alien radiation," Kelly responded, "This has happened to me since I was much younger, as far as I can tell. I think I would remember something like that."
MIKE nodded, then continued, "The amount of saturation in your cells indicates that this exposure to the Torran radiation occurred during the second trimester of your mother's gestation period when carrying you to term. Perhaps your mother had encountered the radioactive material at its source during that time."
Kelly shrugged, "I guess I can call and ask if she ever saw a UFO when pregnant with me. That would certainly be one of the more interesting conversations I've had with her."
John listened intently to MIKE's analysis of Kelly and the radioactive revelation that he had just given to her. He then remembered when Annabelle told him of her little trip to Torra Sev during what the family had called the "Midnight Day era". Annabelle told him that their mother, Maria Kethrin, had encountered Annabelle's birth mother, Verena Tozal, when she was pregnant with John. After hearing about the radiation and its effects on Kelly, he felt compelled to ask the robot something of his own.
"So this Torran radiation, it has an effect on Kelly's brain, making her for lack of a better word 'psychic'. Does it have any other effects?"
"I have to run some tests on the material before I can obtain a conclusive result." A few seconds later, MIKE walked up to John and quickly scanned him. "However, a medical scan of your cells indicates a similar exposure of the same material as in Kelly Jane Coen. Collecting results . . . Results complete."
John made a motion with his hands for the robot to continue, "And?"
MIKE looked at John. "Retina damage similar. Brain activity enhanced, however not to point of mental abilities. Preliminary scans processing. . . . It seems that exposure to Torran radiation in human gestation periods results in: Higher Intelligence Quotients, Possible mental and telepathic abilities. Limited eyesight, requiring corrective lenses. More data required for conclusive result. Recommend search for more subjects."
"So we just find someone else exposed to Torran radiation before birth and see if they have the same bad eyesight and high intelligence?" Annabelle asked, "Because that won't be easy."
MIKE stood in place for a few seconds, calculating his data. After a few more moments, he turned to Scarlett. "It does not seem that radiation enrichment is genetic. However, Scarlett Kethrin is currently experiencing a state of pregnancy. Due to her proximity to the vessel, she has already been exposed to the radiation. Time will tell whether her child or children will exhibit the same traits,"
Scarlett shrugged. "I could deal with having a few intelligent kids."
"You're taking this whole 'alien radiation makes intelligent kids' thing pretty well, Red."
"Nothing surprises me anymore."
Annabelle walked outside the Kethrin house, still reeling over the information she heard about Kelly and John. Her birth-mother Verena had not told her about what would happen to humans exposed to the radioactive material that was emitted from the Torran ships. Annabelle started to think that Verena did not even know about the radiation and its effect on humans that hadn't been born yet.
As Annabelle stood outside, looking out into now only-slightly snowy landscape, she heard a voice from behind her. "Hello."
Annabelle turned around and watched as Kayley Botha, the orange Feen that turned her in the first place, flying around before coming to a landing in the snow. When she landed, Kayley smiled and walked a few more steps towards Annabelle. "I do want to apologize for what happened to you. I was only trying to play a prank and it backfired. Really badly."
"No problem." Annabelle replied, "I have to admit I really lost my cool when you did that, and you reacted accordingly."
"This is true. But hey at least you got some wings out of the deal!"
"Yeah but I have no clue how to use them! Any attempt at flying has been... well I will just say not exactly successful. I ended up all the way over there in that river from here the other day."
"Well flying isn't something you learn overnight. It's got its own nuance to it, it's own flow. At first its rough, but it feels natural when you get used to it. Over time you may appreciate the finer things when it comes to flying."
Annabelle shrugged, "To be honest I am not sure if I even want these wings. I just want to go back to being me. My own normal Annabelle Kethrin."
"You mean the normal Annabelle Kethrin that is an alien from a different planet and has green skin and pointed ears? Yes, very normal indeed."
Annabelle chuckled, "Hey lay off the sarcasm, that's my job. So what brings you to my home?"
"The Vornek. Ever since we saw it, I've been having nightmares, pictures of the creature burned into my memory. Professor Shale tells me you've had similar experiences in your life. So I came here to ask, when does the bad memory end?"
"I see." Kayley smiled. "That's what Shale told me too when I asked him about the Vornek. But I simply forgot because that was a long time ago. I was a mere child then."
"I thought it would be best if he told him yourself, Annabelle."
"Is that so?" Annabelle narrowed her eyes and turned around, waking away.
"Yes." The rock responded.
"Then tell me."
"I will, but first I must spin a yarn of my own. I am doing this because in order understand the story behind the Vornek, you need to hear another. It is a short story about science gone wrong and how it can affect one life, against how it can affect a thousand."
"What does science have to do with-?!" Annabelle asked frustratingly before stopping herself. "Ah to hell with it! I'll never get a straight answer from you!"
"Please, patience. I must ask... have you ever heard the story of Abraham Korven?"
"That is not surprising. Not too many have heard of him. Abraham Korven was a German alchemist who lived in what we call Hamburg in the early 1400's. Some believed that he was a wizard, and that he dabbled in a lot of dark, depressing magic. In truth he was granted the ability to cast spells, but he focused more on science than magic in his later years."
"Eventually he was diagnosed with a disease that was going to kill him, and natural science at the time could not help, Korven returned to his magical studies and opened a portal to a different world in order to search for a cure. He found himself in a desert with a single rock in front of him. It was small, black, and cold to the touch despite the heat of the sun."
"Seeing this rock as the source of a possible cure, he took it back to Earth with him, leaving the portal open so he could travel back and forth between the two worlds for his studies. He studied the rock for months, poking and prodding, and he felt that the rock could make him stronger. However, it was the other way around. The rock was the trapped form... of the Abyss."
"What is the Abyss? I've heard that before from that genie."
Annabelle's frustration faded away into curiosity. "So what does the Abyss have to do with the Vornek?"
"Many years before Abraham found it, the rock was in the possession of a ruthless scientist named Vorik Z'rath'nek. Vorik created a clone army of himself to rule over his planet, but was unable to keep the army in check. A proud cultist of the Abyss, he begged the spirit to help him in his conquest. The Abyss granted his army the strength required to rule the world, under the stipulation that it would gain more corrupted souls when the conquest was done. The clones gained skin as black as a midnight tomb with piercing red eyes and twisted, altered features. The Vornek were born."
Annabelle stood there, a stoic expression on her face as she tried to process all the information. "So... the Vornek are the super-powered clones of an alien scientist from two hundred years ago who worshiped an alien demon? I should be surprised but at this point I just feel numb. I'd suppose the Feen have something to do with this?"
"So what happened to the portal after Abraham was killed?" Annabelle asked, growing ever the more curious about the story. "I mean, was it sealed?"
"Yes, but not before the remaining Vornek emerged from it. They had freed their leader and came to this planet to find the Abyss so that the army could return anew, but the Feen were already on Earth having anticipated the maneuver. The Vornek scattered, some even using their own magic to fly into space. Vorik fell into hiding, and the Feen used all of their own magic to seal the portal behind them. They then opened another to place the Abyss on a planet far from everyone so it could never be used to harm anyone ever again."
"And the Feen stayed on Earth I suppose,"
"Correct. Those in Germany gave them their name based off the German word for 'Fairies'. They have stayed here ever since. There was a new portal that was once opened between the worlds, but they remained here instead due to being unsure about returning, finding new people to meet and expand the population."
"Nevada. It was destroyed by mortal instruments of all things."
"Nevada portal- Shale, tell me one more thing, which I probably already know... what was the name of the planet that the Feen and Vornek originated from?"
"Torra Sev. The Feen that you've met here are descendants of your own people, Annabelle."
Annabelle stepped back away from the rock and held her head. "So that's why I was turned into one of them, a Feen. My biology was the same as the other hybrids."
"This is correct. You turned into a Feen because Kayley's magic affected you more than anticipated. Perhaps it was destiny, perhaps not. What I do know now is that you are a Feen, and you may be critical in stopping the Vornek."
"What makes you say that?!" Annabelle yelled out in brief anger, "Why am I the one you need?!"
"Because you have done much in your life that signifies you as being a hero. You stopped Jack Toomes when you were a teenager. You stopped the Nightmare from taking over, you saved the entire planet from Jack's plan to control it using a genie lamp. You are a hero. That dragon symbol on your back, it represents the fierce determination that you have within your core."
"Why not?" Shale asked. "Why couldn't you?"
"I guess I felt... numb. I couldn't properly relay my feelings for him in the same way he did. After all that's happened I couldn't say it. I can't say it. I guess becoming desensitized to things that under normal circumstances would seem strange, meant becoming desensitized to the basic of emotions that people are supposed to feel. I always thought of it as a defense mechanism."
"That is understandable. Why focus on the idea of romantic feelings when you're standing there, talking to a rock?"
"Just proving a point. Annabelle, take it from someone who has lived longer than the universe itself. Time is not infinite, and it is not still. A single day can change a life, so don't let the days pass you by without letting them change yours."
"So you're saying I should tell Tom how I feel? Actually tell him?"
"All in all, that is up to you."
Annabelle covered her face with her hands and inhaled, trying to focus on everything Shale told her. From the origin of the Feen and Vornek to advice about Tom, everything he said began to feel connected. After a short time, she realized one more thing that she needed to say, and she stopped inhaling and resumed talking to the rock.
"On the subject of Tom, were you around when his parents were... killed? I mean, in Egypt?"
Shale's voice wavered, and he went silent. After a full minute of nothing, he spoke in a tone of voice that almost sounded like he was near crying. "Yes. I took the form of a rock in the tomb. I saw what happened to them."
"Then, what happened?"
The rock went silent for a few more moments, and then continued talking. Annabelle stood there, her eyes darting back and forth as she attempted to process the information he was relaying to her. Finally he stopped talking, and she felt like a weight was being pressed into her chest.
"Artificial intelligence, Kelly Jane Coen, is still intelligence. Interactions with the world around us are key to learning new things. I am unable to walk outside this house without humans... staring... so I must interact with the world through the television."
"Indeed. That is perhaps why Torran-human hybrids come pre-installed with the safety feature of a human disguise."
Mirabelle chuckled. "Well I wouldn't use the words 'pre-installed' or 'feature' to describe something that comes natural. It's just a thought. I can use that thought to make myself look human any time I want."
Mirabelle turned into her "human" self, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
MIKE shrugged. "We robots do not have that luxury."
"That would be acceptable." MIKE replied, "I would prefer that others would not... stare."
"Well that's really something we all wish for." Kelly replied, "Like, if I told anyone outside this household that I can read minds, how many people would stare at me?"
"That was a rhetorical question, MIKE."
Mirabelle, still in her human disguise, smiled at Kelly and kissed her cheek. "I wouldn't let them stare at you..."
"Though people have been kinda staring at me for most of my life, ever since I asked John here to make it so that part of my hair grew with blue streaks naturally. Finding out I can read minds would just be another odd thing about me."
"Indeed." MIKE replied, "Though I am wondering if you can read my thought processes."
"I am not sure if I can." Kelly replied, "I don't even know how I read the thoughts of people around me, it just comes naturally."
"Natural. Organic. That is something I cannot achieve. Though I have achieved sentience, and my own internal thoughts indicate that I wish to achieve more."
John smiled while browsing the web, "Just as long as you don't wish to take over the planet."
"Nothing. I'm just glad you're on our side, MIKE."
The walk home felt like hours despite the relatively short distance. Eventually Annabelle found herself in her house, standing just outside Tom's door. She reached up and knocked on it, and stood for a few moments as Tom opened the door and invited her inside.
"Everything alright, Annie?"
Annabelle stood in place, staring off into nothingness. Tom asked her again, and she finally started talking. "I went and talked to that rock, the one I told you about before. He told me everything, about those fairies, about that creepy monster John, Scarlett, and Kelly saw in the park back in Starlight Shores, everything."
"Okay, perhaps we can sit and talk about it."
"Why would we go back-"
"I love you!" Annabelle blurted out, "I know I've showed that through my actions, but I've never actually said it. I love you! I love you! I have ever since we were younger and I will as long as I live! And... and I needed you to know that before you found out something!"
"Hey, you okay?"
"You looked pretty focused on that clock, are you sure you're okay?"
Keera's demeanor dropped as she looked over to him. "Yes! Now are you gonna ask me any more questions or can I get on with being okay?!"
"I was just-"
"Sorry, I can't..." Keera stopped herself from talking and started towards the arch leading out of the kitchen, repeating the words to herself as she stepped through them. "I just can't."
After a short walk, she found herself in the downstairs bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. The scar on her face seemed to be more prevalent than it had been before. She grasped her head with her hands, trying to fight back the visions that had been creeping steadily into her mind. However, she was unable to. The fire from before returned with a vengeance, filling the entire bathroom as she stood in place, trying to focus on the better parts of her life.
While Keera stared at the reflective surface, she imagined more fire around her, the smoke so thick that it blocked her sight. When she could see again, the scar on her face was back to its scorched appearance from just after the accident. She could feel the pain from the scar on her face and the burning air in her lungs. She inhaled and let the the smell of smoke on her clothes and skin fill her nose and mouth. It was the same smoldering aroma that she had tried for months to get herself clear of but it would always seem to persist, despite everyone else telling her there was no smell.
Keera leaned against the wall and pressed her hand into her head, trying to push back to horror she had just seen. The resulting impact on the wall as well as the visions gave her a headache, but that didn't bother her as much as the visions themselves.
There was a loud knock on the door, and Keera heard Scarlett's panicked voice on the other side. "Hey is everything okay?!"
Fighting back tears, Keera continued to hold her head while replying. "Yeah, everything's fine and dandy."
"I heard screaming."
"Yeah I uh... I stubbed my foot while walking away from the sink. It hurt. It hurt a lot."
Keera slid down on the floor, continuing to put pressure on her head.
"It still hurts."
"So, I hear you're a talking rock."
"I am glad you came along with her. I had told her something vital to your personal history, but it is better that you hear from me yourself. Did she tell you the information about the Vornek?"
"Yeah, about this Vorik Z'rath'nek guy. Whatever happened to him after he went into hiding?"
"The locals called him 'Vor'set. They sealed his tomb under the Sphinx, hoping no one would ever enter it."
"But your parents did. They entered the tomb and encountered the cursed mummy of Vor'set. They were able to subdue him back into the tomb, but not before he cursed them to die."
Tom fell back and clasped his head. "HE killed them... the Vornek leader killed my parents?!"
"For a time. But..."
"The Vornek are in Hidden Springs for a reason. Someone, somehow, moved Vor'set's sarcophagus into the town but I cannot figure out where it is. Also, the rock that contains the Abyss' essence is on this planet, but its magic is blocking me from figuring out precisely where. If the Vornek returns the Abyss to Vor'set's tomb, the magic will restore the leader to his full potential and he will recreate his army to conquer both this Earth and Torra Sev."
Tom clenched his fist and snarled, "I say, let the Vornek resurrect their leader! And when they do, I can personally drive a stake through that bastard's heart!"
Annabelle grew worried, just as she was when she first saw Tom that evening. "Tom, revenge will not bring your parents back."
"Yeah but it will sure feel good." Tom turned towards Shale. "I will avenge the deaths of my parents, and every Vornek that tries to stop me will end up dead." He stormed out of the room and into the snow-covered landscape of Hidden Springs, leaving both Annabelle and Shale behind to worry.