Chapter 21 by Soraya Khan
Adi’s mind swam with fragmented emotions, an unrelenting clamour of dashed assumptions and old memories. Realising he hadn't taken a breath, he drew a shuddering inhale, feeling his chest fill with the icy night air. Raindrops trickled down a heavy brow furrowed over those glinting eyes as Talal, Adi’s father, motioned with his head towards Dorian.
As Dorian moved towards an SUV to retrieve something from the back seat, Adi saw Tara’s face illuminated in the window when the door opened. Their eyes met and her expression twisted with dread. His mind suddenly sharpened and he no longer stood with weak knees. He remembered why he was there and could feel his own insides writhing in rage at not realising the now obvious and poorly planned subterfuge. Eyes darting from SUV, to surrounding personnel, to terrain and escape routes, Adi feverishly tried to formulate a plan to extract Tara from this ambush situation.
Talal felt Adi’s posture shift and swiveled his head back around, “Adi-ARGH!” Talal’s head snapped back as he felt Adi’s fist connect with his jaw, losing his grip on Adi’s shoulders, “ADI WAIT!”. He ran swiftly towards the SUV, eyes fixed on Tara, a dead and maniacal expression on his face as he dodged one shrouded figure and punched another in the gut, bringing it down in a crumpled heap. All the while he was honing in on Tara. Dorian moved around to intercept Adi, now having dropped the coat he was sent to retrieve in favour of what looked like a remote car lock. As he stood between Adi and Tara, he calmly and loudly stated, “There’s an easier way than this you know, why use fists at a family reunion?”. Adi let out a gut-wrenching bellow as he ran towards Dorian with balled fists and tears streaming down his face. Dorian braced himself, eyes locked with Adi’s, and quickly dodged a punch, left then right, moving nimbly to avoid Adi whose swings were becoming clumsy due to his desperation. He quickly backed off as Adi jumped into the driver seat and floored the accelerator and bolted for the open road without checking for a pursuit. He twisted in his seat and leered at Tara as she cowered in the back seat trying to make herself as small as she possibly could, “You’ve given me quite the runaround, huh? HUH?!” The car swerved and he turned back around to watch the road, “Not to worry, there’s a whole theme park of delights back at the apartment that I can’t wait to test out on you!”
Suddenly, the backseat partition flew up, obstructing Tara from view and doors locked shut with a mechanical snap. The car began to slow down to a rolling speed. He looked in the side mirror and noticed headlights rapidly approaching him from behind. “NO! What’s happening?”, he struggled to speed up but the car eventually came to a stop and all he could do was hammer at the windows to no avail. He then saw Tara slip out the passenger door and slumped back in his seat, "Freaking family reunion it is” as he saw Talal jogging up from on of the parked cars now encircling them once again.
Talal peered into the driver's window, still rubbing his jaw. “Didn’t count on those anti-theft precautions did ya, sport! Still stubborn, just like when you were a kid, better at throwing punches though!” He chuckled and waved the car remote in his hand. Adi spat on the window in response. Talal’s face dropped and hardened, “Look Adi, I know this is hard to deal with, but nothing will be accomplished by fighting. You will be taken back to headquarters and you and I are gonna have a little chat.”
After a difficult extraction from the stolen SUV, Talal, followed by Dorian and Tara and a now sedated Adi, sped back to their warehouse headquarters. Once they were all secure and inside a detainment room, Talal and Adi were left staring silently at each other from across one another at a table, alone. Talal broke the silence first, “I know this is a lot but hear me out and I know you’ll be-“
“Screw you” Adi began to chant.
“Adi, this is much bigger than you can imagine, please listen to me. That day, when your mother and I left, we were on our way to the Ministry of Health to present our findings. We had successfully developed a living bionic microorganism capable of self-replication and being controlled by humans. It was a remarkable breakthrough that we planned to use in the fabrication of a kind of broad-spectrum viral cure, capable of neutralising the viral load in the person's bloodstream by directly attacking the offending virus. We called it Edenseed.” Adi continued to stare blankly into his fathers pleading eyes. He was in some sort of haze, he couldn’t fully encompass what was happening around him.
“-and your mother would have done anything-“ Adi snapped back into focus, “Where’s mum?” Adi asked. He was almost afraid of the answer. “Why didn’t you come back? What happened to you two?” Tears filled Adi’s eyes and he was once more a young boy desperate for his father's approval.
Talal’s face belied his broken heart as he spoke, “Your mother died in the car that day though Dorian and I survived. But it was no accident that took her from her family. This was a murder committed by a group of people who were bent on Edenseed not reaching its full potential...ALL IN THE NAME OF CAPITALIST GREED!” He slammed the table as he spoke, eyes ablaze and voice trembling with poignant rage. Adi looked at his father and finally saw a familiar face, one he desperately needed to be close to.
In a voice now calm like the air before a storm, Adi asked his father, “Who murdered my mother?”
Talal looked Adi straight in his eyes and replied, “That would be your employers, LifaLabs”.