The next episode in our tale cannot come forth without a heap of explanation. Let it be said that a few more exchanges existed between Kevin and the nurse he had dubbed Autumn Forte. But nothing of import was said. There was little ground given from either side. They did not like each other and yet both had fallen under the purview of the Doctor Trelaine. Both were powerless to create doors in the environment around them. They were prisoners. They struggled against their bindings at every possible weakpoint.

I had chosen my side. I was to ally with the Marscapones. I had cemented my vow of friendship by offering a business association in Quarq.

I had my own reasons for opposing Trelaine. Those reasons stretched across eons. I wondered if he were the same man I had once known, or whether he’d become something truly different. I had watched from the sidelines as he’d gone through identities and countries like they were costumes.

The one thing he clung to was the old notion of chivalry. He never took without what he believed was permission. He obeyed “no” but anything else was grey. And it was in the grey that he worked his glamour.

He needed the boy’s consent to enroll him in his wicked genome project. And that was something the boy would never grant.

Autumn, however, obeyed no such law of her predecessors. If there is a fault of Man, it is an exceedingly short memory span. I had seen it time and time again, young people eager to repeat the lessons others have learned but were kept secret from them. She needed an exceptional opportunity to prove herself to the Doctor Trelaine and when this opportunity arose in front of her, she took it. Little did she know that her boldness would earn her more ire than esteem.

I am lucky this conflict occurred in the modern age. The computing revolution has made such a difference in matters concerning espionage. Now secrets that were once lost to the Ether became bits and bytes traveling only semi-transparent across wires and through access points. What wasn’t broadcast was stored on cassette tapes and stacked in a closet waiting to be unearthed. So many pieces of information could be had that were previously lost. Cameras connected to central surveillance were appearing everywhere. Phones were digitized and added to these systems. PDAs held calendars once scrawled upon lined paper. For those in the know, there was a wealth of information on which to spy.

I had an advantage because of the non-magical nature of the Internet. His particular method of hiding his laboratory meant it was extremely unlikely anyone would be able to find a footpath, but this restriction did not extend to the data connections that Trelaine used to conduct business. No, he was connected to the World Wide Web like the rest of us. It was this necessity that I knew I could use to my advantage.

I had little first-hand experience with the Marscapone boy up until this point. But when I saw him in the video feeds, I instantly recognized him. He had a diminutive posture, as if hopeful he could shrink away from captivity. I knew the pose well.

At first the feeds I found were uninformative. The boy had a small camera set up in his cell in an upper corner. Each room had something similar but most of the other rooms were unoccupied. Kevin, on the other hand, was very much present in his small room. He spent the entirety of the day cross-legged on his bed watching television. I supposed he’d never used such a thing in his life. But even if he had, he probably would still have watched the thing from sunup to sundown. What else had they given him to do?

The cameras had no sound intake but it was just as well. The scenes were morose. The loneliness he was bearing was palpable as he occasionally paced about the room. When one of the nurses came, it was simply to deliver food and they never stayed long. The conversation seemed terse, forced. Kevin had no friend in that place.

Did they fear him or simply loathe him for being different? Had he said something to put the staff ill-at-ease? Did they treat their other guests in such a manner?

When Trelaine left, the only semblance of safety the boy could cling to evaporated. Trelaine could be trusted to obey the old ways. He truly wanted loyalty from his captive. In this unity, true power dwelled. But he had not taught this lesson to his follower.

I do not know how exactly she sedated him. It was almost certainly an additive to his food. He did not possess a resistance to poisons like others of our kind. All of a sudden, Kevin was sleeping during the day. And it seemed a deep, dreamless sleep wherein even the intrusion of an employee with a lunch tray did not waken him.

That was when it happened. The woman who was supposed to be his nurse entered the room with a tray of blurry implements.

She took his blood while he lay unconscious upon the cot.

That evening, I had to relay the unfortunate finding to my friend. I was incensed, infuriated.

But I waited until the cover of night to travel to their home.

I knocked on the door of their lower-level apartment. But something felt different.