“Why is the basement locked?”
My father nearly chokes on his cereal at my sudden statement, my mother turning from the stove to meet my steely gaze. “Hm?” She asks as if innocent, setting the chopping knife down to rub my coughing father’s back, “Is it?”
I can feel the eyes of my sister in the back of my skull as I nod, taking a moment to watch the silver fingers of my mother as she cuts peppers into perfect, equal pieces. “Yes, and you know it, too. Something is down there.”
“Kameron Bailey, do not use that tone of voice with me.” My mother says, her voice becoming more stern, “You are to be respectful of your father and I.” I huff in annoyance at her words, gripping my spoon a bit tighter to calm the urge to chuck it.
“Mother, I know there is something down there,” I say, fixing my tone to sickly sweet in order to soften my mother’s harsh look, “Why am I not allowed to know what it is?”
My father wipes his mouth and sighs, running a worn, silver-laced hand through his hair. “Ana-” My mother holds up her hand, shaking her head. It amazes me how my mother is able to shut people up without a single word.
“Kameron, the cellar probably locked on it’s own. I have no idea what’s gotten into you! Now, if you excuse me.” She huffs and turns around, setting down the knife on the cutting board before heading out of the room. I grind my teeth together in frustration as I glare daggers into her back, annoyed. What could possibly be so bad that it has to stay hidden?
I snap out of my thoughts to meet the eyes of my father. “What?” I mutter, giving him an annoyed look before playing with the abandoned cereal in my bowl. I didn’t feel like socializing anymore.
“Look, just leave it for now. You and I will talk alone later, alright? After work?” I sigh, knowing he’s pushing it off as he usually does, but I move my head in a nod. He’s said that so many times that his word means little to nothing now… My father gives me a weak smile, bowing his head lightly to excuse himself before heading out the door my mother left through.
The light tap on my shoulder breaks me from my anger, causing me to jump a bit before turning my head to meet amber eyes. I blink a little at the closeness before chuckling, tilting my head.
“Wow, Kam, your metal is sick!”
I grin as I turn my head, looking over my shoulder at myself. My eyes trail down my body to find a long, silver jointed metallic tail peeking out from the edge of my shirt.
I watch as the tail swishes slightly, moving to my will as easily as it is to lift a finger. My lower back burns at the movement but for the moment I don’t care, moving the tail - my tail - to the side to curl partially around my thigh. “Yeah..” I say with a wide grin, turning my head to look back at Dakota as she mirrors my expression, “This is awesome…”
All I can remember from this morning is the burning. It was the first thing I became conscious of. The itchy yet painful, bugs crawling over your skin feeling at the base of my spine, sliding around every vertebrae. It was worst at the surface, where the new metal had broken the skin and were sunk deep inside, joining together with the bone. At this moment the two were melting together, and within a week they’d become one. The newest addition to me.
My sister nods at my words, smiling widely. She opens her mouth to speak, but it quickly closes as she suddenly jumps in surprise, her head tilting as if she can hear something. I blink, my eyes instantly going to the metallic pieces in her ears as she goes still, listening. She remains still for a moment before breaking into a grin.
“Mom and Dad are talking. Want to hear?” I blink in surprise before nodding, instantly interested at whatever conversation our parents are having. Based off of what happened merely minutes ago, one thing was certain: This had to be good.
Dakota listens a moment more before starting to speak, her voice changing drastically in tone to match the soft, forever-worried whispers of my mother. “...sure we can go through with this? Kameron does not need to go down there. It can put our family in danger-”
“Ana, Kameron’s growing up, as is Dakota,” I watch my sister’s silver laced tongue as her voice morphs into the deep tones of our father, “They need to know what is going on in our world. We swore to follow the code - we can’t go back now. I won’t go against my word.”
“But- the kids are listening.”
Dakota’s eyes go wide, and she clamps her mouth shut and starts a casual conversation with me just as our parents walk in. I blink in surprise at the sudden change but willingly go along with it, answering her that no, it doesn’t hurt too bad right now, but it probably will after the medications wear off. Out of the corner of my eye I see my parents watching us silently.
We speak a moment longer before my mother breaks her prolonged silence. “What did the doctor tell you earlier, Kameron?” I turn my head to see she’s returned to her chopping, my father leant up against the counter besides her, “You never fully told us.”
I narrow my eyes at her, a bit annoyed that she’s seemingly forgotten the argument earlier, but I let it go and sigh. “She said I’ll have my usual full range of movement by tomorrow, but I need to take it slow. My balance is affected so i need to get used to that.” I put my feet up on one of the stool rungs below me, toes curling a bit in order to grip on, “My meds will wear off every 6 hours, so I need to take them on time. And if I find things are too difficult or strange, to have you guys call her.”
My mother nods once I finish speaking, giving me a gentle smile. “Alright. You’ll be okay on your own today, then? Your father will be home by noon.” I hum and nod, not minding the extra alone time. She smiles at my response, moving over and pressing a kiss to my head before getting back to work.
For the first time since I’ve gotten this procedure, the pain in my lower back is beginning to be appreciated as I stand in the living room. Mom’s at work, Dad’s got an interview, and Dakota is off at school, which leaves the house to me. Getting your first upgrade allows you to skip school for a week, so I have literally all the time in the world to investigate. And the first order of business is to unlock that damn door.
There’s no way in hell that nothing is down there, therefore, I am getting it open no matter what.
Humming the Mission Impossible theme song, I move down the long hallway as quietly as I can, feet barely making a sound each time the soles connect to the ground. I stop at the entrance to my parent’s room, peeking inside and scanning for any booby traps before slipping in.
No keys. This was the first thing I noticed. My parents were smart - they knew not to leave out any sort of unlocking device while I was home alone. Goddamnit. This means we must move on to plan B.
Picking the lock.
Scanning the room, I search for any sort of useful tool before spotting my mother’s jewelry box. Bingo. Grinning, I slip over the soft carpets to gently push open the box, sifting through the silver pieces as I continue to hum, trying to be as quiet as possible.
Yes, I understand I am home alone and no one will hear me, but what fun is that?
Back to the mission.
I spot my mother’s long hair clip and grin, taking it and holding it up to the light for a moment. This is perfect! With a large grin, I quietly shut the top of the jewelry box before heading back out to the living room.
I slowly walk into the room, imagining this as a scene in an action move - the cellar door a looming, unbeatable boss before the underdog. This is it. I have one chance to get this open. If not, I will try again tomorrow. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, before rushing to the door.
Jesus Christ, I never knew picking a lock was so damn hard.
I wipe a thick drop of sweat from my brow, panting softly as I stare at the tightly locked door. The poor hair pick lies in a crumpled heap at my feet, and I groan, running a hand through my hair.
My eyes trail down to the silver bit of metal swinging at my feet, tilting my head with a sigh. Why couldn’t I have gotten an upgrade that picks door locks? I could get anywhere then. Or maybe I could have gotten enhanced hearing, like Dakota. I could probably listen to see what’s down there… Ooh, or maybe some sort of X-ray vision? Mom always talks about her friend with the eye upgrades…
Oh well, it’s too late now. I need to wait another full year before I can get something new.
I snap out of my thoughts at the realization that time is passing, wrinkling my nose. Okay, one last try, and then I give up.
I pick up the pick, slipping it into the lock as I prop myself up on my knees once again. Biting my lip, I jiggle it around in the lock a few times, tilting my head, before a loud click goes off, and the door swings open.
I blink, staring in shock before jumping all around, screaming.
“I did it! I don’t know what I did but I did it! I did i- ahhhhh!”
I scream and jump a mile at the sudden loud bang from downstairs, nearly tripping over myself as I scramble behind the couch. My hand clamps down over my mouth and I fall silent, slowly peeking over the top of the couch to look down at the dark cave that is the basement, a soft light illuminating the very bottom. I gulp.
I don’t want to do this anymore…
No. I am strong. I am Bond. I can do this.
I stand up and march over to the stairs, my tail swinging proudly behind me as I walk right down them, brow furrowed in determination. I reach the bottom of the stairs and turn into the basement before gasping, freezing right to the spot. What my eyes unfold causes me to stand still for a long while, just staring…
Sitting before me, in rows and rows of the chairs that magically go missing from our house every month, are bodies. Bodies whose skin is no longer flesh, but silver bits of metal, fused together to form the entire body. Rust covers the edges of some, while others remain perfectly pristine and shiny, as if the upgrade was just given...
My feet seem to move on their own, taking a step backwards as the cleanest body shifts, silhouette moving to let metallic lids slide open. I stare with wide eyes, unable to move as golden eyes move, settling on my form. They seem to flash in recognition as they search over my body before coming to a standstill at my tail - which was now between my legs, almost quivering in fear.
I flinch and take a step back as the screen embedded into the man’s metal chest lights up, taking a moment to boot up before words begin to cross it. All instincts within me yell for me to run, but I can do nothing but stare, reading along.
KAMERON, DO NOT BE AFRAID.
I AM YOUR GRANDFATHER, AND YOU MUST LISTEN TO ME.
SOCIETY IS FLAWED.
UPGRADES ARE EVIL.
ONCE YOU RUN OUT OF PLACES TO ADD,
THEY MUST TAKE THINGS AWAY.
DO NOT GET ANY MORE.
I’m halfway up the stairs before any more words can cross the screen, my heart beating a mile a minute. The words from the screen run through my mind as if it is simply another monitor, specific phrases repeating over and over.
Society is flawed.
Upgrades are evil.
But do not be afraid.
There’s no way in hell I’ll be letting another doctor touch my skin again.
I reach the top of the stairs and slam the door shut behind me, darting towards the phone hanging on the wall before I crash face first into a hard chest.
Large hands grab me before I topple, standing me upright and taking hold of my shoulders. I’m gasping and shaking as I look up to meet the eyes of my father, my mind racing so fast I can’t form words to speak. My father looks at me with a bit of both calm and sadness.
“Kameron. I think it’s time we talk.”