“ROWAN!” Bee is calling. When I turn in the direction of her voice, I realize how far Rowan and I have walked. I can barely see her standing at the edge of the dead cornfield. “The doctor is here!” she bellows.
In answer Rowan waves to her. “Come on,” he says. “I can’t wait for you to meet him. I can’t wait to show him that you’re alive.”
“Wait,” I say. “Doesn’t it seem strange to you that this doctor knew all about me and he told you that I was dead?”
“If he lied about that, then he must have his reasons,” Rowan says. “I know he can explain.”
The author doesn’t fucking care and I don’t either. It’s skimming time. Let’s do this.
Rowan insists on introducing her to Evil Mad Scientist, who immediately says no shit I already knew. Rhine says fucking nothing. He recounts how he knew she was special on sight and after his son picked her, personally ordered the murder of the rest of the girls. He did this so no one would know, although the gatherers, the only people who would actually have seen her eyes, were not a concern. Rhine says fucking nothing. Also, it’s all Cecily’s fault again because he found out from what Rhine told Cecily. Rowan gushes about how great this is. Rhine says it’s a lie despite the fact it’s true, just horrible. Rowan says it’s totally true and also great. Rhine decides that she’d rather pretend her brother is good than do anything about the fact he’s evil. Rhine goes back to saying fucking nothing. They get in a plane for Hawaii, which is treated as a big chapter-ending shock even though Jared saying anyone who goes looking gets murdered already confirmed that the rest of the world was out there, and we get a supervillain rant.
“Picture a world that’s riddled with filth,” Vaughn says.
I wasn’t joking.
Evil Mad Scientist tells us the backstory finally. Two centuries ago America was really high tech but also imported a lot of stuff. Then there was war and disease. The president said they could fix that with isolation.
“The government began to confiscate things believed to cause disease—tanning booths, which you haven’t heard of, darling, because they were worthless; specific chemicals that went into foods; water filters. Even sun exposure was limited. The towers that powered cellular phones were deactivated. There was once an infrastructure known as the Internet, through which anyone could have access to any information. This became a luxury afforded only to specific professions. There were hiccups of protest, of course, as was to be expected. But in the decades that followed, American citizens thrived. Its self-contained economy flourished.”
Because immigrants are the real problem in America.
Despite this working great, people complained, so he gave them superbabies because making them more invulnerable would obviously make people totally fine about isolationism. This allowed him to return the real cause of the unrest, the tanning beds and water filters and stuff. But not the internet or cellphones.
“As society changed, the president gradually arranged for new books to be distributed as old ones were filtered out. History was slowly being changed and rewritten
Books: kind of like automatic software overwrites.
He explains that anyway, by the time this went through America was so toxic that people only lived to be like fifty and most of them were sterile, which does explain why there were no non-superbabies but contradicts his stuff about how people were thriving. Then the first lab explosion was the one that made the first generations (all of them) and no one had backed up the data despite being told the one thing the internet was still used for was professional work, and that’s why no one can make more first generations. It’s thought this was a deliberate attempt to wipe humanity out.
“That doesn’t make sense,” I blurt. “Who would want to end the human race?”
Vaughn, unfazed by my outburst, says, “Those who had grown tired of the endless cycle.”
The fact the author acts like everyone, no matter the situation or background, sees the virtue in lying down and dying makes me wonder if she’s got problems with depression.
Anyway, the eleven hour plane ride ends with Rhine still not managing to say, “Hey, this guy tortured me and murdered a bunch of other girls,” because etiquette books are very clear that women should only stick to lighter topics.
“I can see our Rhine needs a while to regroup. I’ll arrange for your meals to be brought to you now, and I’ll come and get you when it’s time. How does that sound?”
“That would be best,” Rowan says, speaking for both of us like I’m an invalid in his charge.
Much like Rose’s backstory explains why she thought nothing of the kidnap and rape of other women, we can now see why Rhine never peeps at the way men treat her, treats other women terribly, and makes excuses for rapists. Her brother treats her like she’s mentally incompetent, and she just notes it. The next line is just her being glad Evil Mad Scientist left. She’s not going to say anything to her brother about how he just acted, or how he’s dismissing his only sister in favor of some stranger’s word. She’s certainly not going to bother telling him the other guy hurt her, because he won’t care – his property wasn’t damaged. After all, as he said last chapter, “I’ve believed the worst, but you seem as though you’ve been well.” Who cares what she went through as long as she still looks pretty?
Indeed, it’s Rowan who laments now that she’s not quite as mentally incompetent seeming as she was.
It’s just that you’re—you look older. This past year I’ve accepted that you were frozen in time, that I would grow older but you would always be sixteen. A child. We were both children when we saw each other last, weren’t we? But you’re somebody’s wife now.”
Also something that only makes sense in gothic romance when a sister was turned into a wife and a not-your-problem non-virgin upon marriage of any kind.
He says he isn’t sure he wants to know about this, by which he means his sister’s fallen state and not all the suffering she actually went through, but he hopes her husband was kind. Without explanation, she says sure, and then that Evil Mad Scientist isn’t, so Rowan goes back to explaining she’s a silly woman but she’ll understand. Rhine, kill them both. It’ll be hard but it’s for the best.
Then her brother goes off to do some vague thing he keeps hinting will upset her but won’t explain why.
“I thought you and I might have a chance to chat,” Vaughn says. “You and I have never gotten along very well, but now that the circumstances have changed, I’d like for us to start over. I underestimated you before, perhaps. I wasn’t honest about the tests I conducted on you while you were married to my son. It’s just that you were so stubborn, and I was sure you’d object.
Here’s a question for you to ponder – is this supposed to be slimeball talk? Because he’s Evil Mad Scientist, on the one hand, but on the other, this is how all the other men talk. Is the constant refrain that he’s evil actually because the author intends it to be a counterpoint to how reasonable and nice his words are?
it’s my hard work that captured the interest of the president. About thirty years ago, when it was discovered that our children were being claimed by this mysterious ailment, the president began compiling an elite team of only the best in their fields to go about understanding and fixing the problem. Just a few short years ago, I was selected.
I mean, I don’t even know anymore. Is it supposed to sound delusional that the president’s been bringing in people for thirty years and he’s only been picked recently yet he thinks it’s a sign he’s so great at this?
“But it isn’t enough to be selected. Each specialist to earn the president’s interest must prepare a case study. Dr. Glassman did a fascinating presentation on the mutations in malformed children, for instance. And as a part of his study, Dr. Hessler prepared notes on the origin of how this affliction came to be known as a virus. It isn’t exactly a virus, you understand. A virus is something that’s contracted, not something that happens as a result of one’s genetics. But when our children first started to die, we didn’t suspect genetics. We suspected another outbreak like the tainted pesticides.
Tainted pesticides being viruses, naturally.
“I’ve been trying to come up with a case study that’s worthy of the president’s time,” Vaughn says.
Four nurses are moving my brother from the gurney to the bed, propping him against the incline.
“First I tried to imagine a way new generations could adapt to their short life spans. I dabbled with
the idea of females having full-term pregnancies before natural puberty.
So he still didn’t have presidential approval for anything, and apparently presidential approval is just a matter of doing any shit that has to do with the whole business. He doesn’t care about adapting the second gen kids, because that won’t change his son’s lifespan, so why would he do that?
I was making some headway there, I thought, but none of the subjects could withstand the treatments.”
Rhine then repeats to herself that she doesn’t want to know what happened to Deirdre so she won’t ask, despite him telling her right there.
Meanwhile, her brother’s getting the eye needles, because eyeneedling Rowan is super important but not so super important he couldn’t wait until after Rowan ran around the country playing with explosives and inciting riots.
“Then your brother here introduced your parents’ notes, about replicating the virus.”
The one that, as he just said, isn’t a virus to be replicated.
He then says that that trying out the research is what really killed Jenna, because plot twists are good, right? Even plot twisting your plot twists until the whole thing is just an ugly knot of nonsense.
Rhine whines about how horrible her brother looks after the eyeneedling, despite the fact he did so willingly and she went through much worse without him giving a shit. Then Evil Mad Scientist announces Hawaii is virus-that-he-just-said-isn’t-a-virus-free and regular humans live here, and by free he means they don’t even know it exists, because ???????????? But anyway, they could have solved the problem with some frozen blastocysts fifty years ago. This is super convincing to Rhine, because she only believes things if they’re stupid.
He begins the story after we sit at a table in the cafeteria that’s built into the fifteenth floor. All
around us are doctors and nurses, all different ages but mostly first generation. Or is “first generation”
even the term for them? What do you call someone who isn’t a first generation or a new generation?
See, stupid all the way down. It could have been a good moment when she realized the old people weren’t first generation, but no, apparently she isn’t sure if they are first generation or not, because she’s a fucking idiot who apparently never realized that humans before the first generation superbabies weren’t first generations.
Evil Mad Scientist explains that when Rose was a toddler, she and Linden played together at a conference and he decided his kid needed a playmate and wife and, presumably, that he didn’t want to buy anyone of common stock. He suggested they get married. Given the playmate comment he must have also suggested they hand the kid over right then. Anyway, the parents refused so I could see even then that she was too good for her parents,” he says. “They had no idea what they had in her.” therefore murder.
The dad had just been picked by the president and had come to ask Evil Mad Scientist to partner with him. If the idea Evil Mad Scientist hated sharing the credit or other scientists’ accomplishments made any sense, this would be a good example of it, in that by murdering this guy he actually sabotages his own desire to be recognized.
“Before Rose came along, I’m ashamed to say I had a close call with Linden. One of my treatments made him ill. Fortunately, he recovered with little more than a few missing molars, but I knew that I couldn’t risk anything like that again. If I wanted to cure my child, I couldn’t also treat him like my guinea pig.”
I don’t know why the book bothers confirming this when it’s clear any negative speculation about Evil Mad Scientist will always be true, because evil. Also, this is so fucking stupid because you can buy all the kids you want as servants and do anything you want to them.
she lived several months after her twentieth birthday. Hers is the study that earned me the president’s attention. I set a mortality record with her. But she wasn’t the one. Not quite.”
“And you think my brother and I are ‘the one’?” I ask.
“Sadly, no,” Vaughn says. “Once I came to this place, I discovered that someone else beat me to it. There have been several avenues of cures discovered.”
So he set a record, but someone else beat him to it.
None of the cures have proven to be universal, I’m afraid. Some people are living into their thirties now. But in cases of others that have received the same cure, there have been some gruesome fatalities, depending on ethnicity, gender, and age at the time treatment is administered.
So people are living into their thirties but twenty and some months is a record. Maybe it’s a record because all the other ones were men.
The plan is to see if she and Rowan can handle all the existing cures without that gruesome fatalities, because he’s sure they’re custom made, therefore the testing would be fucking useless because they’re unique and it changes nothing about how everyone else reacts to them and if gene tampering to get more like the two of them was acceptable they could just take the perfectly fine DNA from the rest of Hawaii and call it a day. Speaking of…
Wars and natural disasters have annihilated some landmasses, have reduced countries by halves and thirds and so on, have caused erratic weather in places that were temperate hundreds of years ago. Some things have changed. But not everything.
So we didn’t accidentally the entire world, we accidentally half the world. Half of an impossible number is still impossible, and it’s extra impossible to still have a small island chain at the end of it. Rising sea water alone should’ve decimated them.
The question, Vaughn says, is not whether a cure will be found in time to save his son and grandson, but whether it will be perfected in time. Can I imagine the chaos, he asks, that would happen if people knew all of this was going on? No. Better to carry on his image of just another doctor working aimlessly, and to let the supposed rebels, like my brother, destroy labs and spread pro-naturalism. Better to let the people be ignorant and hopeless. And then, once the cure is introduced, they’ll be so grateful and so desperate for a structured existence to save them from the cesspool that the country has become.
You could control them just fine with the partial cures, and you could destroy the labs just fine by cutting funding.
He explains that no one really wants to make their own destiny and it’s so nice having people decide for you. The author presumably understands this is a bad thing because it’s being said by the evil guy her main character hates, but I get the impression she thinks it’s this huge temptation.
The blue June Beans, for instance, were not giving you small doses of the virus. They contained minuscule doses of an experimental cure. The withdrawals after you ran away made you ill, like I expected. But it gave me an idea. I stopped administering the same treatment to your brother, to minimal effect. He hardly even developed a fever. It furthers the theory that the virus in males is entirely unrelated to the virus in females.”
Even though again, it’s not actually a virus. Also, this has been obvious ever since the men were outliving the women despite women being genetically more robust, which is to say, fifty years ago.
My bedroom, in contrast to the rest of the building, is warm and softly lit. The bed is lush and inviting, the bedding gold satin.
I step inside, and when the door is closed behind me, I hear the click of a lock.
Rhine doesn’t care, because really, isn’t a luxurious locked room all she wanted? She just missed her brother, who’s now there to treat her like an infant again, and objected to the guy killing her but she’s like 90% sure he won’t now so that’s fine.