The Awakening, Part 1

“Hello, Chloe.” Dr. Davidoff beamed his best kindly-old-man smile as he pushed the door wide. He wasn’t that old—maybe fifty—but in a movie, I’d cast him as the doddering absentminded scientist. It was an act I’m sure he’d worked on until he got it just right. The woman behind him had chic blond hair and a New York suit. I’d cast her as the mother of the nastiest girl in class. Which was cheating, because that’s exactly who she was. Mother of Victoria—Tori—Enright, the one housemate we’d left out of our plans when we’d escaped from Lyle House, and for good cause, considering she was one of the reasons I’d needed to escape.

Well, after reading that I’d say we all know what we’re in for. The second book of the Darkest Powers trilogy, The Awakening, is much more up front about what we’ll be getting that the opening of the first one, which tricked me with ghosts and creepiness. So, let’s get on with this hatesummary.

As you may have forgotten due to it all being very boring. Chloe attempted to escape from the crazy kid house which was secretly the warehouse supernatural kids house and failed. Also, she finally figured out Liz was a ghost after it only being obvious for most of the book.

Evil Mad Scientist attempts to convince her to give up her friends on the basis that Simon is diabetic and will die if they don’t find him soon. He proves this by showing her Simon’s bag, which has insulin in it. She can tell it’s really his bag with his stuff, and while they might lie about his diabetes or show her insulin that’s not his, it’s totally impossible they could have added anything to his packed bag.

Chloe at least is smart enough that she doesn’t fall for the second half of the pitch, which is to tell them where he is. Instead she makes up fake meeting points to throw them off. Also, they’ve given her the necklace back and the gem is changing color from red to purple.

She decides to try to summon Liz again. She goes on and on about how she doesn’t have the proper movie trappings for necromancy, and it doesn’t occur to the little whiner that she’s full of perfectly good blood. Anyway, she accidentally summons another kid who was mentioned last book as having left before she got there, so of the three kids we know of leaving, two of them are dead. How were they keeping this under wraps? He doesn’t seem to much care about being dead but starts going on about the fight he got into back then and then the adults were arguing about some experiment and including Derek was a mistake.

Then he gets possessed by another ghost, somehow. The other ghost at least seems cool. She’s got orange cat eyes and also she wants to explain things, unlike fucking everyone else in this series. She mentions that all of them are Evil Mad Scientist’s special breed, including the dead kid she just summoned, and what sort of person kills off the fruits of his work so casually? What a waste of time and effort. She says she can’t stay long but that Chloe should summon her instead so she can talk. Then Evil Mad Scientist shows back up.

Oh, and Chloe then goes on about how whatever showed up has to be a ghost because that’s all she can summon, so I guess it’s actually a demon. Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone claimed all she can summon are ghosts, and Simon made it clear he knows barely anything about necromancers and nothing about demons but the word, so even if he had said something it wouldn’t mean anything.

Evil Mad Scientist decides to be chummy again. He shows her the security cameras to prove that she’s not being watched in her room, because it’s impossible they could have another room for security cameras that’s elsewhere. Then he shows her Rae hanging out playing videogames in a storage room and starts going on about how he knows the place isn’t as well furnished as the crazy supernatural warehouse, but they’ll fix it up and he’s sure the five of them will be happy here and Chloe, being a moron, is OMG HE SAID FIVE THEY’RE NOT GOING TO KILL DEREK ANYMORE! because it’s totally impossible he could be saying that to convince her. But that wouldn’t be stupid, so I’ll guess that there’s a different fifth kid.

Oh also he looks really fond of Rae so he’s probably the one who banged Rae’s demon mom. Maybe demon mom is the same as cateye ghost. That or he just thinks half-demons are awesome, which I can’t argue with.

Then a chair rolls over and he explains that it’s a special ghost of an Agito because fuck you proper capitalization which is just for the sake of making the explanation longer, because then he has to explain that Agito means telekinetic instead of just saying “the ghost of a telekinetic”. Also this one isn’t even a ghost, despite the whole conversation being about ghosts, it’s him. Also specifically it’s a half-demon with telekinesis. Which sounds like Liz. If the guy in charge is the same thing as she is why did they have so much trouble with her.

He explains their group is by and for supernaturals and it’s named after Edison because Edison was into necromancy. I don’t know why you’d name something after a guy who failed at magic when you can do magic. It’s like naming your sports group after a quadriplegic.

Anyway, he explains that the experiment was about trying to get the kids to grow up as normal humans without worrying over the transition, because I guess having a messy public breakdown over the transition is better. Chloe for once realizes this doesn’t make any sense.

Then she goes to see Rae, who is apparently fine with all this because they’re getting her a wii next and also she’s the best kind of fire demon, which is an Exustio because the author wants to punish me for reading this.

Man, it’d have been so much better with Rae as the main character. She’s reacting interestingly, too caught up in how great it is to be told that there isn’t anything wrong with her and actually she’s super special!

“And you know what else?” she said. “They showed me pictures of my mom. My real mom. None of my dad, of course, being a demon. Kind of freaky when you think about it. Demons aren’t exactly…” For the first time, worry clouded her eyes. She blinked it back. “But Dr. D. says that it doesn’t make you evil or whatever. Anyway, my mom? Her name was Jacinda. Isn’t that pretty?”
I opened my mouth to agree, but she kept rambling excitedly.
“She used to work here, like Simon’s dad. They have pictures of her. She was gorgeous. Like a model. And Dr. D. said they might even know where to find her, and they’re going to try. Just for me.”

A better question is why her mom gave her up and broke every possible tie between them, because to me, that sounds kind of like “rape victim”, which in turn makes all the focus on how pretty she is disturbing.

Also, if demons aren’t evil then why are they getting called demons?

Chloe tries to get things back to normal by asking about her adopted parents, and Rae starts going on about how her real mom loved her and Evil Mad Scientist said he had no idea what had happened because she’d have never given Rae up for adoption so maybe they killed her themselves or something. Rae says her adopted family doesn’t love her and they’re probably glad she’s gone because they never visited ever and who cares because they’re just ordinary people, and Chloe suggests maybe they weren’t allowed. Rae doesn’t believe it, so instead of mentioning that the only other supernatural kids she knows about in this group have been killed, she sits down to play videogames with her.

Chloe considers that maybe she’s wrong, because like everyone, she is stupid. Maybe Liz just coincidentally died and coincidentally misremembered it as not a car crash and coincidentally everyone lied about it! But she decides that also the other guy’s dead and while the rest was totally plausible, that isn’t. Then she also puts another two pieces together – Rae’s story about her birth mom cutting ties with the group and running sounds just like what Simon’s dad did.

There was one other person I could ask to speak to…
The thought made my skin crawl almost as much as the thought of seeing Aunt Lauren

Oh fuck you Chloe.

Anyway, Tori at last manages to directly defend herself against Chloe’s mean-popular-girl thing:

She stepped closer. Her skin looked yellow, and purple underscored her brown eyes. “I’ve got a sister just like you, Chloe. She’s the cheerleader, the cute little blonde, bats her eyelashes and everyone comes running. Just like you at Lyle House, with Simon tripping over himself to help you. Even Derek rushed to your rescue—”
“I didn’t—”
“Do anything. That’s the point. You can’t do anything. You’re a silly, useless Barbie, just like my sister. I’m smarter, tougher, more popular. But does that matter? No.”

She also says that she wasn’t trying to kill Chloe before, she was going to untie her and let her out of the crawlspace. I’m inclined to believe her on the basis that as killing attempts go it wasn’t a very good one and Tori doesn’t seem to lie much.

Of course then she shoots lightning at Chloe because she’s a witch, and Liz suddenly appears and shoves something between them so Chloe isn’t fried (see, the explanation about telekinetic ghosts should have come after this, not before, now it looks both convenient and predictable) and dammit Liz, why didn’t you try talking to poor Tori before this? Pick up a pencil already.

Tori doesn’t really notice how weird this is because she’s in fetal position mumbling about how she didn’t mean it. Maybe Chloe finally feels guilty because she tries to claim it’s her fault when the adults bust in, but she doesn’t have lightning explody powers and Tori’s presumably still babbling in the background about how sorry she is.

Chloe considers that she really did cause everything indirectly, by being the damsel in distress that got Simon and Derek moving. See, in a book that wasn’t a piece of shit, it’d have been Liz’s death that did that. She also decides that uncontrollable powers aren’t normal for supernaturals on the basis of absofuckinglutely nothing, therefore I guess it’s not normal.

THEN she wonders if life would have been better if she’d just gone along with things and agreed she’d been crazy and been let out again because she’s a fucking moron who thinks they’d have let her go after this.

Back in her room Liz is whispering to her, so instead of summoning helpful cateye maybeghost, she decides to yank Liz there, and accidentally a thousand zombies. Yay! Zombie army! She knows about this because there’s another ghost she’s kind of freed that’s chatting with her, who’s maybe the same as our cateye friend. This one says she’s a demidemon, with her soul bound there to power things, whatever they are. Also, Lyle got himself killed trying to bind a full demon. I want to see actual demons so I’m guessing they won’t be appearing.

And also apparently she isn’t a half-demon, or at least for some reason Chloe thinks that it’d be wrong to free her because she’s a demon and not just some dead kid with demon blood, and also the demithing says that evil souls go to hell. So I guess if you’re evil, make sure you have unfinished business? Why didn’t Lyle stick around then? He sure seems to be full of unfinished business.

The demon says that come oooon demons are only responsible for at most a tenth of the wars in the world and they know better than to wreck the place. Demon, you moron, she knows nothing about demons, you could have just said “we’re just scary looking things that like to hang out on our own plane and don’t hurt people”. The demon then says she’ll answer questions for free!

I was a schoolteacher once, you know, when a foolish witch summoned me and invited possession, which is never wise, even if you’re trying to destroy the dreadful little Puritan village that accused you of

I really wish books would stop having it turn out that actually Salem had witches. No one ever says that actually the Jews totally did have an evil conspiracy during WW2, you know?

She explains that Tori is a witch/sorcerer mix and that apparently werewolves have litters and the rest of his siblings were too aggressive and were killed. Chloe just keeps saying she doesn’t want to know, because in addition to being a moron, Chloe hates plot.

Then Evil Mad Scientist takes her to a special library where he shows her some ancient book that’s about the history of necromancers and there’s only three in the world AND WHY ARE YOU TALKING INSTEAD OF PHOTOCOPYING THAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE HOW WE LOSE BOOKS YOU SELFISH SHORTSIGHTED FUCKER

Chloe is actually halfway competent here, maybe because there’s more stuff going on, so she instead sneaks out and gets on his computer. It’s password protected and she tries and fails a bunch of times until our helpful demon friend tells her the password is Rae’s mom’s name.

So finally we find out what’s up! And it’s actually pretty close to what Evil Mad Scientist has been saying, for some reason. Basically, there’s two drawbacks to having superpowers: dealing with mundanes and side effects. There were five supernatural subtypes, and they changed the genes of five babies per subtype because I guess it seemed neat. Personally, that seems like way too small of a control group and also how the fuck did they simultaneously figure out the way to fix all five different groups, and also, why the fuck half-demons? Half-demon is not a distinct breed! It is especially not a distinct breed one you establish demons are in themselves actually made up of lots of breeds! THIS IS NOT HOW YOU SCIENCE!

Oh, also they tried to have a control group by raising five kids as supernatural, despite that meaning their “control” for each actual type was a single kid. Well, Victorian level grasp of science is, I suppose, fitting for people with a Victorian attitude toward books.

Anyway, they lost contact with a bunch of kids but managed to find most of those again. Of those they know of, it worked in nine of the twenty and failed in the rest, which are another good nine, with two left unaccounted for. The ones who don’t improve instead somehow get a powerup and also the powerup is expected to increase in power over time even though they’re already orders of magnitudes stronger than any normal one of their type.

And that’s why it’s so important the kids be kept under control. This actually makes me feel that they could have a good reason for killing the kids. Ignoring the idiot balls everyone’s holding, there’s actual moral questions here – if someone has the capability to accidentally a crazed zombie army (still waiting on the followthrough there), what do you do with them? Rae seems pretty weak, but what if she had powers on the same spectrum of Chloe’s and could make a whole building light up without real effort? It’s like someone having guns welded to their arms that sometimes go off when they sneeze – they’re going to cause accidental damage and if they ever decide to commit actual crimes, they’re going to do so much more damage than a regular person.

Furthermore! From what data they have, half the kids were improved by this. We don’t have any idea what the normal death/collateral damage is among the supernatural kids (presumably nothing to speak of because the book is stupid) but in another situation, there’d be a real question of if changing things to a fifty percent change of successfully growing to adulthood/fifty percent change of having to be immediately put down like a rabid dog would be better (if nothing else, it might let the rest of the community tell the difference between who needs containment and who’s safe in advance) plus the potential to improve that ratio to something more favorable over time.

Anyway. So they decide to try to rehabilitate the fifty percent that got extra powers instead of late onset and kill them if it doesn’t work, and because everyone is a fucking moron, rehabilitate means drive them nuts. The file has a list of names, with two rehabilitated to three killed. Rae and Tori are in-progresses, but it’s clear Tori’s only still alive because her mom’s got pull, and honestly, who knows if Rae would make it out. She doesn’t believe she’s got powers, but she’s still a firebug.

See, it’d help here if there was any explanation for the drugs. Do the drugs actually block their powers? It’s the only thing that makes sense with the idea this is about controlling them, but if there were powerblocking drugs, then the entire purpose of the original experiment is lost. Why fuck around with genes that may or may not work when you could just start all regular kids on the powerblocking drugs to ease them into it?

Then Evil Mad Scientist reappears but Liz warns her and distracts him long enough for her to get back to pretending to read her book. Liz appears to gloat that she’s totally not dead because she can move stuff, she must just be in a coma.

Then it goes back to Rae and supper. Chloe says that the boy Rae had known back at crazy kid warehouse is a dead ghost and she saw him and Rae insists that he’s fine and they don’t murder anyone and Chloe is a hateful brainwashed liar, which is why she refuses to let Chloe summon anything to prove it.

I guess this is balancing out Chloe being more proactive. Last time, there was really nothing preventing her from doing stuff, so she had to sit around all on her own. Now, there’s lots of people to stonewall, even if it makes no damn sense.

Then they grill her again about where the boys might be hiding and say she can come help them look. Tori jumps on this insisting she should come to go shopping and otherwise being a great character. Rae insults Tori for this, so Tori insults her back, so Rae threatens third degree burns. Finally, Tori says something to Evil Mad Scientist to make him agree.

Cateye demon says bye and continues to sound really friendly and nice. Chloe continues to think it’s evil and she hates it.

Although a lot of small things have occurred, none of it’s added up to much. Even the telekinetic ghost thing is no big deal – it makes sense that mental powers would stay with a ghost, and anyway, there’s been nothing before now saying ghosts couldn’t learn to do that in general. All that’s happened is some slight refinement of the background to explain that instead of being an unlucky bunch of supernaturals caught by this group, they’re actually incredibly special experiments whose experimental nature makes them supersupernaturals, which is really a step down. And I guess that Tori has powers she somehow never used before despite supposedly having terrible control.

Next time: Werewolves!

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