Rosakai outstretched his long legs, one over the other. “I asked myself that very question when I found you,” he said coldly. His eyes flicked to the ocean, then back at Zephren. “I admit you will not like this answer, but I did not feel it was my responsibility to come find you.”
Zephren fidgeted in the wind, listening to the night. Did that anger him? “So, what changed? Why did you come for me? Why am I so important?” His father had never given him answers; could this stranger?
“I knew both of your parents,” Rosakai admitted, bitterly, “but I was closer with your mother. After she was killed, you went to your father. Your safety was paramount; top priority.”
There was silence as Zephren listened, unsure whether or not to believe him. “Well… wrong call,” he sighed, gritting his teeth.
Rosakai looked at Zephren with deep sympathy. “I never thought there would be a need for a stranger to intervene... He was your father, I thought he would take care of you, look after you.” There was a small growl in the back of his throat as his face contorted into anger, “I never expected him to hurt you—imprison you.” Rosakai closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as shook his head. “I’m sorry. Had I known things would have been different.”
Zephren let the words sink in, trying not to dwell on the possibility that he could have had a better life. “You knew my mother?” he asked surprised. “How did you know her? I didn’t even know her.”
Rosakai grimaced. He swallowed uncomfortably before saying, “We used to work together. A long time ago.”
Looking over Rosakai’s young, handsome face, Zephren couldn’t help but question him. “How is that possible?”
“Sirens are immortal.”
“Immortal?” The word made him frown, shaking his head. “How old are you, exactly?”
There was a heavy exhale as Rosakai looked down. “Does it matter? After a while, you lose track…you stop counting the years; start counting the decades, centuries…” He sounded distant and remorseful.
Zephren felt a twinge of selfishness as he uttered, “Am I immortal?”
Rosakai shrugged. “Most people that have any amount of siren blood are... You’ll know.”
“When did you stop aging?” Zephren wondered if that was impolite to ask.
“I don’t remember… Somewhere in my late twenties, probably.” Rosakai brushed his gloved fingers through the strands of his long silver hair. “You’ll find things like age stop being important after a while. It’s the difference that you make with the time you have that counts.”
Though Zephren was not accustomed to speaking to another person—any person—he knew enough to take that as his cue; he was treading on sensitive subject matter. Zephren felt awkward and out of place.
Rosakai was eloquent.
“You said my mother was killed.”
“You didn’t know?”
‘No.’ Zephren couldn’t say it. It would sound too foolish to say out loud; to not know about his own mother.
After having stood there for a long moment, Zephren sat beside the siren clad in black. The wood creaked, rough on his skin. He looked down at his bare feet that were crusted with sand. He glanced up at Rosakai, shivering not at the cold but because of how close he was to another being. “My father said that he wanted to use me as a weapon. Is that true? Am I a weapon?”
Rosakai’s face was calm and unreadable. “You are a siren.”
“But sirens, they have powers, don’t they? I remember reading that somewhere.” He sounded desperate. ‘Am I desperate?’
The silver of Rosakai’s eyes were wild and dangerous. “Some of us do. But you don’t need to have the powers of a siren to be a weapon. Anyone who has resolve can be dangerous. And that’s something you decide.” He wrung his fingers together, anger clouding his face. “Your mother was hunted, too, for her power. As her son, it’s possible you inherited her abilities. That’s why people want to find you, especially Crimson.”
There was a darkness in Rosakai’s voice; contempt and hatred. “Who is Crimson?”
Face cast in shadows, Rosakai’s gaze bore into the sand. “A siren that hunts sirens. He works for the government, collecting rogue sirens to either kill them and harvest their power, or he recruits them to hunt on his behalf. It depends on which would benefit him more.”
“And he’s been hunting me because of my mother’s powers? He thinks I might have been born with them?” Zephren shivered. “I guess there’s a lot I don’t know about myself. Or the world really.”
Rosakai’s head tipped back to stare up at the stars. “There aren’t many of us left that haven’t been caught or killed. Rogue sirens are more of a legend than anything; a treasure hunt. The bounty is high on our heads.”
Zephren frowned, watching his face. “Only some have powers?”
Silver eyes slid to Zephren. “Yes.” He grunted, leaning forward slightly. “When you are in pain or have heightened levels of panic and fear, this is when your mind and body are most on alert. Humans feel that power in bursts of adrenaline; an extra surge of strength and the ability to block out pain to save your own life. For humans, it’s like an automatic reflex. They can only do extraordinary things in the moment they need to.”
Zephren nodded. “And sirens?”
“There is a…source, which all our power stems from. We call it a core. It causes us to regenerate tissue faster, our cells replenish themselves indefinitely…though our pain threshold is the same, the pain inflicted can be far greater with less risk, and the feeling of pain can be stored and remembered. It’s like a device that activates adrenaline on command, but at the price of the thing that triggers it. The greater the pain you feel, the more power you possess…as long as you can take it.”
“So that’s what the government harvests? These cores?” Zephren’s face crumpled into anguish. “Why are we so different from humans? Where did the cores come from?”
Zeph could feel the anger resonate off Rosakai’s body as he murmured, “Centuries of genetic manipulation.”
There was disbelief in Zephren’s voice. “Humans created us?”
Rosakai looked grim as he said, “To an extent…but we evolved like the world around us. Human to siren, Earth to Sanctus. At a time, humans wanted us as soldiers…the government still does, but the rest of us now are being eradicated.”
Looking at Rosakai’s face, his hair, his eyes, Zephren couldn’t stop himself from asking, “What can you do? What powers do you possess?”
His gaze was soft, a small smile at the corner of his mouth, stretching his scar. He stared down at his gloved hands, clenching them together. “Sirens have different individual abilities,” he muttered under his breath, avoiding the question. “In the beginning, the one thing we all had in common was the ability to control people with our voice, but now it’s almost never heard of. Most sirens are stronger and faster than humans…depending on the mutation, some,” he glanced at his hands again, “can control elements… The question though is not what I can do; it’s what you can do.”
Zephren didn’t know what was worse…being hunted for his powers or being hunted even though he was powerless. “What about my mother?” he asked, wanting to know. Needing to know.
Rosakai’s tone grew colder. “Your mother was one of the few that could control people with her voice, and even rarer…she could kill with it. There was something about the frequency, the way she used it…sirens would fall dead at her feet.”
Zephren felt his stomach drop, wondering if Rosakai saw a part of her in him. “That certainly sounds like a weapon,” Zeph whispered.
Looking at Zeph, Rose held a sadness in his gaze. “She wasn’t a weapon. She was a leader. She was brave, like you. She gathered everyone she could to put an end to being hunted.”
Zephren felt a sadness itch at the back of his mind. “And the government killed her?”
“They kill and steal from everyone…” There was a hollowness to his words, a defeat. “And it’s my duty to stop them.”