A/N; After much deliberation over this story I've decided to end it the way I originally planned rather than opening up new arcs of the story which I don't believe this story really needs. So after a massive six years of work and far too many delays I bring you the final chapter of Twisted Experimentation and can only hope you've all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Chapter 21; A New Home
Riley had watched silently over James in the infirmary all night. James had been the only one really injured this badly and he'd recover. The damage had been purely physical and a slice across the chest, as nasty as it had looked, was nothing to them and the X-6s had even better restorative abilities than Riley's own series.
James had woken a couple of times over the night and Riley had been there to make sure he stayed still but James was a soldier and the last thing he was going to do was run around and open up his wounds. It was morning before Riley knew he had to leave and he found Alec outside the infirmary door looking as if he'd spent the entire night there even though Riley knew by the look of him that he'd had what amounted to an X-5's full night's rest. They headed down to the flight deck where they found Max and Logan waiting just inside the hanger doors as a team of transgenics readied an Osprey for take-off. Riley chuckled at the fact the Osprey was looking rather new in comparison to what they'd flown out on. It had a new paint job and the Transgenic Nation flag painted on its flank just like the ships flew on their masts. That flag was very much the rallying point for the hundreds of transgenics on the four ships.
Riley turned his head when another guy approached them ready to leave, chewing on a candy bar. Riley nodded to him as Logan jerked when he appeared seemingly without warning. That was the interesting thing about IT concentrates as Manticore had called them. They were walking battle processors, capable of taking in thousands of pieces of information at any given time and planning for every eventuality. Michael, this one, had suggested he come along for their meeting on the British Carrier because despite Max, Alec and Riley's intelligence they didn't know absolutely everything about their transgenic brother and sisters' limits and their new nation's capabilities.
"Logan, this is Michael." Riley told him and Logan finally managed to admit to himself that Michael was there. "It's another of my genes used to create psyops transgenics. It makes it rather difficult for you to really notice his presence."
"So I've heard." Logan frowned. "If I look away will I forget he's there?"
Michael laughed before taking pity on Logan. "If I leave you might not notice me come back. I can get the better of transgenics like Alec and Max too. Never did work on Riley though. Same as most of the psyops division."
The Osprey spun up and within a few minutes they were slipping forwards to board and heading across the bay towards the massive carrier, HMS Britannia. They were quickly given permission to land on the large flight deck and escorted inside as their Osprey shut down. They were led through twisting passageways, Michael having to hop through spaces before the human crew cut him off without noticing him, and finally led into a conference room dominated by a large interactive table. Max and Logan accepted two of the six seats around one side but Alec and Riley moved to the side of the windowless room and Michael sat in a chair in the very corner at the back of the room even though he could have sat right in the centre and most likely been overlooked.
They weren't kept waiting long and soon eight men and women were walking into the room. Riley spotted a few he recognised but only a few really mattered and they were the more senior members of the group and one that caught his eye because they were wearing a press badge. "You've decided to publicize our presence?" Riley prompted before anyone could begin introductions.
The man in charge, an Admiral, gestured and the new comers took seats on the spare chairs, leaving Riley and Alec to take seats with Max and Logan. The press woman sat down two seats down from the Admiral and the officer between them was the Captain of the Britannia according to his name tag on his uniform. The others seemed to be aides to the Fleet Command Group rather than officers of the ship.
"My name is Admiral Forestgrove. This is my fleet as it were." The Admiral declared. "The Captain at my side is this ship's Captain, Captain Morrison. And this fine woman is Miss Kai Piper, reporter for the BBC attached permanently to this task group for public relations. She's not here specifically for you but as you have become big news around the world I thought it best she was kept informed. Already she has given many reports on TV of your presence within the fleet."
"I can have all my videos forwarded to you after this meeting and you can look through them if you'd like." She assured the three Transgenics. "And I've not broadcast anything about transgenics in particular, only your presence on the ships and what we know of your altercation in Seattle."
"She'd like to go on board your ships with a film crew and put together some interviews with your friends and of the ships." The Admiral told him. "And our own command would like to support this effort."
"Show you in a more personal light to our viewers around the world." Kai told him.
Riley turned to take in Alec and Max on either side of him before twisting his head to look at Michael for his opinion. He knew more about the goings on with all of the transgenics than he did really. "I've seen her reports." Michael spoke up and a gasp went through the room as all the humans were attracted to his presence and tensed up in surprise at not having noticed him. "They're neutral at the moment, almost making us out to be refugees but quite clearly dangerous ones. It wouldn't hurt and British public opinion is on our side at the moment."
"Who are you?" Captain Morrison frowned.
"Perhaps introductions on our side then?" Max offered. "My name is Max, this is Alec and Riley."
"X-5's right?" The Admiral asked. "Officers of a sort."
"Precisely." Alec nodded. "That is Logan, human tag along."
"Alec…" Max warned but Alec just shot Logan a teasing grin and the human's rolling eyes told the other humans in the room that Alec was just teasing him.
"And this is Michael." Riley turned his head to look at Michael again.
"I am an IT concentrate." Michael informed him. "Designed to be a General and his entire staff all rolled into one unnoticeable package."
"He could have sat in the corner and not said a word and you wouldn't have noticed him for days." Riley told them. "But his ability to comprehend massive amounts of information means that he and his brothers and sisters are our logistics experts."
"So as X-5s and officers…" Kai started. "Does that mean you have taken command over the other transgenics?"
"We are not the oldest on our ships." Max told them all simply. "Manticore intended for us to be officers and the later series were to be our soldiers but we have not kept that structure on our ships."
"However our younger brothers and sisters seem content to let us lead. We all have our abilities but the X-5 series have all seen more real world application and are more confident dealing with real-life crisis." Riley explained simply. "And as Max lead us all to rebellion and freed us all from Manticore it is her that most consider our leader."
"And yourself?" Kai asked.
"We are looking to one another for protection and security right now." Alec told the group. "Riley is the strongest and deadliest of us so naturally most of us look to him for that security even if we are all capable of protecting ourselves and each other."
"Also right now this newest threat to us seems to be centred on me." Riley told them.
"Yes, the Death Eaters that attacked you yesterday." The Admiral frowned. "What do you know of them?"
"I know they are magical." Riley replied simply. "We had a run in with several when we left Seattle but this group yesterday seemed to act with different motives."
"Death Eaters are a magical terrorist organisation." The Admiral informed them. "Not known to all for their magical nature and those that do know are under the Official Secrets Act. They are trying to purify their world from the perceived pollution of mundane influences. It is possible for any person to be born with magic and the magical world takes them in but these Death Eaters and their leader who calls himself Lord Voldemort wants to cleanse their world of what they call Muggleborns and all those that support them."
"Do you have a defence against them?" Alec asked.
"You seemed to fair well yesterday." The Captain nodded. "When we heard the alert and started mobilising we were shocked to find you fighting them off so effectively."
"But yes, we do have some defences." The Admiral nodded. "Over the last decade we have had to learn to use our own science to counter their abilities."
"As for our own defences all of the X-5 series were genetically bred to be immune to all forms of magic." Max declared.
"And my own unique abilities root from my own genetic makeup." Riley explained. "That of being born to a magical family." Riley explained.
"Excuse me? You're magical?" Kai gasped.
"As one of our trainers explained it to me my parents were murdered when I was just a baby and I was put in the care of family in Surrey who didn't want me and weren't given a choice. They sold me to Manticore." Riley shrugged. "Who experimented profusely with my DNA to create much of our psychological operations division, the X-5 series' immunity and some of my own unique abilities."
"So that's how you fought them off so effectively yesterday." The Captain nodded.
"They could not harm any of our X-5 brothers and sisters and proved to be woefully inadequate at any form of physical combat." Max declared simply. "We killed a few and captured a couple more before they retreated."
"You have captives?" The Admiral perked up. "You should be aware that when they wake they will be able to disappear, or apparate as they call it. You don't have the technology to prevent that."
"No we don't." Riley nodded. "But we have the abilities necessary to prevent it."
"How so?" Kai asked.
"All night the two captives we took have been divulging all of their secrets to us unaware that they don't really want to." Alec smirked.
"Not torture…" The Captain looked unnerved.
"Of course not." Max laughed. "We're a little more evolved than those methods, they're ineffective and you can't really trust the information you get."
"And you can trust these results?" The Admiral asked. "We have very little intelligence on the Death Eaters."
Riley glanced at Alec and then Max and Logan and then finally back at Michael and got the smallest of agreements from them all. "We'll organise for the information to be passed onto you. We would prefer that the method ascertained from the information isn't spread to the public."
"Thank you." The Admiral nodded. "Now, you mentioned a meeting with Wizards before leaving Seattle?"
"Yes." Riley nodded. "They confronted Alec and I while we were withdrawing from Terminal City."
"Do you know who?" Kai asked.
"They identified themselves as Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin and Hermione Granger." Riley told them simply and saw recognition across all their faces. Obviously at least one of them was well known. "Dumbledore informed us that he was Headmaster of a school called Hogwarts and that I should have attended. I believe he's had people tracking me for some weeks before we left Seattle. They keep popping up. Two of them even tried to kidnap me while I was severely injured. They learnt quickly not to try again."
"They rely heavily on their magic." The Admiral nodded. "Take that away and they succumb quickly to more physical means."
"They treated our own dilemma as if it was trivial, beneath their notice and of no concern to them." Alec told them.
"Most behave the same way." The Admiral nodded. "As if they are beyond any of us."
"Not all though." The Captain pointed out. "A few tire of their world and return to our own. We have two with us on this fleet. They don't flaunt their magic but we ask them for advice at times."
"They tried to use the death of my relatives in Surrey to spark a need for revenge against Voldemort and his followers." Riley told them. "Without realising that it was Manticore that facilitated their deaths. They want me to join them in their war and they didn't seem all that likely to ask but simply require my assistance as if I'd drop everything for them."
"Albus Dumbledore has a chip on his shoulder." The Admiral nodded. "He is a Lord in the House of Lords and as such likes to throw his weight around but he has no power over you."
"Did he say why you were of such interest to them?" Kai asked.
"They did not say it but our trainer at Manticore once told me." Riley nodded. "Supposedly the name I was born with, Harry Potter, is of some note to them."
"You could say that." The Admiral breathed as everyone gasped. "As a baby you became their hero for temporarily banishing Voldemort. You then disappeared but they believe that you are their answer to Voldemort."
"And now that you know will you use Riley to defeat your terrorists?" Alec asked dangerously.
"No." The Admiral shrugged. "We will of course pass this information up the chain but we already have plans in motion to take down this terrorist organisation. We have the technology to prevent their magic from taking hold and soon we will use it to nullify the danger that Voldemort represents and take him out. We need only know his location."
"Well with that we can help." Michael spoke up, making many around the table twitch, they'd overlooked him again. "Our… guests… were kind enough to inform us of everything they knew about the locations of their Master's bases."
That perked people up and the atmosphere relaxed just a little at the offering of open information like Michael had just done. "Have you looked into the Cult we informed you of?" Riley asked after a moment.
"All the information you gave the Astute is currently being looked into and followed. We're doing what we can to track their movements around the globe but it's proving to be a herculean task." The Admiral informed them. "Which brings us to the reason I asked to speak to you today."
"Oh?" Logan asked.
"We're got an idea where you can go long term." The Admiral declared. "You'd have complete freedom but the option to set your own security and control those you interact with."
"Got an island in the middle of the ocean for us then?" Alec teased.
"Actually, you're not too far wrong." The Admiral laughed before drawing a pattern on the surface of the table on his side to unlock it and then he logged in. He opened a file and a schematic for some sort of structure appeared. Riley stood with the rest of the room and moved their chairs out of the way to look down at the table display better and Michael moved closer.
"It's a ship." Michael announced as his eyes rapidly took in the information. "Two kilometres in length and two and a half kilometres across the stern. Horseshoe design to create a protected harbour."
"That's not just a ship." Max mused. "It's a floating base. An island in itself."
"Exactly." The Admiral nodded. "We're currently building five to act as staging bases across the globe with the intention of international security." He opened a new file and a gnemonic global chart appeared with dots spread out. "One in the North Atlantic, one in the west and east Pacific, one in the Arctic and finally this one in the Indian Ocean. The Dreadnaughts in the Atlantic and Arctic are complete and are undergoing trials. The Pacific two are almost complete off the coast of Japan and will move into position after their trials and finally this one in the Indian Ocean is structurally sound and in position."
"What's the point in this?" Riley asked.
"Obviously we can't just give this one in the Indian Ocean to you but we'd like to offer it as a safe haven for you. In return for you and your brothers and sisters helping to finish it and bring it into operation and then operating it for the future under our orders we would give you a permanent home on it. You would of course be free to travel to anywhere in the world whenever you wish and we would like to offer you amnesty under the British Crown with UK passports." The Admiral continued. "We would of course keep a large presence on the Dreadnaught as it is our future presence in the Indian Ocean and to Africa, Australasia and Asia but the Admiralty is happy to give actual Command of the Dreadnaught over to you given time."
"So we would move there and help to finish it and bring it up to full operational specification." Alec mused as he stole control of the schematic. "Then run it as our home and as a forward operating base for the British Military."
"More or less exactly." The Admiral nodded.
"I see why you chose this one, far away from US influence." Riley nodded.
"Are you open to the idea?" The Admiral asked.
"We don't have the authority to make that decision for us all." Max told him. "All of us are entitled to a say in this."
"Of course." The Admiral nodded.
"But we are open to the idea." Riley nodded. "And from there we can assist you in tracking this cult and preventing their future plans. Not to mention this gives all of us the option to assist your military."
"Any military assistance from those as highly trained and professional as you all are would be greatly welcomed." The Admiral nodded.
"But that is up to the individual whether to continue on a military path." Alec warned. "We are trying very hard to not make war our only life."
"That is something we can understand." The Admiral nodded. "I can't imagine how tough it must be knowing you were bred to wage war for those that in the end discarded you. But we see you as legal individuals and will protect that freedom just as we would any other in the world."
"Thank you." Riley nodded. "Can you provide us with all the information on this matter so that we can share the details with the others?"
"Of course." Captain Morrison nodded.
"And we will organise the transfer of all the intelligence we gained from our magical prisoners." Max added before offering her hand across to the Captain. She shook the Admiral's hand afterwards and then Kai Piper's. The Admiral then offered his hand to Riley and Riley noted the tension there. He obviously realised that Riley would be the hardest to build trust with. Riley nodded and took his hand and shook it firmly before doing the same with the others.
Word had spread between all of the ships and throughout them all about the offer made by the British and anywhere Riley went he could hear people chatting about it and he was asked for his opinion a hundred or more times. A team arrived from the Britannia a few hours after Riley, Alec, Max, Logan and Michael had returned and with them came a piece of kit about the size of a suitcase that was wired into the ship's high voltage system and switched on for them. According the humans that fitted the device it detected incoming magical transports of multiple kinds and send out a pulse which was essentially an anti-magic pulse. Supposedly the wizard or witch would 'splinch', whatever that was, or simply appear outside the range of the device, i.e. in the water.
It was starting to get dark when Riley walked up onto the quiet bridge. Most of the ships around them had lit up interior bridges now that they were at anchor but the transgenics didn't need the extra light and preferred to be able to more easily see out of the windows. "Hey Krit." Riley whispered as he walked up to his brother. "How are all the others?"
Krit looked at him from his mug of hot chocolate and gave him a warm look. Riley wrapped an arm around his waist and leaned into him a little. "They're adjusting to being with everyone else again. All the kids want stories."
"I haven't seen Sly or Iain all day." Riley muttered. Krit just laughed a little before falling silent again.
"What do you think of moving to his Dreadnaught in the Indian Ocean, Riley?" Krit asked after a moment.
"I think it's the best option for us." Riley sighed. "We can make it our own. Prove ourselves to the British." Riley shut his eyes for a moment. "What about Matthew?"
"I talked to him earlier when they flew over to transfer some parts." Krit sighed. "He says she deserves to know the truth now."
"Did you meet her or the kid?" Riley asked.
"Only from a distance." Krit shrugged. "Sly and I went through there once but we just made a drop. We didn't try to see him. Alex stayed nearby though and she knew him. Alex and Matthew told her that they were old school friends."
"Close enough to the truth." Riley sighed.
"Matthew's scared of going back to tell her." Krit sighed. "He loves her and that kid of her's he adopted means more to him than the world. But when this all kicked off he felt drawn to us. He wanted to help and when we told him about meeting you when we rescued Charlie and Case..." Krit smiled to himself. "He dropped everything because he, like the rest of us, wanted to save you. To be there for you when you needed us."
"I've forgiven all of you, Krit." Riley nudged him with his elbow and lifted his head so he could lean back against the window and look at Krit in the dying light properly. "Now it's time for Matthew to find his family again."
"Can he bring them onto the Dreadnaught?" Krit asked.
"The Admiral said it's up to us to operate the Dreadnaught however we like." Riley shrugged. "And there'll be plenty of room."
"Charlie and Case?" Krit asked and Riley just nodded.
"We'll put together an extraction plan." Riley assured him. "Put you, Sly, Matthew, Alex, Zane, Seth and Zack back into the US to collect the few people we want to bring with us. You're the best at blending in. We'll organise an extraction with the British. It might be simplest to just have the people fly out and Charlie and Case are in Canada after all and that's Commonwealth."
"A home." Krit smiled at the idea. "The transgenic nation floating around in the middle of the ocean where nobody can get to us."
"Do you have anyone you want to bring out?" Riley asked.
Krit smiled a little at Riley. "When I was thirteen and everything was still in massive chaos after the pulse this older couple took me in. When I was sixteen they asked me if I knew why I was so good at things. They home-schooled me you see and they couldn't help but notice how good I was at patterns and that sort of thing. I panicked when they asked me and all the old training kicked in and I ran for it. I didn't even come up with an excuse, I just legged it out of the door. But it was late so I stuck around for the night, planning on hitchhiking the next morning or something."
"What happened?" Riley asked.
"I didn't really go far that night, lurked on the corner of the street staring at the house I'd lived in for three years. Then I saw three guys heading down the street. Thieves. I watched them break into the house so I followed them. They were tying them up when I arrived and they drew guns on me. I took two down in seconds… child's play compared to what we were used to, even if it had been six years since I had a real opponent." Krit sighed. "Taking them down maybe I could have gotten away with. I could have told them some story about training in martial arts of something. But then the third guy shot at me and I dodged from just ten feet away, vied off of the wall and shoved him straight through a brick wall."
"Not so easy to explain." Riley nodded.
"So I told them everything." Krit sighed. "I poured out all my memories to them. All about growing up in Manticore, about our training, about all of you. About the guy we killed in training. About using you to escape and my life out in the real world. And they listened and they looked so scared for me. So sorry that we'd all gone through that."
"Where are they now?" Riley asked.
"Sly and I had always stayed in contact and when she needed a place to stay they put her up but we decided to travel a bit. Try to find the others so when we were eighteen I left. I swing through whenever I'm in the area but since all this kicked off I've stayed away from them. It's real now. You know?" Krit shrugged.
"Do you want to offer them a new home?" Riley asked.
"Last time I visited they'd just taken in this seven year old girl." Krit shrugged. "They're happy where they are."
"You should drop in and say hello." Riley told him. "At least tell them where you're going so they know you're okay."
"Yeah." Krit nodded. "I think I will."
"Just don't take Zach with you." Riley joked, making them both laugh.
Two weeks later
A spray of water struck the front of the Anchorage as it slowly made it's way towards its destination. They could see their other ships through the sea spray all around them and it was light enough under the clouds to make out a few miles ahead of them. Iain was in control of the ship as it coped with the rollers but all eyes were ahead of them where their radar was telling them that their destination was looming large on the horizon.
"Lights, Riley." James announced offering up a pair of binoculars. Riley took them and gazed through the spray kicked up by the wind at the horizon ahead of them and just made out a row of lights marking their destination. He nodded and handed the binoculars back to James who bounced off to tell everyone else of his discovery.
"Aircraft inbound." Krit warned from the radar screen. "Port beam."
Riley turned but they didn't have to wait long before a surface search aircraft screamed over them with roaring jets as it banked hard towards the Dreadnaught ten miles from them. "We can't close in these conditions, Riley." Iain told him. "We'll have to wait out for more decent weather."
"We figured we might have to." Riley nodded as the lights became visible even to Logan and Iain in the room. As they crept closer the lights took the shape of flood lights and thus the structure started to take form. It looked even larger than the schematics had lead them to believe.
It was a true testament to human engineering, larger than any other artificial floating object ever conceived.
And for five hundred and thirty-one transgenics and seven humans it was a new home. One that most of them had never dreamed of one day having.