What is the Traveling Story?
5 Authors. 5 Days. 1 Story.
Each season of The Traveling Story will feature 5 well-known authors collaborating on one original, kick-ass story, with each author writing one of five episodes. The full story will be revealed over the course of a week, with each episode appearing on the blog of the author who wrote it.
How Does it Work?
There are only three rules for The Traveling Story:
1) No brainstorming, outlining, or discussion of plot ahead of time. The first author writes the first episode of ANY kind of story they want and the next author picks up where that episode leaves off, taking it WHEREVER they want to go! The last author ends the story however they see fit!
2) An author cannot make changes to any previous episode. Each author has total creative control over their OWN episode only, but it has to continue where the last episode leaves off.
3) HAVE FUN! As you’ll see from the awesome story that came out of this, we don’t take ourselves too seriously! The Traveling Story is meant to be fun for the writers but especially for the readers!
Season 2 Authors:
*Don’t forget to LIKE The Traveling Story on Facebook where we’ll be posting links to EVERY episode, so you never miss out on a piece of the story!
And to further entice you, we’ll be giving away an awesome Traveling Story prize pack featuring a book from EACH of the season 2 authors (enter at the bottom of this post.)
Without further ado…here is my part of the story!
THE TRAVELING STORY
SEASON 2, EPISODE 3
by Victoria Scott
My mother told me once that when upsetting information is presented, the person it affects will have one of two different reactions. Humans like to believe they are unpredictable, but we’re like mice, constant in our patterns. And that’s good, because if we weren’t, we’d be aberrant.
Information: Your brother is alive. Your brother is warped.
Reaction 1: Denial
Reaction 2: Acceptance
I grab Logan and shove him against the wall. Glass rattles in a broken window overhead. I want it to rain down on us, on me. My vision dances as I ball Logan’s grey T-shirt in one hand, my brother’s photo in the other.
“Does my mother know?” I snarl.
Logan tries to wriggle free from beneath my grasp, but my fist is stone, my tongue arsenic. “She knew,” he says. “She was the one who called it in.”
I pull him forward and shove him into the wall a second time. “Liar.”
“It’s not supposed to happen. New aberrant only form when two existing aberrant breed, but it didn’t happen that way with your brother. He was born from your mother, who is common, and your stepfather, who is aberrant.”
I let go of him and pace away, hands balled at my sides. “My mother would never bed an aberrant. She’s worked her entire career to rid the world of their filth.” Even as I say this, I think back on my stepfather—disgusting, wicked—but could be what Logan says he is? No.
Reaction 1: Denial
“Yes, she hated them.” Logan walks toward me like a solider tiptoeing across a landmine. I realize I’m no longer clutching the hypodermic needle. My heart thumbs wildly as I search the ground. If Logan learns I don’t have it, he’ll attack, and I won’t live to ask my mother the truth. My tranq gun is holstered at my side, but would I have enough time to reach for it? My finger nestles over the panic button on my phone. I don’t push down.
“You have no idea the extent she’d go to eradicate their numbers,” Logan continues. “Your mother was a part of a special-op program called Gravar-OX. The common learned years ago that they’d never be able to contain us all, not with how quickly we were multiplying.”
He’s right. It can take married common months of trying to conceive. Take two aberrant and one magical night, and you’re almost guaranteed the female will be with child. What’s more, it takes much less time for their babies to develop; five months to our nine.
Logan didn’t think I knew about the internment camps, but I knew. Mom said they were working on something groundbreaking to contain their numbers, but I always figured it meant better detainment centers, more resources so the rest of the world could remain safe.
Logan takes another small step in my direction, and I abandon searching for my hypo. Instead, I let my fingers crawl away from my panic button and toward my tranq gun. Moments ago, I was invincible with rage. Now I count the steps between us. Ten. No, eight.
He stops and cocks his head, blond hair spilling over his cheek. “What do you remember about your own father, Francesca?”
Goosebumps rise across my skin. I shake my head.
I’d like to skip that question, please.
“Was he in the car with your mother?” Logan whispers.
The door to the room bursts open and I turn. The tranq gun is between my hands in a flash, my aim on the boy’s forehead precise. Feeling Logan inch closer, I swing the gun back and forth between the two, sweat coating my brow.
“Holy crap,” the new guy says. “She’s a live one.”
He’s tall like a street lamp and has the biggest mouth I’ve ever seen. I picture him in a watermelon eating contest, the gold medal his before the whistle ever blows. He grins and flips on the overhead light, illuminating the maps in more detail.
“This her?” he asks Logan.
Logan nods as the dude strolls toward me with easy confidence. He keeps walking until the barrel of the gun touches the center of his chest.
“Boom!” he says.
My blood pressure reaches Neptune.
“I’ll kill you,” I yell. “I’ll kill both of you.”
The boy laughs with his whole body. “With a tranq gun? Please.” He waves me away like I should lower it already. “My name’s Brian, but everyone calls me Rabbit. I see you’ve met Logan. There are a couple of others standing guard just inside the entrance. You missed them when you walked in.” Rabbit wiggles his fingers like the two guards are spooky as hell. He plucks a toothpick from the desk and points downward. “Rest of us are below. But you knew that.”
“I was just telling her about her mom,” Logan says.
“Lies,” I hiss.
“Seems that way, don’t it?” Rabbit puts the toothpick between his teeth. “My father always said people either went this way or that when you told them stuff. They either believe ya straight away, or they don’t. Not much middle ground.”
A chill shoots up my spine. “My mother said the same thing.”
“Did she now?” Rabbit says, but he doesn’t look surprised. In fact, he’s smiling that smile again, so big the universe could fit between his teeth. He seems to understand that he’s scaring me, so he backs up and stands next to Logan. When he speaks again, his voice is lowered. “I’ll let him finish the story.”
Logan clears his throat and glances up at Rabbit. The taller boy rolls his hand as if to encourage him to speak.
“Gravar-OX was started—”
“Mm, mm.” Rabbit shivers like he anticipates the story getting particularly nasty. When Logan frowns in his direction, Rabbit shrugs. “Sorry, don’t mind me.”
Logan starts again. “The program was initiated to find a way to kill us. The common knew they could capture and contain us, but they wanted to take it further. They decided the only way to control our population was to exterminate it, but because they knew they couldn’t fight us head to head, they took a different route.
“In their minds, aberrant couldn’t be trusted. Too capricious, they thought. But if they could create a half breed, someone with aberrant abilities that could be trained by the government, then they believed they stood a chance.”
I grip the back of my neck, trying to keep up with what he’s implying. “What exactly are you saying? And what does this have to do with my mother?”
Logan’s finger twitches like he wants to reach out. “I’m saying there’s a new species, Francesca. They’re called fraction, and they’re more powerful than even the aberrant.” Logan takes a deep breath. “Your mother was one of many who signed on to create fraction, though they had no idea how strong the new species would become, how lethal.”
Bile rises in my throat.
“This is the part where she voms.” Rabbit bounces on the balls of his feet. “They always vom at this moment.”
“My mother, she slept with aberrant?” I squeak out. “And my brother, he’s this…this fraction you’re talking about?”
“Tell her the last part, Logan,” Rabbit says, rubbing his hands together.
Logan glances at Rabbit with irritation. “Francesca, your brother wasn’t the only one your mom created in this manner.”
My ears ring and my stomach flips.
Rabbit opens his arms like he’s performing a magic trick. Nothing up either sleeve, my friends! “This is definitely the part where she voms,” the tall boy says.
“Your mother didn’t send you to bring me in,” Logan says, his voice a dreadful lullaby. “I was sent to bring you in. I work for the government, but my loyalty lies with the aberrant and fraction. So I’m going to give you a choice like I gave a few of the others. Follow Rabbit, and help lead us to overcome the common, or I’ll take you to your brother at Dewitt Detention.”
He could be deceiving me. This could be his fantastical ploy to get away. Could my entire life have been a lie? Could my own mother have created me as a weapon against the aberrant? My mind spins, and I latch on to the hundreds of small moments when I knew—I knew—that something was different about me.
It lay just beyond my fingertips, a power unfurling like a sleeping beast stirring at early dawn, ravenous. There were times when I couldn’t imagine anyone feeling as strong, as alive, as I did. Not even the aberrant.
“They’re coming,” someone beyond the door yells.
Logan’s eyes light up with adrenaline. “You have to make a decision, Francesca. I can tell them you escaped, or I can take you to see your brother.”
Rabbit steps in close. This time, I don’t even pretend to lift my tranq gun. “Either way, you’ll have a brother.”
My head snaps up. I look into his mischievous eyes, his half-hearted grin. There was always a flickering of recognition nibbling at the corner of my mind. Now it presents itself like a remarkable curtain call.
How many more are out there who share my blood, born either from my mother or father’s DNA? How many born from different common-aberrant pairings? The thought alone is enough to turn my stomach.
But there’s something else too.
The beast within me growls awake, turns his mighty head to the sky and roars. Rabbit holds out his hand as the door flies open and aberrant yell that they’re coming! They’re coming!
Logan pulls open a door hidden in the floor and Rabbit sinks two steps down, hand still outstretched. I must decide. There’s no time to think. And so to the tune of screaming aberrant and heels pounding floorboards and glass shards rattling in their frames, I take Rabbit’s hand and grab hold of a new life.
One I will not cower from.
I hope you enjoyed my part of the story! Now time for a giveaway!