Genetic Ascension - C.1 Worst-Case Scenario

Genetic Ascension

C.1 Worst-Case Scenario

Sylas shrugged off his lab coat, smoothing his black button-up shirt with a hand and hanging up the long white coat with another.

Even after a long day in the lab, working with various toxins, he didn't seem affected in the slightest. His steely green eyes carried the same emotionless stare behind his black-framed glasses, and his toned, though slight, build still stood ramrod straight.

As he left the university, he was greeted by passing students and professors. He gave them each a polite but curt nod, his strides long and almost vigorous.

The fall air was a bit brisk, but refreshing to his nose. The university had quite an open-concept design, and after walking down from the top-floor labs, the first floor was nothing but large, arching pillars that held up the higher floors and let the rush of wind and nature in.

'It's getting dark. A bit early for that,' he thought.

Winter was coming, and daylight-saving time had already passed, but it was still around only four o'clock. The sun probably shouldn't have begun to set until five.

Sylas found it a bit curious.

"—It's all the global warming, I tell ya. It's already the first week of December, but have you seen a lick of snow? I'm telling you, those Browns, they're sc—"

Sylas' long strides didn't slow as he passed by a hotdog cart. He caught some of the conversation, but he wasn't going to slow down to intrude.

Plus, what could global warming have to do with when night and day came?

'… It's possible,' Sylas thought. 'If there's enough of a change at the north and south poles, the tilt of Earth could shift enough that daylight would…'

A string of thoughts came to Sylas' mind, followed by an even longer string of equations and calculations. He didn't bother to stop these thoughts; it was a nice way to pass the time as he moved.

The world was an interesting place. He doubted the hotdog merchant knew of all of this, and most might scoff at his claims, but there had been the possibility of a kernel of truth to it.

Sylas still didn't believe that it would happen.

Half the world thought that global warming would be the end of all things. The other half thought it was an overblown mess conjured up by fear mongers.

To Sylas, as were most things, he felt the truth was in the middle somewhere, though potentially leaning more to one side than the other.

He ended up spending quite some time on this problem, and before he knew it, his home was before him.

To have a house so close to the university, Sylas, or rather his family, was quite well off. The suburban home came with a three-car garage, a well-trimmed lawn, and the ample spacing between homes one would expect from a gated community full of those of upper-class society.

Sylas opened the unlocked door and bent down to pull his dress shoes off. However, he was unexpectedly barraged with noise much more substantial than he would expect from his home.

The commotion was muffled, so he couldn't quite make out the exact words being said, but there was definitely an argument going on.

His indifference gave way to a frown.

He lived with his mother, father, grandfather, and little sister. It could be considered to be a harmonious household, and he had been quite lucky all his life. The most his parents would argue about is what to have for dinner.

The sound of footsteps caught Sylas' attention and an elegant, middle-aged woman came into view from the living room. A little girl of about 13 years old clung to her, tears brimming in her large green eyes.

The middle-aged woman wore quite a helpless expression.

"Sylas, you're home, that's good. You know I've told you to just take one of the cars. Why do you insist on walking every day?"

These were words Sylas had heard many times before, but he could tell that his mother just wanted to take her mind off of the argument happening in the basement. Sylas had deduced that, for it to be so muffled, it could only be taking place down there.

The basement could be considered the man cave of the house. It was there the gym and various games were located. This wasn't to say that these things were important now, but rather that it was a place Sylas' father and grandfather tended to go to relax. It was odd that an argument would break out between them down there.

Unless someone else was involved?

Sylas doubted it.

His parents were business professionals, but they had a strict "no work from home" policy. So, it couldn't be a colleague. But he couldn't think of any friends his parents would have that could trigger such a big argument, either.

"It's not far, mother."

He walked forward, rubbing his sister's little head in an attempt to comfort her.

"It's at least five kilometers. Just look, the skies are already dark, but your last lessons ended at four. You know it's not safe out these days."

Sylas listened to his mother's nagging without complaint. If he cared so much about escaping his family, as a 26-year-old who had already secured tenure at his university, he could have moved out long ago.

Life on the outside didn't have much attraction to him.

He had quite a few friends, though no best friends.

He had had girlfriends in the past, but most were infatuated by an ideal of who he was, instead of the person he actually was.

He wasn't a fan of drinking, partying, or smoking.

All the reasons he might be eager to escape his mother's hawk-like eyes simply didn't exist.

"I'll go see what's going on," Sylas finally managed to fit in a word.

His mother hesitated, but ultimately nodded. She didn't want to get in between her husband and her father-in-law. It really was best if Sylas went.

Sylas nodded and headed down the hall, opening the door to the basement and making his way down.

The fury he was expecting didn't hit him. Instead, there were waves of exasperation. The less you heard of it, the worse it sounded. But it seemed that his father and grandfather didn't really need any mediation.

"—Cedric, I'm your father. When have I ever led you astray? Returning is the best option we have right now."

"Dad, none of this makes any sense. You want us to pack up and suddenly go across the world. It's too ridiculous. Sylas just started his tenure, and Elara is just finishing up her last year of middle school. How can we do that to them?"

"The matters of the secular world aren't going to matter anymore in just a few months, Cedric. Don't you get it?"

"No! No, I don't get it! You've been telling me this nonsense ever since I was a kid and I never believed it."

Sylas walked in to find the two facing off against one another, each one standing on either side of the pool table. His father's face was practically red, and his grandfather was pinching his brows.

"You've never wanted to listen to me. If your mother—"

The two noticed Sylas at that point. Sylas felt that he had quite good timing, because he had a feeling his grandfather was about to say something that took the exasperation past the point toward rage.

His grandmother had died long ago, before Sylas had even been born. But according to what he knew, she had raised Cedric on her own until he was around ten years old. After she died, Magnus returned and completed his fatherly duties.

Sylas didn't know much more about this situation, as it wasn't really his place to ask. What child knew every detail of their parents' past? He also didn't like the idea of digging up his father's trauma.

Even so, he knew enough to know that his grandfather bringing up his grandmother would be an easy one-way ticket to ruin.

It was a Friday, and he didn't want his weekend to be ruined by this.

"Sylas," Cedric spoke, a hint embarrassed.

Honestly, the moment Magnus mentioned his mother, he had already seen red. It wasn't just him, but even Magnus looked to sigh a breath of relief.

"What's going on?" Sylas asked.

"It's just…"

Magnus and Cedric looked at one another.

"You're already 26 years old, Sylas. There are some things you should know," Cedric finally said.

Looking at his son's lackluster reaction to these words, Cedric chuckled. He was about to reveal some big news, but Sylas was already in "analysis mode."

"Forget it. It's not a big deal. We can be considered family with the Browns."

Sylas raised an eyebrow.

The Brown family was synonymous with elite. They were currently the richest family in the world, had raised three billionaires in this generation alone, and could probably collapse the GDP of a medium-sized country on a Tuesday if they felt their coffee was a bit too cold that morning.

That hotdog merchant had tried to blame global warming on them, and Sylas didn't really blame him. The largest industry the Brown family had gotten its start in was the paper milling industry. Though they had grown since then, they still had quite a large piece of that pie and had deforested their fair share of lush forests.

That said, Sylas' reaction was basically as Magnus and Cedric had expected.

So what?

Magnus sighed. "I will tell you what I've been telling your father all of these years. He does not believe me, but what else can I do in my old age?"

Cedric crossed his arms. If this old man couldn't convince him, how was he going to convince his logic-brained son?

Magnus seemed to realize this as well, but he simply gritted his teeth and continued.

"The most powerful families in the world aren't just there for show. There will always be things they know that the common people will not. Do you agree with this, Sylas?"

"I do."

Sylas nodded seriously. It was na?ve to believe otherwise.

He didn't believe in consOriginal theorists, nor did he believe government loyalists. Much like most things, he believed the answer was in the middle somewhere.

"Good." Magnus nodded, feeling a bit hopeful. "I will get right to the point. The world will enter a state of complete upheaval soon. Our best chance to survive is to return to the Brown family estate."

"What sort of upheaval? War?" Sylas asked.

"Yes," Magnus said quickly, causing Cedric to roll his eyes.

"He's trying to whitewash it. The old man believes that a cataclysmic, apocalyptic-level event is coming. War might be just one of the many outcomes."

Sylas fell into silence.

His grandfather had exhibited no signs of dementia. In fact, even now, he looked quite healthy.

Magnus had ruddy bronzed skin, a bright head and beard of white, and he carried the same ramrod posture all men of their family had.

Despite being in his early seventies, he had run a half-marathon just two months ago.

Dementia obviously didn't have outward signs, but Sylas hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary, and he interacted with his grandfather every day. 𝖋𝔯𝔢𝔢𝔴𝖊𝔟𝔫𝖔𝖛𝖊𝖑.𝔠𝔬𝔪

That aside, his grandfather had never spoken of such ridiculous things before. It made him more inclined to believe him.

"Isn't there a simple way to check?" Sylas said after a moment.

Cedric's triumphant smile became bitter, and Magnus' eyes lit up.

Sylas walked to the side and unplugged a laptop that was streaming a movie to the flatscreen. It was stuck on a cartoon princess, so Sylas assumed that his sister had been down here before the argument broke out.

He walked back and placed the laptop down on the pool table in view of his father and grandfather.

"The most elite families in the world, I can think of quite a few, but just to check, we only really need to focus on three. Let's go with the Browns, the Abadi family, and the Rouse family.

"All three of these families have high-profile members that have their flight histories tracked, and all three have publicly known estate addresses."

Sylas looked up at his grandfather. "Is the address of the Browns the same as the publicly available one?"

He spun the laptop screen toward his grandfather. It displayed a location deep in the Appalachians.

"Yes, this is the location," Magnus nodded.

"Good. That means we can reasonably conclude that if there's an upswell of "returnees", then many of these high-profile people will be returning home as well.

"Lucius Brown… Malachi Brown… Astrid Brown…"

These three were just the three billionaires that the Brown family had created in this generation. All of them were in their forties and had forged a path in their own unique industries.

Sylas frowned.

Cedric frowned.

Magnus laughed.

Sylas opened up a new tab.

"Kael Abadi… Asher Abadi…"

Sylas' frown deepened.

"Ragnar Rouse… Thorne Rouse… Draven Rouse…"

Each one, again and again, without fail, all had flight histories tracking them right to their estates and none afterward. All within the last week.

Sylas' fingers sprang across the keyboard as though he were playing the keys of a piano. They seemed to blur as he moved faster. He forgot his grandfather and father were even present as he opened up tab after tab.

He said that he would stop at three families, but he didn't. He pored over every powerful family he could think of, an entire dozen of them before he was satisfied. He even checked some of the more minor ones he didn't think were that special compared to the rest, and it hadn't changed a thing.

Sylas almost slammed the laptop shut.

"I do not know how true grandfather's words are, but we need to go. Worst-case scenario, we return on Monday."

Cedric's expression was solemn. He looked toward his father, but Magnus had stopped gloating, almost as though Sylas had just convinced him as well.

That night, Sylas lay in silence, looking up at the bland ceiling of his room.

'Is this excitement?'

He couldn't remember the last time he had felt that. Even all the rare snakes he worked with, snakes that could kill an elephant with a bite, didn't get his heart rate racing like this.

The world just felt… boring to him. Sometimes, he wished he was a religious person just so that he could feel assured that something bigger was waiting out there.

This just might be that.

Sylas looked over as his room door creaked open. A little munchkin dressed in a pink nightgown that almost dragged across the floor peeked her head in.

Sylas smiled lightly. It seemed that the crying fit Elara had gotten into earlier today made her not want to sleep alone.

"Fine, but you're getting too big for this, you know."

Elara pouted her lips and scurried into his bed anyway. She dove into his covers and claimed a half of his bed, ignoring him as though he wasn't even there.

This seemed to calm Sylas somewhat, and he felt that sleep wasn't so far off after all.

"Sylas, am I going to see my friends again?"

"Maybe," he replied after some pause.

"Humph, mom and dad said definitely. I knew they were lying."

Sylas smiled bitterly. It seemed he might get scolded again for that one.

"I'm sure they'll be fine," Sylas finally said.

After all, it wasn't like these families were escaping into outer space, right? Ultimately, they were all on the same planet. That meant there was a chance for everyone to survive.

Although… Sylas knew that those odds, according to his calculations, were entirely too slim.