2.4 Born on Earth, pt 2

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*** Continuation of chapter ***

"When the Torth Empire found out," Thomas said, "they executed and replaced the Commander of All Living Things. The current Commander was elected for her pragmatism. She won't believe someone is dead unless she examines the corpse." He hesitated. "She began her reign by orchestrating 'accidental' deaths for all of Garrett's blood relatives."

Alex had stood before the Commander when she'd sentenced him to death in the desert. If he had known that she was partly responsible for the deaths of his family ... he might have lunged at her, like a mindless beast in the arena.

"What about Jonathan Stead?" Kessa asked. "Did he not protect his family?"

It was Alex's mother who answered. "He was dead. The nursing home said he passed away in his sleep."

"He did protect his family," Thomas put in. "Throughout his lifetime, Torth agents on Earth sometimes died in mysterious accidents. The Torth half-suspected that someone might be secretly killing them, but they had no clues. In hindsight, it was clear that whenever a Torth agent got close to discovering Garrett Dovanack or his family..." Thomas made a twisting motion around his canteen, as if wringing a neck. "They experienced a sudden death."

"And then he was gone." Alex's mother stared at Thomas with a look of hard speculation. "And somebody found our family, thirteen years ago."

Thomas continued to avoid her gaze. "Right," he said. "It was a big shocker to the Empire. They had written him off as dead, and at first, they didn't believe he'd survived for a hundred years, right under their noses. But the evidence was indisputable. For one thing, Garrett Dovanack was known to have purple eyes, which is a Torth genetic marker."

Alex wished he had inherited fewer Torth genetic markers.

"He hid it with sunglasses," Thomas said. "Age altered his appearance, but there were a couple of other things he couldn't hide. One was his crooked leg. Jonathan Stead was known to have a crooked leg, and Garrett had the same problem. The other was his facial scar." Thomas indicated his face. "Garrett asked artists to paint it out of portraits and photographs. But the agent tracked down a rare photo of him, and there was the scar that Jonathan Stead had gotten in the Isolatorium."

"He told us a Nazi slashed him with a knife," Alex's mother said faintly.

"Almost true," Thomas said. "It was a nussian guard in the prison."

"So the Torth murdered his family?" Kessa assessed Alex and his mother. "Except for two?"

"Except for Alex," Thomas corrected. "Lynn was never a direct target, since she's not a blood relative of Garrett."

She stood, fists clenched. "The Torth caused that plane to crash. Didn't they?"

"Yes." Thomas fidgeted with the canteen, not looking at any of them. Alex had the sense that he'd left a lot unspoken.

"Was it one of your parents?" his mother demanded. "Thirteen years ago? I can do the math. You were conceived around when my family was murdered."

"It was my mother," Thomas said.

His shame made the truth unavoidable. Alex wanted fresh air. The ceiling was too low, the air too sooty. All his life, he had assumed the plane crash was just a sad twist of fate, like his gigantism. Now he was learning that none of the horrors in his life were accidents. His size? Torth genetics. And Thomas was related to his family, after all. Just not in a genetic way.

"Are you saying that your birth mother..." Margo glanced from Thomas to Alex, uncertain. "Killed his father?"

Thomas looked guilty. 

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