far better than my rambling.”
Tepid laughter rippled through the hall as the man glanced back at Maria. “However, things are about to get better. To officially start the launch
sequence, we will be serenaded by a performer who needs no introduction: Maria Santos. We have the distinct pleasure, here tonight, of witnessing a song that she wrote specifically for this occasion, a piece she calls ‘A Hymn for The World After.’ And now, let us welcome Miss Santos.”
Maria’s heartbeat pounded in her ears as the applause thundered in the room. She felt herself rise and approach the microphone.
A bead of sweat formed under her armpit. Another on her forehead. Behind her, the orchestra struck the first note.
She stared at the crowd as the music filled the hall.
For the first time in years, she opened her mouth and began to sing for an audience.
In the dark forest of our world I heard the drumbeats of war Beating in the night
Counting down to the end of all things
As the first line escaped her, an almost magical thing happened: all of her fears melted away. Every other thought in her mind faded. For that brief moment, as the lights shone down on her and every eye in the room bored into her, she seemed to exist out of space and time. Alone and at peace.
Maria Santos hadn’t felt this good in a long time. Not without drugs.
In the primate facility, the Gestapo agent paced in the central corridor. It was unnerving to Ty. Apparently, it had the same effect on the animals. Many of the primates had started whooping and screeching.
One of the animal trainers had to come in to calm them, but their efforts had been only partially successful.
The door opened, and, to Ty’s surprise, Helen Klein strode in, a digital tablet in her hand.
She said a few words in German to the Gestapo agent, so soft Ty couldn’t make them out. When he replied, she hit back with a sharp retort that struck him like a slap. Ty wished he knew what the word meant. Whatever it was, it sent the man stomping away.
She didn’t smile at Ty. She examined his face, and he had an idea of what she was seeing: herself. Ty’s facial features had always favored his mother.
Her scowl softened slightly. “I want answers.” “You deserve them.”
“Who are you?”
“I’ve never been great at speeches.” Ty got up off the ground. “In fact, as a kid in school, I always dreaded giving presentations. To the point of faking sickness.”
He snorted. “My mom was pretty good at seeing through that act. She was also good at recognizing my limitations—and helping me understand them and deal with them. When I was terrified of public speaking as a kid, she explained it with science. She told me that we humans evolved to be afraid of a room full of eyes staring at us. As hunter-gatherers, our ancestors who realized eyes were watching them usually got eaten not long after. We evolved with that experience haunting us. We evolved to have a fight-or-flight response at the moment we see a group of eyes staring at us. Today, in a civilized society, our rational minds can overpower that deep-rooted instinct, but it takes practice. She taught me a trick to help make that happen: harnessing kindness to control our instinctive fight-or-flight reaction. Science. She was very good at it—and using it to explain the world to me. I was a strange kid, but I really won the lottery when I got her as a mom.”
Helen’s chest was heaving now.
Ty reached up and tore out a few hairs. “Like I said, I’m not one for speeches. I’m going to let science do the talking. That’s a language you understand. One neither of us can dispute.”
He held the hairs out, through the bars. “I assume, in this comparative genomics facility, you have a DNA sequencer?”
“Here is one of the answers you’re looking for. Sequence my genome and compare it to your own.”