Libby was too taken aback to respond. Grayson apparently took this as a sign to explain.
“The regulators - you know them better as the rats, I suppose - were so interested in Dragomir because he possessed an incredible power, one they thought they could use to ‘break the rules’, so to speak.” Grayson’s lip twisted. “You know he’s part Non, right?”
Libby nodded, mouth dry.
Grayson sighed, head dipping. The other Graysons mimicked the gesture perfectly. “I wanted to let you know myself, but I couldn’t find the proper moment. It needed to be… I don’t know… operatic. Something with flair. Just coming up to you and telling you wasn’t appropriate. Oh, well… wasted opportunities…”
Libby wanted to kill Grayson again. She couldn’t bring herself to move, however, so she remained shoved against the side of the stable, feeling more cornered than she’d ever been in her life.
“The Non are a cancer,” Grayson continued. “They aren’t supposed to exist. They break the rules constantly. So the rats, who are bound to rules at all times, knew they’d need some outside help. They immediately recognized that Dragomir’s bizarre ‘birth’, which was anything but normal, could give them the tools they needed to properly fight the Non.”
“And in a way,” Grayson tittered, “they were right. But now their tools are mine. Do you know what a glitch is, mom?”
It took Libby almost a full minute to realize that Grayson was waiting for a response. She slowly shook her head.
“A glitch is an error. It’s a thing that was not intended by the, ah, ‘architects’ of this world. In some cases a glitch is harmless; in others, a glitch can be… eheh… catastrophic. Dragomir, who was created through means not intended, most definitely falls into the latter category.”
Stop talking about him as though he’s a thing, Libby thought, fists clenching. He’s not a thing. He’s your father, and he’s -
“THAT THING IS NOT MY FUCKING FATHER!”
Grayson’s sudden, violent pronouncement caused Libby to flinch away, and she fell to the grass. The air seemed to grow both hot and cold, as though a sudden, perplexing wind current was passing through the area. The Graysons huffed, their shoulders tensed, their eyes pinched and angry. It took several tense moments for their emotions to cool again, and once they had, every Grayson offered Libby an apologetic smile.
“Sorry,” Grayson said, “but he’s not. He never was. Perhaps we’ll talk about that more, sometime. At any rate…”
The lead Grayson raised one hand, and a hunk of the landscape rose out of the ground and hovered over his fingers. White dirt and white grass quickly reformed itself into an image of Dragomir, though it was an ugly and malformed Dragomir, his features exaggerated and cruel.
“When Dragomir was born,” Grayson explained, “he created - inadvertently, I suppose, I can’t blame him for everything - a substantial coding glitch. It gave him access to what he thought was a weapon of incredible power, though in truth it’s closer to matter manipulation. By unmaking one thing, he remakes another. It’s utterly unique, and truly remarkable.”
Libby said nothing. She barely understood anything coming out of her son’s mouth. She got the words well enough, but the sentiment behind them… nothing.
“The rats have been scanning him for the majority of the year, trying to learn more about his glitch. They intended, as I said, to properly weaponize it. They were going to pull it out of Dragomir and use it against the Non in a condensed form. As some sort of beam I suppose it could be utterly devastating. I don’t know, and frankly I’m not that interested.”
That would have killed him, Libby thought, with utter certainty. He would have died again.
“Yes,” Grayson admitted. He smiled cruelly. “He almost certainly would have died, despite what they promised him. And he still will, because what I have in mind is even worse.”
The Graysons pointed to the sky, and Libby followed their fingers. The airship that had been puttering along was now gone, leaving the white bowl beyond quite empty. Yet Libby could tell that there was something beyond the bowl, something almost unbearably bright, at the apex of whatever bizarre structure they were in.
“The real me is up there, mom.” Grayson clucked his tongue. “I’m attached to the thing that is the rat hive mind. I control it, and because of that, I’m connected to the entire planet. Imagine what would happen if I were to siphon Dragomir’s glitch into the hive mind… and let it run rampant? Imagine what would happen to the world?”
Libby blinked. She had no idea what her son was talking about, but the general aim was obvious enough. She spoke audibly for the first time in several long minutes. “… everyone… will die?”
Grayson’s smile grew, the edges curling upward to a degree reserved for madmen. “But not us. We’ll survive. Just us, mom. Just us. Forever.”
The word forever snapped Libby’s fear. She leaped at the lead Grayson, wrapping her fingers around his thin neck so hard that it snapped almost immediately. She screamed at his grinning corpse as she throttled it, expressing in no uncertain terms just how much she hated her son. The corpse did not reply, and the other Graysons simply watched, smiling.
They did not intervene until Libby began clawing at her own face. It took seven Graysons to pull Libby away from her bloody cheeks, and five more to drag her away to her room. They strapped her to her bed, her plush, comfortable bed, and left her alone to calm down.
“Don’t worry,” said the final Grayson, who, Libby noticed, bore faint scars on his face. He spoke as he was closing the door. “It’s all going to be okay.”