18. Fartherly Issues

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        I lay frozen, on my stomach, my eyes locked with my dad's.

       Zero keeps letting this weird noise sound from his chest. Is he actually growling?  That is not helping at all.

     I watch helplessly as my dad finally shakes out of his shock and storms over to the door, leaving the spilled coffee behind. 

I wince as he furiously heaves the huge door open and stands in the doorway, key card gripped in his fist.

     "Hey, Dad....." I trail off, smiling sheepishly from where I lay. Zero is now standing in front of me, the dummy, trying to protect me from my own father.  

         "Ashley Ann Cartwright .  What is going on?" He says, peering around Zero to pin me with a stern glare. 

     "Um, what does it look like?" I ask, wanting to be sure he actually heard something and I'm not just jumping to conclusions.

Maybe I should have worded it differently though, because he takes my question as heavy sass and sarcasm, his frown deepening into the 'you-are-so-grounded' look.

       "It looks like you and Zero were having a lovely conversation. So he could talk all along....and you kept this information hidden. Do you know what this little detail could do for this experiment?"

Uh oh, this is very bad. He's already thinking about the experiment. Before he thinks about all the benefits I need to explain to him how we shouldn't let this get out. I ahev to make him listen to me, for Zero's sake.

      I struggle to sit up and Zero immediately is at my side, helping me. "Okay, Dad. I'm going to explain, and all I ask is that you hear me out, please?"

        My father just clenches his jaw, waiting. I begin to tell my story, about Sylvia and the first time Zero snuck in and told me about Dalton. My dad had a short episode when I told him that part of Zero sneaking into my window, and I had to let him take a little breather again before continuing.

 I tell him all I know about Dalton and the race that lives there. His eyes seem to widen when I tell him about Sylvia and what really happened the night of the party. When I finish, silence descends, and I'm worried I described it in a confusing way

       "That's a lot to take in, Ashley. Now whether I beleive you or not is still up for determination, but I still don't see why you couldn't have told me this sooner."

         "Because," I sigh. "If Mrs. Clark knew Zero could talk, she wouldn't be getting on his good side. She would just resort to torture. You've seen how...intense Mrs. Clark can get when it comes to this experiment, we can't let her find out."

       "I could lose my job for withholding this information from Braun corp." Dad stresses, running a hand through his hair that seems to have thinned more these past few weeks. "I would still like some piece of evidence that what you're all saying is the truth."

  I look at Zero and he nods.

"It's the truth." Zero speaks up in a low voice, making my dad's eyes widen noticeably. he may have heard Zero speak through the head phones, but hearing it again and knowing now it's not some figment of his imagiantion must be a real shock.

   "Well that settles you can talk. So let me get this straight." He says, staring at Zero. "You're a Kinling? A species with power over......elements?"

     "Kinling High Commander." Zero corrects. "And we have minor elemental powers. It gives us a helpful advantage when surviving on Dalton."

    My dad stares at Zero for a few seconds, probably still absorbing the fact that Zero can speak, and his daughter is not lying.

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