Okay, I know I know- the end of the last part of this tale was maybe a tad confusing and yeah, there’re loads more questions than answers right about now, but bear with me- it’s a complicated thing- the story of Skyla and what and who she was- who she still is. Telling it is getting kinda hard- harder than it was in my brain when I started out on this here endeavor. So to get you up to speed on where everybody is both literally and figuratatively- the Doc is in his lab, working out some new techniques for isolating or preserving or extracting- to tell you the truth I never really understood all that his wacky, mad-scientist shtick entailed- but he is working on being able to use a modern sample for his next clone- namely himself. He is doing that whole bit and he is also still not budging on Jessica’s request that they let Skyla out of her little box to let her see the world.
Skyla is still in her box, but she’s doing all right with that- seeing as 9836-A- the beastie she had taken down- is currently all doped up and cooling his mutated heels behind a thicker door than the first one he’d broken out from behind. Also, Jessica is still in the dark about the 9836-A’s existence and Skyla’s part in apprehending him. Jessica has made some headway on figuring some of Skyla’s mysteries- ‘course the little bit she’s pinned down just brings on more questions- questions she’s planning on putting to Denny as soon as she reaches his lab and gets his ear.
“Denny, you got a few minutes?” Jess asks from behind him, making him jump and drop the slide he was prepping, the small pieces of glass dropping to the floor tiles and cracking with a bell-like tinkling.
“Damn it, Kel, could you not do that?” Denny scolded as he bent down to retrieve the ruined slide and set the larger pieces on the work surface. It took me three hours to isolate that strand. Now I have to begin again and I’m only three months behind schedule.”
“Sorry, Den. I didn’t mean to be so stealthy. You got a minute? There are a couple of inconsistencies I think we need to address.” Jessica inquired, plunging onward despite Denny’s apparent foul mood.
“Sure, why not- I’m three years behind schedule, anyway. What kind of inconsistencies?” Denny led her back out through the laboratory door and a little ways down the hall to the small lunchroom as they talked.
“Well, her language- it’s not just out of place for where the sample you used was supposed to have come from, but out of time.”
“Out of time?” Denny repeated as he held up a ceramic mug. “Coffee,” he offered.
“No thanks and yes, out of time- as in 800 years off- the same way that she speaks a language that is from a different geographical region than she was found in, she speaks a language that isn’t supposed to have existed until about 800 years after you dated her death. Exactly how sure are you of the dating on the sample, Denny? Could the mummy you extracted it from have been mislabeled or mishandled? How exactly did you get a hold of ancient DNA at all, Dennis?”
“It was all above board, Kel, so don’t start with that,” Denny defended. “And to tell you the truth, I don’t know how sure the dating on her is. I wasn’t that concerned with when she was from- I was more interested in the conditions she was aged in and how well preserved she was.”
“So the discrepancy could be because your info is wrong, because otherwise- otherwise this whole thing is just impossible. Denny, I’d really like to confirm where and when she’s actually from. Can you give me some contact information- who did you get the sample from?”
“Uh, yeah- I’ll have to dig that up out of my files. I don’t remember the name,” Dennis answered and set his unfinished coffee down. “Listen, Kel, I’m about three decades behind schedule, I’ll try to get that to you ASAP.” Denny was almost to the door, almost out the door.
“Hold it!” Jessica directed. “This whole thing was hinky, wasn’t it?” she accused. “You smuggled the sample in or bought it from someone who didn’t really have the right to sell it, didn’t you?”
“Now, Jess, I’m surprised at you- thinking I’d do anything like that. I told you, it was all above boar-”
“Oh, I can’t believe you’re even trying that. Just tell me there isn’t some foreign government out for your hide, Denny. I’d like not to be considered an accomplice to your illicit antiquities trafficking!”
“I got her from a private collector. I’m certain he took care of all the formalities. Don’t worry, Kel. There’s no arrest warrant for me in Ireland or anywhere else,” Dennis assured her. “I’ll find that paperwork, I promise.”
“You’d better, Den.”
“Fine. So, the other issue- have you given any more thought to letting me get Skyla out to breathe some fresh air? I really think I’d do her some good,” Jessica asked.
“Out of the question, Kel. I’m sorry. There are just too many ways for that to go wrong.”
“Skyla, I need you to do just as I say. Can you do that?” Jessica requested. It was very soon after the dawn on a Saturday morning- a time that experience told Jessica Denny would still be asleep for another hour or two- just enough time for what she had planned.
“There is a beast to best?” Skyla responded and Jessica marveled at her single-mindedness. Since gaining a fairly proficient command of English, Skyla has been fixated on monsters- seeking out horror movies on the small- and, since she’d thrown some sort of tantrum, bolted down- television and spinning long tales of fighting fiends during different ages of history. Jessica wondered if Skyla might have been a storyteller- a bard- in her previous lifetime, to have so many legends in her memory. Jessica had recorded each one and found parallel stories in diverse cultures spanning several thousand years. Skyla had even created one set in the present day. It was amazingly detailed for something based on a world Skyla had seen only on TV. Jessica intended to give Skyla more modern experiences- not just televised accounts of modern life, real life experiences. And she was going to start right now.
“No, there’s no beast. I just want us to take a walk- let you get a look around at the real world, but we have to make sure to be quiet- calm and quiet. Can you do that?” Jessica coaxed.
“Why do we do this, if there is not a beast?” Skyla questioned, even as she took the street clothes, slip-on sneakers and light jacket that Jessica offered to her and began to dress.
“Just so you can take a look around- so you can start to see how the world is now with your own eyes.”
“Yes- this pleases me. I will take a look around,” Skyla agreed and they left, Jessica hoping that the paperwork she’d forged Denny’s signature on would fool the security guards.
Her handmaiden saw to the drudgery of her departure- giving Skyla suitable garments and giving the required instructions to the warriors of the keep Skyla was cloistered in so as not to cause uproar at their absence. Then they walked a short distance through lane and courtyard. Much of the village must have still been slumbering, else they must have been instructed to stay from Skyla’s way- that was not an unusual honor for her. They saw none but a few souls and none of them dared look upon her. The temples and keeps were vastly tall and much closer together than Skyla had ever seen before, yet each new time and place brought different customs, the changes were not important. This village was great, but the villagers needed her just the same as all the others had. She was Abeag, the forever ring- there was naught she could fear- she wasn’t built to fear.
They stopped and stayed near a much larger courtyard than all the others they had passed. It seemed to be filled with great statuary meant for child’s play. There were a fair number of wee lads and lasses about the courtyard, each working vigorously at climbing or pushing or pulling or riding upon the statuary and laughing. It pleased Skyla to see them without care- many times she had seen such ones trembling in fear of one beast or another. Yet, there was one who was not so blithe. She cowed and cowered and Skyla was pulled to her as surely as she had been to the beast the warriors now held imprisoned within the keep’s thick walls.
It happened so fast that Jessica couldn’t have stopped it. One moment, Skyla was calmly standing at the edge of the playground watching the kids shout and giggle and run and the next, Skyla was bounding over to the sandbox, scooping up a toddler and running off with her. Jessica chased after her and she wasn’t the only one. Another woman was following as well. She was frantic and shouting and Jessica figured her for the child’s mother. Within a block, the mother was losing ground on Skyla, but Jessica was catching up. Another two blocks and Jessica drew even with her charge. She wasn’t sure how, but she had to talk Skyla into stopping, into releasing the squirming child. She didn’t get the chance.
Skyla fell, but to her credit, she did her best to cradle the child and protect her from injury as they hit the ground. Several guards from the laboratory converged on the fallen pair. They had tranquilized Skyla with no thought about the safety of the child she carried. Jessica reached them to see Skyla unconscious and the child injured- her small arm bleeding and bruised. One of the security guards handed the little girl to Jessica before she could do more than gape at the scene. She took the screaming babe and turned to find the mother- the distraught and furious mother just behind her. Jessica gave the child to the woman and then there were suddenly police officers there as well.
One of the security personnel- Cummings Jessica thought his name was Cummings- Cummings produced some bogus but truly official looking paperwork stating that Skyla was an inpatient at the Doppelganger Falls Psychiatric Hospital and that they had the authority to retrieve her- using force if necessary. The police looked it over for a minute before shoving it back at Cummings and complaining about how they were always losing their damn psychos, but he let them take Skyla. Then, Cummings stepped up to Jessica and informed her that Dr. Mears would be waiting for her in his office when she returned to the laboratory.
“I’d ask you what you thought you were doing taking the subject of one of my experiments offsite without my permission, but I already know. You think your ideas, your way of doing things is the only right one, but Kel, you really screwed this one up,” Dennis admonished.
“I’m sorry, Denny. I really though it was-” Jessica was cut off by Dennis’s hand slamming down on the desktop in anger.
“I know what you thought! Now I need you to give me one half-decent reason as to why I should keep you around. I could actually find myself someone else to work with her- another anthropologist or a linguist or a headshrinker- it doesn’t really matter which.”
“But you need someone you can trust. You don’t want to bring in a stranger, an unknown element-”
“I can’t trust you! Kel, I can’t trust you.”
“I promise I won’t do anything without your say so anymore- Denny, I made a mistake. I won’t make any more,” Jessica promised.
“Damn it, I wish you’d just listened- we could have lost her today and who knows what she would have done to the kid if we hadn’t gotten to them so soon.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“Kel, I have to know you’re not going to do this again or I can’t keep you on.”
“I promise, Denny, I won’t.”
“On Mila’s grave?”
“On Mila’s grave, I will not do anything without your approval.”
“Good. You should take the day, Kel. Skyla’s going to be out of it until at least lunch and we have no idea how she’ll be after that. Start fresh tomorrow morning.”
After leaving Denny, Jessica couldn’t just go home and take the day as if nothing had happened- as if she hadn’t caused an innocent child to be injured and scared because of her misplaced trust in Skyla. Maybe she was too volatile to be anything but a test subject, maybe the best life Skyla was going to get this time around was in Denny’s lab watching the TV and telling folktales. Jessica called around to local hospitals to see if she could find out how the little girl was- if her arm had been broken. None of them would give out information to someone who wasn’t family about a girl whose name she didn’t even know. So Jessica spent the rest of the morning worrying about her.
As Jessica ate dinner that night, she tuned into the local news- the attempted kidnapping of a small girl that allowed emergency room doctors to uncover a case of child abuse was the top story.
“It’s unbelievable, but the kidnapping attempt may have saved her life. We never would have seen this child if not for the notoriety the case brought which forced the mother to get her examined,” Nurse Bonita Wilson told reporters. “The mother had been covering up injuries inflicted by the girl’s father for at least six months.”