Now, I know you’re wondering exactly what Skyla is and how she seemed to know who needed protecting and from what- and I will tell you- all that and more- but not right now. Right now, all I’m gonna tell you is that as you might have begun to suspect by this time, Skyla is a heck of a lot more than some Irish broad from sometime way back in history. I’m also gonna tell you that Jessica is about to find out some stuff that Dennis has been holding back, but the real kicker is that what she finds out ain’t even the half of it.
Anyways, to get you set up for this next part, you have to know that Doc Mears hasn’t exactly been entirely truthful with a few other people than just Jessica, namely his boss- Dean Sandburg.
“Kel, I need your help on something. It’s make or break,” Dennis confided as he hustled Jessica into his office and closed the door.
“Of course, Denny. What is it?” she answered, ready to stand behind him on whatever he was doing.
“Sandburg is coming in today to tour the lab and get an update on our progress and we have top hide Skyla from him.”
“What? Why? Shouldn’t you be crowing about it to him- think of the funding you’re going to get once he find out how well she’s doing?”
“Uh- the thing is- he can’t know yet.”
“And why is that, Denny? You’re not planning an end-run around the university, are you?”
“Because that would be too low for even you Dennis, especially after all that Sandburg’s done for your career.”
“I said, no. I’m not planning to screw the university or Aaron Sandburg- I just can’t tell him I’ve cloned a human- not yet.”
“And that would be because?”
“Officially speaking, I don’t have the university’s blessing to be working on that large a scale.”
“And by that large a scale, you mean?”
“Sandburg thinks I’m still refining the process- working on applications much closer to organ growth, than to whole girl growth.”
“Denny, there’s more isn’t there? I can tell there’s more.”
“The reason- you should know why they think I’m still much farther behind than I am. I screwed up, Kel. Skyla’s not the first clone I was able to grow using those same techniques. I created a clone from a donor’s DNA almost two years ago, but he was flawed.”
“Flawed? What- unhealthy?”
“Psychotic. He was whole and healthy, but there was no controlling him. You think Skyla’s hard keep calm, Kel? 9836-A was a nightmare and Sandburg knew all about it. We didn’t take the right security precautions- it was bad. So, Sandburg ordered me- on threat of pulling funding for the project altogether- he ordered me to destroy the subject and my notes and start over from the beginning.”
“But you didn’t.”
“It was the wrong call. There was a whole hell of a lot more right with the research than was wrong with it. I couldn’t just throw all that work- all those breakthroughs away.”
“That’s why you keep treating her like she’s just a DNA sample- you might have to make the decision to kill her.”
“Kel, I’m a scientist- she is just a DNA sample to me- a very exciting DNA sample, but not more.”
“Seems pretty damn cold, Den.”
Her handmaiden and the strange priest that heads the keep, asked her to remain quiet and calm. The holy man even gave warning that if she did not heed, Happy Mister Syringe would be used to make her slumber. She did not wish to encounter Happy Mister Syringe again- she woke with such pains after. And so, Skyla endeavored to remain calm and quiet. She had been removed from her usual chamber and was to wait with Jess in a small parlor furnished with couch and cushion and provisions of food and drink. For what reason, she was secreted in this small room, Skyla was not told. It did not matter. She would be calm and quiet for the duration and Happy Mister Syringe would not trouble her. Far more important than avoiding Happy Mister Syringe was letting the priest hold the illusion that she was siding with him and his cause, even if it meant letting him believe he had control over her, for the beast still lived, held within the walls of the keep, and she needed to be there to protect them from the beast above anything else she might need.
“I say, the progress you’ve made in the last few months is remarkable, Dennis. I knew that you would find a way to rise from the ashes- you always do,” Aaron Sandburg complimented as they left the laboratory where Dennis had been showing off his cytoplasts and went into Dennis’ office.
“Thank you for your vote of confidence, but truthfully, I wish I was a good deal farther along. I was so very close before.”
“No sense dwelling on past failures. You’re doing great work here and now, which is part of why I wanted to have this face to face.”
“I needed to know if you were dealing with the setback well, and you are, you really are. That’s how I know you can handle more.”
“I’m stepping down as Department Head effective next month and I going to recommend you as my replacement to the Board of Governors.”
“Aaron, I don’t know what to say- I mean thank you, but- why? You’re not being forced out, are you?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. Frankly, Dennis- and this isn’t common knowledge- I’m not going to be able to do the job soon. I’m- well, I’m ill.”
“Oh. So you’ll be back-”
“I’m dying. My doctor said six months at the outside. There’s a high likelihood that it will affect my mental function by the end. I’m leaving next month so that there’s no question of anyone having to tell me when I should go.”
“God, Aaron, I’m sorry. Is there anything I-”
“Just say yes when they offer it to you. I want to know that you’re the man in charge over here.”
“Of course, I’d be honored.”
Arthur Cummings really hated his damn job. He was good at what he did- nine years in the marines, five years in private security and then this job- he put all his professional eggs in one damn basket because Mears offered him a shitload of money for what had seemed like a cakewalk. Then, the first subject broke through security and Arthur’d been playing catch-up ever since. Mears had finally told him exactly what he was guarding once it had all hit the fan- clones. Arthur was pretty sure he wished they’d stayed dead- both of them.
And as if 9836-A wasn’t enough trouble, the woman- code named Skyla- she could do things. She was damn strong for the little thing that she was and nothing short of either the other clone or an elephant gun could take her out. And, she was able to get herself out of the highest security provisions Arthur had ever seen. He was certain that when she stayed in her cage, it was just because that was what she wanted to do. And while she’d helped them out in a way, by finding 9836-A, she also had some sort of thing for kids, which Arthur Cummings couldn’t pardon for anything. He didn’t want to imagine what she would have done to the girl if he hadn’t come in to check status and found that the new recruit had let Dr. Kelly take her outside.
This whole Dean’s visiting day was a security nightmare- they had stowed 9836-A in a subbasement with doubled guards and a higher dosage of sedatives, but the fact that Mears was keeping Kelly out of the loop meant that they couldn’t do that with Skyla. Mears had insisted that they trust his girlfriend’s plan of trusting the female clone to help them hide her. It didn’t serve the purposes of the project to alienate either Dr. Kelly or the clone, Mears had said. Arthur was damned if he understood why.
The Dean’s visit was almost over, and there hadn’t been a peep from the room where the female clone was being held. Arthur was still twitchy- would still be twitchy until everything was back to standard. Arthur had taken the post just outside said room, which was on the same corridor as Mears’ office. For Christ’s sakes, some days you just knew were gonna go south even before you got out of bed- just as Dr. Mears and Dean Sandburg came out of Mears’ office, the clone- Skyla- pushed out from the lounge, and cuffed Arthur Cummings across the temple. He fell like a sack of potatoes and she was at- no on the Dean before Arthur could even look up.
When he looked up, the clone was straddling the guy and pushing him firmly down into the floor- her hands so strong that she was keeping him from breathing as she pushed on his chest. Arthur took aim and nailed her in the shoulder with a tranquilizer dart. Then he did it again. The third time, she looked over her shoulder at him with an annoyed expression before keeling over from the drugs taking affect.
He stood and surveyed the damage. Three of his men and the two academics were all lying unconscious. The Dean was red-faced, but breathing and Mears was coming around again. A quick look in to the room Skyla had come from revealed Dr. Kelly lying out cold on the floor, too. Damn but that freak of a woman was fast.
Dr. Dennis Mears took a cleansing breath and opened the door to the outer office. Sherrilyn, Dean Sandburg’s assistant, glared at him as he stepped up to her desk.
“Have a seat, Dr. Mears,” she told him with a tone that said something more along the lines of drop dead, maggot.
“Thanks,” Dennis responded with a small smile. It was not returned. He took a seat. “Uh, do you know- is he running late, because I-”
“He’ll see you when he sees you,” Sherrilyn snapped and it was obvious there was no making nice with her. Ten minutes later, the door to the inner office opened and Aaron Sandburg invited him inside.
“Listen, Aaron, before you say anything, let me apologize again for the behavior of my study subject,” Dennis began his carefully concocted cover story. “Miss Moss has a rare genetic disorder that affects her metal stability it’s progressive and I’ve been studying her genome and her behavior in hopes of preventing-”
“I know, Dennis. You were quite thorough in your previous explanation. This isn’t about that,” Aaron told him, waving his hand dismissively.
“No. This is- well I have to apologize to you. I know that I made it seem as though your appointment as the new Department Head was assured, but I’m sorry to say it isn’t going to happen.”
“I understand,” Dennis replied. He’d already let go of that possibility- he was just hoping to keep his project going.
“No, you don’t. I’m not stepping down. The position isn’t opening up at all.”
“But you said your condition was degenerative-”
“Aaron, you’re not fine. You’re dying.”
“It’s the damnedest thing. I can’t explain it. My doctors can’t explain it, but I’m fine.”
“You mean you’re in remission?”
“There’s no sign I was ever sick. I feel ten, no- fifteen years younger.”
“Aaron, that’s fantastic.”
“Isn’t it? So, I’m sorry, you don’t get the bump up.”
“I’ve never been more pleased to lose at anything.”