Summary:The clone known as 9836-A escapes again and takes a child. Skyla needs must track him…
Now, I know my bit here is supposed to be just catching you up with any minutia that figures into the next part of Skyla’s whole she-bang, and all, but- I can’t help wanting to put in my two cents about it all. ‘Cept for what I’m really going to put in is my Uncle Frankie’s two cents, since the dog in question was his little schnauzer Bucky. Uncle Frankie used to say, he said, “That dog ain’t right.” That’s what he said, and that was on account of the fact that no matter how well fed or well treated ol’ Bucky was, he still bit anyone who came within ten feet of him. That’s what the beast- 9836-A was. Not right. And no matter how much Doc Mears pumped him full of secobarbitol or how thick the door he was put behind, he was still going to bite the good doctor in the ass again and again.
On another note, right about now is when Skyla starts putting a few things together for herself and for Jess Kelly, and if I don’t miss my mark, they were getting close to understanding each other much better. It is just too bad that they didn’t have more time together to work it all out before Skyla was gone again.
The monstrosity missed his place- the one he’d made himself away from the Big Mans and The Little Man and The Nosed-Good-Not-Letting-Him-Push-Through-Woman and the Tranqs- that place where he could hunt- he missed that place. He was in the darked place again- been back there with the Itch and the woozy of the Tranqs and the Tut Tut of The Little Man and his Little Neck that was still not snapped the way he would want it to be. The Itch was in a new place- under him, behind him where he could not scratch, and the restraints were tighter- wrist-bruisers made them tighter and he bucked and raged to get at the Itch, but he didn’t. Made him bite. Bite his tongue, bite his outside tongues- no lips- bite his lips with the Itch and the rage. Salt taste made it better, but pain made him rage more.
Jessica Kelly found herself completely frustrated with Dennis. Again. The geneticist would hardly even talk to her and she could forget trying to bring up the latest strangeness concerning Skyla. There weren’t going to be any answers from the man- in reality, Jess wasn’t sure that he had any anyway- but he could at least level with her about what he did know.
Certainly, Skyla had a propensity towards violence- the attempted kidnapping of the child at the playground, the assault on Dean Sandburg, all the hostility she had towards Dennis (although she seemed to be letting go of that some- why, Jess didn’t know- she really couldn’t blame Skyla for feeling that way since she wanted to throttle the man often enough herself), not to mention the grisly details of the tales of heroicism that she spun daily- blood and death and gore, but the episodes with the dean and especially with the child made little sense. When Jess had gotten to ask Skyla about them, all she had said was that she had needed to do what she had- they had both been suffering, and she would say nothing more that made any sense.
Jessica had decided that she needed to push harder and broach the subject of those violent acts with Skyla again. She was about to do just that when Skyla tensed in the same way she had just before she had gone after Dean Sandburg.
“The Beast moves,” Skyla rasped out, a fierce whisper through gritted teeth, and then she was ramming her shoulder into the door out to the hallway. She created a great warping dent in the heavy metal door with her first attempt, busted open the hinges with the second and was through in her third, the door slamming loudly down against the floor at an ungainly angle. It was an astonishing thing to see.
Jessica tried to follow her, hoping to calm her, but Skyla warned her off, “Get back, fool-maid! I’ll not lose you to the Beast!”
Arthur Cummings was just arriving at the lab for the evening shift when the security alarm sounded and Arthur cursed the day he took this damned job watching over Mears’ lunatic experiments. It had sounded much calmer when they had discussed it all. He’d been meant to be keeping people out- other scientists who might want to get a peek at the experiments or pledges there on dares during Rush Week or, at worst, protesters standing outside chanting about bioethics, but not this- this constant challenge from one or the other of those freaking clones breaking through heavier and heavier security (all cobbled together on a shoestring budget and in as much secrecy as could be managed so as to not attract undue attention from the university). The whole thing was a giant pain in the ass- not worth the money, for sure, but now that he was in it, Arthur’s conscience couldn’t let him out of it- what if he left and one of those things killed someone?
Arthur procured a tranquilizer gun, checked that it was loaded and went down to the trouble just behind Simpson and Werner. He wondered which of the two clones was out this time- he hoped to God it wasn’t both of them.
By the time Arthur arrived on the scene, things had gone all kinds of wrong- Dr. Kelly was on the floor next to Dr. Mears, applying pressure to a chest wound, the irregular circle of red expanding far quicker than Arthur would like. Jansen, Kendal and Farnsworth had the female clone (who Arthur figured for being the cause of the injury to Dr. Mears) cornered, but she was putting up a fight. Simpson and Werner went to the doctors, helping Dr. Kelly drag Mears through a door and into one of the labs to get him out of there.
The room was in such commotion that Arthur thought that there was just maybe a chance that the clone hadn’t noticed him yet. He raised his tranquilizer gun and took aim. Farnsworth popped into his line of sight, so he had to wait a tic. Then the clone took Farnsworth down with a roundhouse kick to the jaw. Arthur pulled the trigger as soon as Farnsworth had cleared his field of vision. Apparently, he had underestimated the clone’s awareness because before she’d even gotten her leg back down, she caught the dart between her fingers and immediately drove it into Jansen’s shoulder. Jansen swayed and fell to the floor with a thump.
Arthur swore and leveled the tranquilizer gun again. He pulled the trigger and the clone whipped Kendal around by the shoulders and put him in the dart’s path. Kendal staggered forward tangle-legged and dazed, catching at Arthur’s arms as he fell. By the time he had disentangled himself, the clone was out the security door.
Arthur left Simpson and Werner to help the doctors and went after the clone.
After getting free of the misguided warriors of the keep, Skyla easily picked up the beast’s trail. Her instincts screamed that he was headed for his former hunting grounds and the spore he left behind confirmed it- the beast was a lumbering abomination, careless and in no way clever enough to try to disguise his path. She put to with her greatest speed in hopes of besting him, both before he chose an innocent to harm and before the warriors of the keep could recover from their skirmish and close upon her. She wished that she had better command of their tongue so that she might be able to make them understand that they needed neither to protect her nor to protect the innocents from her, but it was as though she was incomplete- her skills not nearly as potent as she remembered them being in other times, other places. Perhaps the magics they used to call her back each time were imperfect. They certainly didn’t treat her with the reverence she got from other tribes- perhaps some knowledge has been lost in the generations since she was last called.
Had things been as they should have been, she could have healed the Priest from the keep that the beast had stabbed, but she could not both heal him and fight off the warriors as they tried to subdue her. Finding the beast was far more important than one priest, so she had left him to her handmaiden. Jess loved the priest, even though he was ill-humored, she would see to him with greatest care.
Skyla approached the beast’s old den as the sun was dipping low and the night sounds were rising. She stopped far enough from where the beast was that he should not be able to tell she was there and took stock of him. He was inside- she could hear his jagged breaths, she could feel his heart’s rhythm- quick and uneven. He was still twitchy from his escape- pleased to have won that victory, and he was not alone. There was another heart fluttering swift in terror. It was a child- one that he had already injured- she could almost smell the blood in the air between where she stood and where he was shuffling around his den- looking for something?
This was good moment- he was not fixed on the innocent. She moved in, hoping to get to act before he found what he was in search of and returned to his murderous task.
Arthur was not surprised to find that the female clone had made for the same section of town as the male had when he had escaped. They had found them together there grappling hard the last time she had escaped. He spotted her outside the condemned building, paused and- was she listening for something? He closed in slowly, trying to get into range to hit her with a tranquilizer dart before she, with her oddly strong sensitivity to her environment, knew that he was there. She moved away- not running from Arthur, but towards something- into the building. She moved slow and careful, as if she was hunting something, and maybe she was.
He hadn’t been able to get a status report (or give one) since he left the labs. What with all of the security either down or taking care of their boss, there wasn’t anyone answering their radios. He tried again before following the clone inside. He had no success.
The building’s interior was dark and dank- there was garbage and dead animal carcasses in the corners and discarded drug paraphernalia littering most of the floors. The sounds of a struggle could be heard on one of the upper floors as soon as he entered the stairwell. Whatever she had been hunting, she had found it. He gave up on stealth, running up the steps- the sounds of the fight would cover his approach until he was very close.
On the top floor he found them- and crap! The other clone was out, too. How had he missed that? The two freaks were tussling in what once had been a small bedroom. On the stained and rotting bed on the corner cowered a small child, eyes wide, but not crying- perhaps too scared for that yet. The clones lurched across the room, the male landing hard atop the female with bone jarring crash, but the female quickly reversing their positions and landing a few good punches before they rolled over again and the male had the advantage again.
Arthur took aim and fired off a dart at them. He was wide of the male’s shoulder by just a small amount. The monster took notice of it though. He gave the female a solid whack to the jaw that seemed to leave her dazed, pulled himself up and lunged at Arthur. He tried to raise his gun, but wasn’t quick enough. Arthur was pinned to the dirty wall, the clone’s wild eyes flashing hard and angry at him as he tried to wrest the gun from Arthur’s grip. He got one good blow with the butt of the dart gun in before the damned thing got it away from Arthur. The clone raised it over his head read to strike a blow and Arthur threw his hands up to protect his head.
The blow didn’t come. The clone got a confused look on his face before he fell backwards to the floor. When he did, Arthur saw that the female was standing behind where the male had been. She was bleeding profusely from the head, but she was far from down. Arthur scrambled for the tranquilizer gun, but she got there first. He did get a hand on it and they struggled for a moment.
“Best leave off, squire. I’ve work to do. I cannot rest yet,” the female told him.
“Not if I have any say in it,” Arthur warned her and redoubled his efforts to control the gun.
A keening broke through the room and both Arthur and the female clone looked to the bed to find that the other freak had recovered himself and was pressing in on the child. The female let go, turned and tackled the male, dragging him off the child to grapple on the floor. Damn it! The kid wasn’t moving. Arthur moved passed the clones and got on the bed. It was a girl. A little girl. He checked for a pulse. It was slow and it didn’t look like she was breathing. He started mouth to mouth resuscitation.
A moment later, a hand was roughly pulling him away from the child. It was the female clone. He tried to fight her off. He needed to keep up the mouth to mouth or the kid was going to die.
“Let me do,” she ordered him. “I can do.” She pulled him roughly away and got her hands on the kid. Arthur struggled to get between her and the girl, be the clone was stronger than he was, even after the beating she had taken. She was pushing on the girl’s chest with one hand as she fought Arthur off with the other.
“Oh God! Don’t! Fight me, instead,” he begged because- Oh God!
“No fight- well, make well,” she said through gritted teeth and a moment later, she sat back from the kid and let Arthur get to her again. The girl was blinking up at him scared, but conscious. What the hell? He glanced back over his shoulder to see the female clone looking down at him, her arms crossed. “See- well. Skyla make well,” she declared.
“You did this?” he asked, incredulously, because- uh- what? “You healed her?”
“Skyla heal- yes,” she repeated. Then she glanced around the room. The other clone wasn’t there anymore. “The beast,” she whispered and a moment later, she was out the door.
Arthur dialed 911 and carried the kid down to street level. He handed her off the cops saying he’d found her wandering, and picked up the female clone’s trail again.