The principal's office was as intimidating as the man himself. It was
grey, impersonal and impeccably neat; as though he had just moved in instead of
him being the principal for close to five years. The only intimate thing was a
picture of him on his desk. Apparently, he used to be a Navy Seal.
The principal, Mr. Wilson, was sitting at his desk completely ignoring their presence. He frowned as his blue-grey eyes focused on sheets of paper on his desk in front of him. His stark white hair stayed plastered against his forehead with some kind of gel. His frown deepened as he looked up at the four students sitting side by side at the other end of the room.
Jada had cleaned herself up as best as she could but still had bits of food in her purple hair. She looked around the bare office as if the colors had personally offended her. The only clean thing on Kevin was his leather jacket. He seemed to have no problem soiling his principal's seat with his spaghetti stained jeans. He even shifted deeper into his seat, smearing the cushion in sauce. Alex wrung his hands with wide green eyes, as if he couldn’t believe he was actually in the principal’s office. He was as pale as a sheet and looked ready to pass out.
Andrea had her hoodie up and slouched down trying to make herself look as small as possible. She didn't like this man. He reminded her of a perfect novel villain; cold, disciplined, and possibly cruel. Their eyes locked for a split second and Andy felt a deep chill crawl up her spine and looked away.
She definitely didn’t like this man.
Mr. Wilson cleared his throat. "I don't know whether I should expel you all outright or not. It would be a shame considering it's the first day of school." He said in a cool calm voice.
Alex knelt on the ground and folded his arms in front of him in a pleading gesture. "Please Mr. Wilson! Don't expel me! A Lockwood has never been expelled from any educational institute before. I'll be shunned by my family!" he whined.
Mr. Wilson's cold eyes narrowed in disapproval. "Have some dignity, Mr. Lockwood. Sit down." He ordered.
Alex hastily sat back down and put his still folded hands in his lap.
Mr. Wilson stood up from his seat and went to stand in front of them. He was very tall and seemed as fit as he was in his army days. Andy disliked him even more.
"I have a better idea." Mr. Wilson said. "Community service."
"What?!" Kevin exploded. "I'm not going to pick garbage off of highways with these losers."
"Community service takes many forms, Mr. Ambrose." Mr. Wilson said.
"So what form do you want to give us?" Jada asked.
"There's a retired professor in Sunny Acres Nursing home; an old friend of mine. He gets rather lonely with no visitors."
"What does the loneliness of an old man have to do with us?" Kevin asked.
"A lot. Considering you'll be visiting him for two hours after school every day for a month."
"WHAT!" Jada exclaimed. “I can’t sacrifice that much time! I have plans!”
"You should reschedule those plans the Ms. Jones. You start today." Mr. Wilson said with a cruel smirk.
Andrea sank deeper into her seat. She had a really bad feeling about this.
"I can't believe this is happening!" Kevin moaned.
The four of them were walking solemnly to the first day of their punishment. Kevin lagged behind them and had been complaining and murmuring all the while. Alex, Jada and Andrea were walking side-by-side in silence, still trying to digest their situation.
"Maybe if you would just shut up, you would believe it." Jada snapped.
"C'mon guys. It can't be that bad." Andrea said pulling her hood down when she felt she was far enough from Mr. Wilson’s cold gaze.
"I've heard stories about the professor." Alex said quietly.
Kevin threw his hands up into the air. "Here we go again with the rumors. Well, we've got nothing better to do. Amuse us." He said.
"Never underestimate rumors, Kevin." Andy scolded. "Go on Alex. What'd you hear?"
"I heard he used to work for the government. In Area 51." Alex started. "He worked with people who did experiments involving human DNA and using alien technology. They planned on infusing humans with tremendous power. Rumor has it that they did it. What's worse is that they did it on a human they created from a single brain cell." He paused.
"I knew it! I always knew the government was up to human experiments!" Andy said triumphantly.
"What happened next?" Jada asked, ignoring Andrea’s outburst.
Alex shrugged. "I couldn't find out. I was – uh - too scared to listen anymore." He said with a blush while pushing up his glasses.
Kevin scoffed. "You're such a wimp, Alex. I know what happened." Kevin said haughtily.
"I thought you didn't like rumors." Jada said.
Kevin's eyes narrowed. "I never said that. Anyway, I heard they wanted to do more experiments, this time, on the fake human." He said.
"That's messed up." Jada said, crinkling her nose as if she smelled something awful.
"I know!" Kevin agreed. "Now the professor wouldn't have that, seeing as he created the human with his own cell. He referred to it as his child."
"I think I'm going to be sick." Alex said looking a little green around the edges. Every one took two steps away from him.
"What happened next?" Andy asked.
"I'm not really sure. My guess is the army tried to wipe his memory and something went wrong. So the professor packed the fake human and as many experiments as he could and chose to live in our little town." Kevin concluded.
"That's got to be the wildest rumor I've ever heard." Jada said crossing her arms over her chest.
"But you got to admit. It's also very credible." Andy said with a firm nod.
They all looked at her as if she had three heads. Andrea didn't notice. "Oh, look! We're here." She announced.
Sunny Acres was just as its name described. A generous amount of well-kept lawn decorated with neat hedges and colorful flowers. The building itself was just as neat, painted a bright yellow with white accents. The interior was much of the same, the brightest thing being the brilliant red headed receptionist. She regarded them with warm amber eyes.
"Hello! Welcome to Sunny Acres! My name is Daphne. How may I help you?"
Alex nudged Jada to speak. "We're here to see Professor Reed." Jada said.
Daphne scrunched up her face and Andy suddenly noticed she was their age. "Tough luck." She said. "He's a little of his rocker, but pretty harmless. Second door on your left." She directed.
As the others went ahead Kevin lagged behind and leaned in what he thought was an attractive manner over Daphne's desk. "So." he said.
"No." Daphne mirrored, not even looking up at him.
Delicate male ego bruised, Kevin stuffed his hands into his pocket and sauntered to the professor's door where the rest were staring at the door anxiously.
“Well open the door, Jada.” Alex said, giving the girl a sharp nudge.
“Why do I have to open it?” Jada asked. “You’re the one who came up with all the rumors.”
“Well, you’re the skeptic.” Andrea pointed out. “This should be no problem for you.”
“Well, you’re the one who’s ready to prove that the government’s up to crazy experiments.” Kevin said, nudging Andrea towards the door.
“Cowards.” Andy muttered. She faced the door and swallowed drily. She took the rumors to heart and had a really bad feeling about all of this, no matter how much she wanted find out if it was all true. Nonetheless, she knocked heavily.
Instantly the door flew open and the four were greeted by a boy their age in a pure white shirt and pants with shocking electric blue eyes. That wasn't the oddest thing about him though. He had stark white hair that hovered just above his shoulders in pin-straight stands.
"Good afternoon." He said in a heavy British accent. "Are you looking for my father?"
Jada nudged Andrea in the back and she masterfully hid the resulting choke as a cough. "Uh, yes. We've been asked to spend some time with him every day after school." She said.
The boy broke out into a grin, revealing even white teeth and Andy found herself blushing. "Wonderful! Father gets rather lonely at times and I'm afraid he spends too much time on his work." He said, a concerned frown marring his handsome face for a split second. His face brightened quickly and he smiled again. "Please, do come in."
The inside was very modern with a black and white color scheme and tasteful lighting. The four sat down on a massive black couch while the boy went through a door to look for the professor, locking it behind him.
"That's the clone!" Kevin exclaimed as soon as the boy as out of earshot.
"He seems perfectly fine to me." Andy said.
"I don’t know, Andy. He does have white hair." Alex said skeptically. “Not grey hair, white hair.”
"Maybe he dyed it." Andy suggested.
Jada scoffed. "Girl, if anyone knows dyed hair it's me." She said tossing her purple locks for emphasis. "That hair was pure. He probably doesn't even add hair cream." Jada frowned and crinkled her nose in disdain. “That’s a crime in itself.”
"Okay fine, so he has white hair. It's probably a medical condition. Besides, he doesn't seem like a powerful artificial human to me." Andrea said. That boy couldn’t be a clone. She refused to believe it.
"That's the whole point!" Kevin shouted. “He’s not supposed to look like a fake person.”
Further conversation halted when the boy returned and sat opposite them in a white couch. He smiled kindly. "My father will be up in a moment. My name is Kayle by the way, pardon my lack of manners." He said.
Andy received another sharp nudge from Jada and shot her a glare in return. "My name is Andrea and this is Jada, Alex and Kevin." She said.
"Andrea. That's a wonderful name." Kayle complimented.
Andrea blushed. "I prefer to be called Andy." She said.
"As you wish."
“So, where were you and your father before you moved here?” Kevin asked, not bothering to mask his suspicion.
“Kevin.” Andy admonished.
Kayle smiled brightly regardless. “Oh, well, my father and I are native to Britain. We did spend a few years in Arizona just before moving here. My father was doing a bit of research there.” He said.
“What kind of research?” Kevin pressed.
“I never listened to him.” Kayle said with a passive wave of his hand. “I’m afraid I found it all terribly boring.”
Kevin opened his mouth to say something but was cut off when Kayle abruptly stood up. "I'm going to see what is taking him so long." He said. He went through the same door and locked it behind him.
"I say we go through that door." Jada suggested.
"It's locked. I'm sure going through it qualifies as breaking and entering." Alex said with an adjustment of his large glasses.
"I agree with Jada." Kevin said. “Look at how quickly he left! He obviously doesn’t do well under pressure.”
“I already have the entire food fight incident forever scarring my permanent record; I don’t need invading the privacy of an old man on there too.” Alex said firmly.
“C’mon Alex.” Jada said grabbing Alex’s shoulders and giving him a firm shake. “It won’t be so bad. After all, we’re just look through an old man’s basement.”
“No.” Alex said, not budging.
“Do it or I’ll pound you so hard you’ll be black and blue for a week.” Kevin threatened.
Alex blanched. “I’m in.” he said quickly.
All three of them turned to face Andrea who bit her lip in indecision. She really didn’t want to get on Kayle’s bad side, but this was government secrets they were talking about. "Alright, I’ll do it." She said.
Without a cue they instantly stood up and crowded around the door and paused there; each of them hesitant to open the door.
“Wait a minute; the clone locked the door behind him.” Kevin said with a frown.
“He’s not a clone. His name is Kayle.” Andrea said. “What happened to ‘human until proven synthetic’?”
Ignoring her, Jada pulled a hair pin out of her violet mane and effortlessly picked the lock.
Kevin looked impressed. “Where’d you learn how to do that?” he asked.
Jada shrugged. “It’s just something you pick up in my neighborhood.” She said passively.
“Let’s go guys.” Alex said nervously. “Before Kayle comes back.”
Kevin led the way down a long flight of stairs to a large dusty room. The room as dimly lit with a pinpoint light source about twenty feet away. When their eyes adjusted to it, they saw the entire room was a maze of various gadgets and large machines. Some of them were covered with layers of dust and cobwebs. Others completely new; their chrome surfaces glinted in the dim light.
"Let's go." Kevin said taking the lead again as they maneuvered themselves between the machines.
They soon came to the very back of the room where they saw Kayle talking to a person they guessed was the professor. They split up, all hiding behind various machines and keeping well out of sight. Andrea was anxious to get a look at the man responsible for making her day so interesting. She bit her lip and looked at the others. Their heads were well covered and they seemed content to just listen to the conversation.
Andy’s curiosity got the better of her and she thrust her head over the side of the machine she was hiding behind. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Kevin gesturing for her to get down. She ignored him. After all, she just wanted to get a good look at the professor’s face.
They looked shockingly alike with the same blue eyes and white air. The only difference being the professor's caterpillar mustache and hair much like someone who had recently been struck by lightning.
“- rather impatient. It's awfully uncomfortable." Kayle was saying.
"Just keep them occupied a little longer. I've almost done it!" the professor exclaimed excitedly gesturing to a giant glowing pod.
"I do not know how long I can keep it up. They are rather intimidating." Kayle complained.
"All other people are intimidating to you. You still haven't gotten used to Daphne yet. I guess it's my fault for keeping you so sheltered, my boy." The professor said sadly.
"You should not blame yourself for my social ineptness, father." Kayle replied. He looked up and saw Andrea.
"Hey! You are not supposed to be in here!" he shouted.
"Scatter!" Kevin ordered.
The next five minutes was a frenzy of chasing and clattering machines. In a panic, Andy ran to hide in the pod; which she thought would be the last place anyone would look for her. Alex tripped over Andy’s foot as she was crawling into the pod and was sent flying right into a giant red button on the wall.
There room was flooded with flashing red light and a piercing blare that stopped everyone dead in their tracks as the pod closed with Andy inside. Andy pounded on the door heavily; her faint shouts could be heard over the noise of the blare.
"Kayle! Get her out of there!" the professor shouted. "It is not ready yet!"
A blue-white light came from inside the pod, spilled out and filled the entire room and phased through the walls. Andrea found herself feeling very fuzzy and warm as the light phased through her. As suddenly as it all started, the blaring stopped and the red light turned off. The pod door slid open and Andrea staggered out, unsteady on her feet for some reason. Alex and Jada rushed to her side, steadying her.
“Look at what you have done!” the professor exclaimed gripping his erratic white hair. He rushed over to the machine, which was spitting sparks. He fussed over it, an absolutely heartbroken look on his face. “My life’s work!” he cried.
Kayle looked at the four of them with cold blue eyes and a set jaw. “I think it would be best for you to leave. Now.” He said.
“You can’t just throw us out.” Kevin argued taking an intimidating step towards Kayle.
“I do believe we can.” Kayle said, calmly meeting Kevin’s harsh gaze with his cool one. “Follow me, please.” He said starting towards the staircase.
The walk back upstairs happened in painful, guilty silence. A large part of Andrea wanted to burst out a string of apologies, but the smaller, more sensible part told her to keep quiet; so she did. The next thing she knew, they were out in the hall and Kayle was about to close the door behind them.
Before she could stop herself, Andrea put her foot in the way of the door. Kayle looked up at her with empty blue eyes, a far cry from the sparkling ones that greeted then not half an hour earlier.
“I’m so, so sorry Kayle.” She blurted out. “We didn’t mean for that to happen. We can make up for it tomorrow, help the professor clean up.”
Kayle held her gaze for several seconds before he spoke. “You need not worry about coming back here tomorrow. We shall contact your principal tonight. You are no longer welcome here.”
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