E-mails and Pictures
Gwen’s stomach felt like it was doing summersaults in her abdominal. She had never done something this extreme before in her whole life. Everything is going to be okay, thought Gwen as she breathed in and out slowly. She was trying to push down the hysteria welling up inside of her chest. The base had been compromised and the outside world was coming to an end. Everyone she knew and loved would be effected by the invasion. There was not time left for debate; they had to infiltrate the nightshade organization. They had to stop it somehow.
Gwen groaned inside at the solution. She just wished that stopping the nightshades didn’t have to involve becoming one in the process. Everything is going to be okay, thought Gwen. She gripped her tactical pants and tried to believe what she was telling herself. Her own body didn’t seem to accept the answer; it was all a lie. In just a few short minutes everything was going to drastically change in her life. She was going to become one of the monsters she hated so much (but it was for the sake of humanity…right?).
Gwen leaned over and spit out her gum into the trashcan under the desk. She missed the open receptacle by an inch and watched as the brown ball stuck to the wall.
“Crap!” said Gwen.
“You just about ready?” said Dr. Howard.
Gwen turned to the husky doctor as she entered the lunch room, “Nope, I am not ready. To be completely honest I feel like shit inside! I feel like I am about to make the biggest mistake of my life letting you do this to me!”
“That’s my brave little Mexican princess. Let out all the frustration,” said Dr. Howard as she dropped her tool bag on the ground and kicked it out of the way. She walked around Gwen’s chair and set her laptop on the table, “Deconstructing the data disk on your neck shouldn’t take very long. When I did it to myself it only took a few minutes…”
“And nothing went wrong when you did it right?” asked Gwen.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” said Dr. Howard as she turned around and unzipped her tool bag and started pulling stuff out, “the right side of my face goes numb occasionally… and then there’s the frequent bed wetting and night-terrors.”
Gwen stared at her. She didn’t find the joke funny, “I am being serious!”
“I can see that…” said Dr. Howard with a chuckle. “My advice to you is lighten up a bit Agent Garcia. It’s the end of the world. What else are you going to do with your life from here on out? If the nightshades take over everything then we are all dead anyway. This remote part of the base was never designed to keep us alive indefinitely. If you were thinking that we could just live in the Electro Lab then you have come to an extraneous solution.”
“I can’t believe I am doing this!” breathed Gwen.
“You’ll be fine…this part of the procedure is perfectly safe and necessary,” said Dr. Howard. She was trying to encourage the stressed out agent now, “We don’t want the nightshades freezing your brain the moment you step outside this remote base. If we don’t deconstruct the data disk, they will harvest you.”
“Is that why my brain hasn’t frozen already?” asked Gwen as she reached up and touched the data disk on the back of her neck, “Because I am down here with you?”
“The Electro Lab has been isolated… Now, I need you to turn around and face the wall Princess Buttercup,” said Dr. Howard as she removed the blatherskite from the big tool bag.
Gwen reluctantly turned around in the chair and faced the wall. She hated having her back to someone; she didn’t care how friendly they were. Gwen had been trained to never place herself in a vulnerable position while out in the field. She fought against the urge to turn back around and face Dr. Howard. They needed to start trusting each other in order to survive.
“Can you please hold your hair up while I do the installation?” Asked Dr. Howard.
Gwen reached up with both hands and scooped up her hair. She twisted it into a tight round bun and set it on top of her head. She waited patiently as Dr. Howard placed the blatherskite around her neck. The device clicked into place and slowly contracted around the data disk. It had been a long time since Gwen had had one of these units around her neck. She had received her very own data disk during basic training at the academy 6 years ago. It was given to everyone entering the nightshade extraction force; there was no exceptions to this rule. The United States Government needed to keep track of who was human and who was not. At the time of installation Gwen had thought it a good idea to have one of these things on her neck… that was before she know the truth about nightshades and Prewitt Labs.
“How long is this going to take again?” Asked Gwen nervously. She could actually feel her body beginning to tense up and sweat. In just a few moments she would be inside the body of a nightshade. Her heartrate increased as the reality of the situation drew closer and closer. This has to be done, thought Gwen…There really wasn’t any other alternative.
“The deconstruction of the data disk shouldn’t take that long; a few minutes tops. Once it’s completed I’ll hook you up to our older Dreaming Walking prototype and set it to only respond to your consciousness… at that point we should be ready to make the transfer from human to interdimensional body snatching persons.” said Dr. Howard to Gwen in the softest voice she could possibly make. She wanted to use the politically correct version of the word ‘nightshade’. It was to help Agent Garcia accept the transformation better. Everyone at Camp Snowflake had to speak this way to the captured Assets before they turned into nightshades. It was all part of the protocol establish by the government. The government was good at wordsmithing the shit out of things.
“That’s not funny,” said Gwen sharply. She could tell that Dr. Howard was trying to compare her to a captured nightshade. The very thought of it made her want to hit the husky woman, “Don’t ever talk to me like that again.”
Dr. Howard held her hands up in surrender. It seem like the Agent Garcia was constantly in combat mode, “It was just a joke Agent Garcia… I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I don’t find it funny.” Said Gwen.
“Okay… note taken,” said Dr. Howard as she pulled out the adapter from her tool bag and put it over the central processing unit of the blatherskite. She caused Gwen to pivot forward as she pushed the connector into the device. The blatherskite beeped loudly as Dr. Howard hooked it into the computer on the table, “We are almost ready to do!”
Gwen was watching as Dr. Howard typed away at the computer. The words the husky woman had said still lingered in her mind like a bad smell. Gwen had been called a lot of derogatory things in her life; and none of it seemed to phase her. All those past comments had been like water off a ducks back…. But there was something different about being compared to a nightshade that set her on edge both body and soul. Why was this phrase any different from the others? Thought Gwen. Why couldn’t she handle it? The answer to the questions seemed just out of reach. She looked outside the lunch room at the Nightshade on the stainless steel table.
Gwen forced herself to ask the question, “When do I become the nightshade?”
“You will become the nightshade when we shove that big black ball down the nightshades throat,” said Dr. Howard. “That’s when you become the nightshade.”
Gwen shifted in her set and looked at the big black prototype resting on the table in the Electro Lab. The things was huge. There was no way in heck that thing was going down some nightshades throat, “How do you plan to do that?”
“All will be revealed in its own due time, my Little Debbie Cake,” said Dr. Howard.
Gwen rolled her eyes at this lack of information. She stole a sideways glance at the husky woman seated next to her, “When you talk like that it doesn’t give me much confidence in your abilities to make this work.”
“Luckily for you, Cleopatra, my knowledge of these systems doesn’t depend on your confidence level in me.” Said Dr. Howard as she brought up the program and started deconstructing the data disk on Gwen’s neck. Command prompts began appearing and disappearing on the desktop screen. A bright green progress bar appeared and started populating.
Gwen’s eyes shifted from the computer to the long multicolored ribbon cable she was attached to. It felt like she was a dog on a leash, “So five minutes then?”
Dr. Howard stood up, “Yeah, you could say that.”
Gwen watched as the husky woman hobbled to the door of the lunch room. Her damaged leg brace squeaked and popped slightly as she went. Gwen could tell that her kick back on the platform had done a number on the thing. “Where are you going? Doesn’t this stuff need to be monitored? What if something happens?”
“Cool your jets, GI Jane,” said Dr. Howard as she leaned against the door frame. She lifted her right leg and picked the wedgie out of her pants. It wasn’t the most graceful move; but it was needed, “the computer will run through the routine and when it’s done it will beep; that’s all there is to it. All you have to do is sit and wait.”
“What do I do until then?” Asked Gwen.
Dr. Howard shrugged her shoulders at this dumb question. These hot-chicks were all the same. They all seemed to thinking that the damn world revolved around them, “I don’t know Agent Garcia, check your e-mail…Started a book club…paint your nails… do anything you like, but don’t pull out the ribbon cable while it’s deconstructing your data disk. This will shut your brain down like the nightshade on the table… you’ll be as dead as a brick.”
Gwen’s heart sank at this, “What?! Your joking, right?”
Dr. Howard chuckled and hobbled away, “I have to prepare the prototype for launch. I’ll be back in a few minutes to take all your cabling off. In the meantime don’t touch anything… I don’t want my stuff broke!”
Gwen turned back to the computer and watched the status bar change slightly. It was 35% done with the deconstruction of the data disk. She held up her wrist watch and opened up her e-mail. A new message from Dennis could be seen in the inbox at the top. Gwen hesitated to open it as her thoughts turned to the social worker. He had been up there during the nightshade invasion. Gwen may not have liked the guy very much but he was still human; or at least she thought he was human. Either way, she hoped that he had somehow found a way out of the base. Maybe all this chaos with the nightshades killing people would finely smack some sense into the idiot.
I can’t wait to tell you I told you so, thought Gwen as she tapped on the message and viewed all the pictures he had sent over to her. Gwen almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The images she was viewing depicted a massive male nightshade in a hairy loincloth. The markings on his broad chest and arms were unique and complex. They were not like anything Gwen had ever seen on any of the other assets. They seemed more… Important.
Her dark brown eyes studied the pale wings of the nightshade. They were long and almost bat like in nature; with the bones being visible under the thick flesh. Gwen couldn’t believe the size of the twisted horns. They were jet black and thick… and seemed to curl to the back of the head like a ram. The ears had become long and pointed.
“This can’t be Greg,” thought Gwen as she looked into the eyes of the beast. It seemed liked the red eyes were telling a different story. The nightshade had on the same stupid look as the man they had captured a day ago. No male nightshade had ever changed as quickly as he had… and the transformation looked complete and full.
“Why is he so different than the others?” Asked Gwen as she turned her attention to the text at the end of the last picture.
You will be happy to know that our friend Greg has fully embraced his inner nightshade (my Eustress Therapy Reductionis actually working!). I can’t give you all the details because we had technical difficulties during his transition last night. The cameras cut out and stopped working before we could see anything. The pictures I have sent over to you really don’t do him justice. He is like a well sculpted piece of biological art! He is the biggest, and most intimidating nightshade we have on record. This is going to disrupt the natural order of the other male nightshades in the Garden of Eden! I can just see it now!
On a less serious note. I was wondering if you would like to go out with me and get something to eat later. I would like to apologize for my actions in the van yesterday. I don’t want to strain our friendship in any way.
Just give me the heads-up
Gwen couldn’t help but feel that Dennis was hinting at more than just two friends being out at lunch. The guy may actually be interested in having a relationship with her on a deeper level; one that was more than just friends. Gwen played around with the idea of them being together for a second or two… and then rejected it wholesale. This might be another trick. It seemed like Dennis would do anything to get information about her family life and history. To Gwen it felt like Dennis only saw her as a broken thing that needed to be fixed… and he was somehow going to fixe her with all his knowledge of human psychology.
“I think I’ll take a hard pass, Dennis,” said Gwen as she closed the message with a tap of the finger. There really was no point in responding to the e-mail. There was absolutely no communication with the base; not to mention the world was practically ending. Gwen’s love life would have to wait for later. There was no one in this universe that was going to sweep her off her feet during a nightshade invasion…especially not Dennis.
Gwen was going to exit out of her e-mail when she noticed another unread message. The person who had sent the letter was no one she knew. The name read ‘Evelyne Prewitt’ in bold letters. Gwen felt her skin scrawl as she considered the name. This couldn’t have been the actual Evelyne Prewitt from Prewitt Technologies in California. Gwen clicked on the E-mail and read the short message to herself. It was post marked from yesterday:
To the human warrior Gwen-vaelle,
I have taken notice of the way you have foolishly flaunted your skills to my mate in combat. I reassure you he was not impressed with your lewd exhibitionist fighting. He has no deep feelings for you… that much has become clear to me. No worthy male would ever want a union with such a frail human woman. It’s a mockery to the Erlking himself to think that a nightshade would mate with such an ugly beast! Anyone could clearly see that your offspring would be weak and malnourished. You are nothing to me but the hellraiser whore of the fables!
I’ll be seeing you soon beautiful Daughter of Eve…May Shellcar welcome you in when I am done with you.
Gwen jumped as the computer next to her beeped. The status bar had completed its deconstruction of the data disk and was waiting for a response from the operator. Gwen’s heart was racing as she closed the e-mail.
“Bethesda?” said Gwen to herself. She had never been so confused in her life. The woman made it sound like Gwen was trying to steal the man away from her. She sounded like she was a nightshade. Gwen didn’t know any female nightshades. What the hell was she talking about?
Dr. Howard came back into the room. She hobbled quickly over to the computer and closed the program down. She pulled out the multicolored ribbon cable and started rolling it up, “It looks like we are all done here. Are you ready to become a nightshade?”
Gwen looked over to the husky woman, “Not really.”
“It won’t be that bad Gwen. I can get you out of the nightshade if there is a problem,” said Dr. Howard as she stuffed the cable back into the tool bag, “Heck, you might even enjoy being a Nightshade! You might even beg me to stay…”
“If you get me stuck in that thing…” said Gwen with frustration, “I am going to eat you first!”
Dr. Howard laughed at this, “I guarantee you wouldn’t like the flavor.”
Gwen shoved the woman in the back as they left the lunch room.