I woke in a bedroom, but not my bedroom. This one was in a house I’ve never been in before and it was very plain. Hospital plain, not a room anyone real has ever lived in. I was alone but I wasn’t scared.
The pain from the break was amazing in the worst way. It was the lead pipe and the flower pot ten times over and though Marco tried to make me comfortable while we waited for help, it was pointless. The medical team arrived fast (a CIA team actually. Competent but definitely not local emergency personnel) but Marco held them back for a second to tell me what was coming.
“You have to tell me what you want Violet. You are in charge. I know you’re in pain and we can take care of that but from the looks of your leg, it’s going to take a lot of pain meds before you’ll feel any relief.”
“A lot?” I squeaked.
“It will most likely knock you out.”
“If you don’t want that,” Marco held me close whispering in my ear, “just say the word. I won’t let anyone touch you without your permission. No one will ever do anything to you that you don’t want ever again.”
I let them knock me out. As much as I appreciated Marco’s promise, and the subtle acknowledgement at how wrong they had treated me, the pain won. At least this time when I went down, I did so feeling like when I woke up I wouldn’t be in another prison.
And I wasn’t. The little room I was in was on the ground floor and had a big window that opened easily. Even with my leg in a cast, I figured it wouldn’t be much to climb out. Not that I needed to escape that way. The door wasn’t locked and someone had placed my cell phone, fully charged and ready to go, on the table next to the bed.
There had also been no sign, and no mention, of Simon.
“You look better today.”
Margaret was my first visitor. Well, first that I was aware of fully. I was pretty sure a nurse checked on me while I was hanging out on pain meds. Someone helped me go to the bathroom anyway.
“Do you need anything?” She asked sounding anxious.
Margaret, dressed in a suit with her hair pulled back into a tight bun wasn’t looking very Margaret-y at all. No she looked more like what she was, a secret agent for the government. I guess now that I knew there was no reason to pretend anymore.
I wondered if Margaret had the same thought, same worry, in her head I did at that moment. What happens now? What were we to each other?
I didn’t know what to do, how to respond to her. There was so much we needed to cover. Then I remembered another Marco-ism from training: address the situation in stages. Prioritize your needs.
“I’d like some clothes.”
Right then, I needed a pair of pants and a fresh shirt. The bathrobe and white t-shirt I’d lived in the last couple days were cozy, but left me feeling a little exposed.
“My clothes.” I stressed. “Not the things Crabtree picked out for me.”
I never wanted to see those clothes again and suspected every bath I took for the next month would involved extra scrubbing just to erase the memory.
I ran my fingers through my hair and down my face. “And I want to shower.” I told her.
“Of course.” Margaret pulled a radio out of her pocket and barked orders into it.
“How many people are here?” I asked. The house was quiet but after everything I had been through I knew better than to believe we were alone.
“Including me, seven.” She said without an ounce of hesitation. I sighed. Margaret stepped forward as if to comfort me then stopped short. Probably realizing that was not her place anymore. “We’re here to protect you Violet. You are not a prisoner. I promise you.”
“What about Simon?” I asked and her face turned hard.
“Simon has been removed.” She answered. “Violet I…I want to formerly apologize for…everything. Simon handled his post, and you, horribly. It was never supposed to happen like that.”
“Then why did it? Why didn’t you just tell me the truth from the beginning?”
“I couldn’t.” She looked at her feet and I found myself not trusting her answer. “I mean, I promised I would not.”
“Your father. He wanted you to live a normal life for as long as possible. He set this up so that you would not have to live your childhood in an agency cell.”
“If that’s true then he’s the one who signed me over to the government. Why would he do that unless…”
“He isn’t dead.” Margaret stopped me. “He isn’t himself anymore, but he is very much alive. There was an accident…” She drew in her lips and pressed them together.
“Margaret, I need to know what happened to him. I need to know what happened to my mother. I need to know what happened to me.” I was strong and made sure she knew it. “Do you understand that?”
“Yes.” Margaret said meeting my gaze and sending back the message that the old days were over. She would come clean. “Mind if I sit?”
My parents were scientists in a secret government lab. They actually were. It sounded like the plot for a bad movie, but it was true. Their research centered around mind control. According to Margaret they studied things like hypnotism and brain washing trying to isolate how one brain can make another brain do something it would otherwise be against. What the ultimate goal for either of them was, no one really knew. Carlos, my dad, secured funding by hinting that they would be able to make a more accurate lie detector and more effective truth serum. My mother’s vision, it would seem, was something far more sci-fi.
Together they developed a serum that they thought would enhance one individual’s ability to coerce another. Unfortunately, they never got to human trials. Mother injected the lab’s pet monkey and he died.
At first, though, it seemed to work. The monkey showed no signs that anything was wrong so they began testing his cognitive ability. What they learned was that when the monkey saw a photo of a treat and looked at a human who had not seen the same photo, that human still had an inexplicable desire to give the monkey the treat he had been shown.
Over and over, this was the case. It was the breakthrough of the century. My parents must have been ecstatic. Then one afternoon the monkey suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. Whatever part of his brain the serum enhanced, it never stopped enhancing. The demand for blood was too great and eventually flooded the little guy’s brain and killed him.
All this happened before Margaret’s time so she wasn’t able to tell me any more than what was in files. No one has any real way to say how that lost effected either of my parents. No way, that is, unless you consider what happened next.
They got pregnant. Both were far too involved in their work to even consider a family, but the deed was done. Then, shortly after my mother told my father about me, she dropped a bomb. She wanted to test the serum on me.
Carlos wanted to scrap everything but my mother was convinced that with some tweaking the formula would be solid. She thought that the ‘problem’ (i.e. sudden death of unsuspecting monkey) resulted from testing on a fully formed adult brain. She’d been testing the serum on rat embryos (she seriously did that) and believed a new, still growing brain would be able to meld with the serum. She was certain the two would become one and the new brain would grow without any issues. She’d had great success with the rats, and now wanted a human brain to test it on.
My father would have no part it in. He may not have wanted me but he was enough of a good guy to not turn me into a guinea pig either. They argued. A lot. That part is in the files, pages and pages of each of them fighting for their case. In the end, my mother lost. The agency wouldn’t allow one parent the rights my mother wanted. If they could agree, that would have been a different story. But they didn’t and the agency put the hammer down.
That’s when my mother along with Crabtree, who was a low level analyst named Wartzman at the time, stole the serum, blew up the lab, and ran.
“Carlos was beside himself. Everything was lost, including you.” Margaret told me. By then she’d met and become friends with my father. Soon she was assigned to the group tasked with locating my mother and the serum, and me.
“He knew what your mother planned and it terrified him.” She said. “His days were split between trying to find you and trying to rebuild the data base so he could create an antiserum.”
“Did he? Find an antiserum?”
Margaret shook her head. “No.”
“You said he’s still alive, why isn’t he here?”
“There was a point Carlos thought he had a way to combat the effects of the serum, but he had no way to know if what he made would harm you. So…” Margaret paused.
“He tried it on himself.”
“Yes.” She said. “He lives. But he remembers nothing. He thinks he just entered university. Everything that happened to him after that is gone.”
“And the part where he signed me over to the agency?”
“That part was supposed to be a failsafe. He didn’t expect to lose his mind. He signed those paper believing it would never happen.”
“Hmm.” I grunted. “What about now? Is anyone working on his formulas?”
“We have a team whose sole purpose is the find an antiserum but…”
“Your mother…the lab explosion…” She exhaled slowly. “In terms of destruction it was quite comprehensive.”
“So there’s no way to fix me…”
“There’s no way yet to change things. If that’s what you mean.” She said. “There is nothing wrong with you Violet, you aren’t broken.”
“Right. That’s why the agency has a whole pool of people training against me.”
“I’m not unstoppable anyway. Marco beat me. That should give everyone hope. I can be conquered.”
“I’m not bullet proof.”
“No, about Marco.”
“He lied to me. That day he came to the house, when he told me he…” I didn’t want to say it. “When he was trying to get me to be his girlfriend for the agency. He lied to me. He was right there, in my power, and he lied.”
“He said that? That he lied?”
“I was there wasn’t I.”
“I just meant…” Margaret trailed off.
“Nothing, never mind.” She said. “Listen Violet, what I said earlier, there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t let what the agency does make you think there is. You are just as you should be. Don’t ever let anyone convince you there is something wrong with that.” She reached out and I let her touch my hand.
“How did you find me?” I whispered. “After my mother took me away, how did you know where we were?”
“We didn’t actually.” Margaret pulled her hand back, serious again. “Your mother came to us. You see after she administered the serum, her focus was making sure you survived. She was too preoccupied with you to think about security so she delegated that to Crabtree. It turned out to be a mistake.”
“Yes, the man you knew began his evil career a long time ago. He recruited and grew stronger every day. He also made sure you all truly disappeared. He changed his appearance, your mother changed hers… If you survived and could do the things your mother believed you could, you would be very valuable. Wartzman…Crabtree, knew this.”
“Yeah he mentioned it.”
“Your Mother saw what was happening and about a year after you were born she fled. You lived in hiding until you were three. Then, once she saw how powerful you were she realized people like Crabtree would always be after you. She couldn’t protect you from that on her own. So she contacted Carlos.”
“How did she die?”
“Crabtree said the agency killed her.”
“What is it?”
“Violet your mother disappeared. No one knows what happened to her, or if anything ever did. We found you where she said you would be, but she was nowhere in sight. Violet? Are you alright, you look white.”
“Why don’t I remember any of this?”
Margaret adjusted herself in the chair.
“Is it that bad?”
“Margaret I lived with you for almost thirteen years. I know when you have bad news.” I said. “Whatever it is, I want to know.”
“He acted alone. He didn’t have authorization, remember that.”
“And he did it for good reason. He wanted to protect you. He wanted you to live a normal life…”
“Carlos wiped your memories.”
“Wow. Can I pick parents or what.”
“I’m so sorry. He felt it was the only way to give you a chance.”
“So how did you get stuck with me?”
“I didn’t get stuck with you.” She said. “I volunteered. I was very fond of your father but more than that I knew the agency. You needed someone on your side.”
We were quiet for a moment each of us staring at the floor.
“Violet,” Margaret said softly. “We didn’t know it then, but everything your mother said about the serum was true. It bonded with your brain flawlessly. As you matured the serum directed your brain development. The spots behind your ears? The serum created them. It allocated your resources so that it could create a new part of your brain without threat to the old.”
“How does it work? Do you know?”
“We don’t. When you came to us Carlos wouldn’t allow any invasive testing. The worse you suffered were brain scans.”
“You said the monkey only had to look at people to make them do things. Can I?”
“We don’t think so. The growths behind your ears? The monkey didn’t have and. We suspected they were the serums way to address the hemorrhaging. We also suspect they are what turned a strictly extra sensory ability into a tactile one. ”
“So far I’ve only made people talk. Can I make them do things they don’t want to?”
Margaret was quiet for a long time.
“Violet when Carlos wiped your memory he also wiped out your connection to the lobes. It took a while before you figured out how to use them again – even if you weren’t trying.”
“And to answer my question…?”
“And, well…we don’t really know. With training maybe. When you were a child there were signs…”
“Is that why Simon went all ape about controlling me? He wanted me trained to do more?”
“No. Simon went ape because he was afraid you could do more. Violet, you know that I will never see you or treat you as a threat, but I have to be honest with you, the ability you have, well we don’t really know how far it goes.”
“You mean I could be dangerous?”
“I mean…you are definitely more powerful that you know.”