Redding’s words throbbed in my brain as I followed her towards the storage building. I couldn’t believe what she had said, what she had offered. And how dare she call herself family. Just because her brother who was supposedly nicer than her was my grandfather, it didn’t give her any right to just–say what she said.
Or if Dad was wrong. No. Dad wasn’t wrong. Was he?
When we got to the building she pulled something from her pocket. There was a button on it and when she pushed it, the old grate and some ground around it flipped open revealing a dark staircase. Redding went down, not even looking at me. I followed her, feeling like something very bad was going to happen.
The hallway was very narrow and, despite the lights on the wall, very dark. I felt vaguely claustrophobic and I looked behind me in time to see the grate-ground close. It was most likely locked. I was trapped.
I heard muted sounds coming from somewhere but they weren’t screams, they were like people talking and laughing. Having a good time.
“Some of the staff are on lunch,” she said, as if reading my mind. “They tend to be noisy,” she added with a frown. “We need to soundproof this place a bit better. Here we are.”
She stopped by a door with frosted glass. I wondered what was behind it. Experimenting room? Examining room? The staff, joking around as they ate? Something horrible that would do nasty things to me?
Redding grabbed the handle and then smirked at me. “I am not going to hurt you, Luna,” she said.
“I know,” I lied as she opened the door. I went over and looked in, anxious to see where she was taking me.
For a split second I was shocked to see her sitting at the desk while also standing in front of me. Then I noticed the person behind the desk was male. That’s my grandfather, I thought, my hands shaking slightly.
“Tessa, I was just finishing up the report about the legends from–” He stopped when he saw she was not alone. “Oh, hello,” he said, giving me a bit of a smile. Not a smirk, like she always had, but a real smile.
“Thomas,” she said, stepping a little closer. Thomas? I wondered. Tessa? I thought they were Jay and Kay? “I’ve brought someone to meet you.”
“This is embarrassing,” he said, rubbing the back of his head much like I saw Dad do a lot. Much like I did a lot. “I don’t get visitors. My office is a mess.”
He’s not stammering, I thought, remembering that Dad had said he had a bad stutter. But that was a lifetime ago. My lifetime, I realized with a start. I was just a little baby when that happened. That’s a long time for people to change. That’s a long time for things to get mixed up and exaggerated.
“Thomas,” she said again. “Stand up. I want to introduce you to her.”
“Okay,” he said, obviously a bit confused but he pushed his chair back and stood up.
“This is Thomas Dearg,” she said, looking at me and I realized that Tessa and Thomas were just part of their aliases. “Thomas. This is Luna.” She paused for effect and then smirked. “Luna Danevbie.”
His pale green eyes stared at me. Then at his sister, who nodded. Then he stared at me again and brought his hand up towards his mouth. He started to say something and then there was a crackling sound and he jumped rather high. After a couple seconds of gagging, he spit a little electronic device into his hand.
“It broke again,” Jay Redding said with disgust. “You broke another one.”
“I’m s-sorry,” he whispered. “I… I…” But he was staring at me again, letting the electronic thing fall to the ground. “D-Danevbie?” he asked and I nodded. “C-Calcifer’s daughter?” he asked and I nodded once more. “Oh,” he whispered. “Oh my g-goodness.”
“Your granddaughter,” Jay said in a bored tone. Kay’s eyes widened and he was obviously stunned by this. But then he went back to staring at me to the point where I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t like being introduced as his granddaughter when he could have easily been the exact same age as me.
It was so strange looking at him. I could see resemblances with my father and all my siblings. With me. But it was much more comforting to think that we resembled him instead of her. I could see her out of the corner of my eye, looking so bored and disinterested that it was like a switch was flipped from how excited she had been moments before when she was telling me to work… to work here.
“Wh-what are you doing here?” Kay asked, tilting his head slightly to look in my face.
“She’s in a relationship with Mr. Wright,” Jay answered for me and I didn’t even try to mention the fact that well, technically we weren’t together. Then Kellen’s words rushed back into me and I swayed slightly. He loves me.
“Are y-you okay?” he asked, starting to reach out but never touching me. I think he was a bit afraid to.
“Yes, I am fine,” I replied. “So… you and–and her, you are…” I frowned and put my hand against my temple, trying to think clearly. “The Deargs. You took that identity and made the Dearg company?”
His eyes went big but he nodded. “Yes. How d-did you know?”
“I looked up stuff about this place,” I answered, waving my hand slowly to indicate the building. “And it said the Deargs had taken over years ago. You two have been… putting a lot of work and effort into this place,” I suddenly realized. “Why? What’s this place for?”
“I will be showing you around a little bit, and answering questions,” Jay said quickly, rather enthusiastically. Once again it was a switch with her, going from bored to excited. “What we are doing here is having people live in close relation to the earth. Coexistence in nature. We have a place just over the hill where there is a small community, living, growing, thriving. Like old times. They don’t use money or anything, they trade with skills.” She reached up, adjusting her glasses slightly. “We watch them, examine them, see how they react to different things. We monitor them and put them through tests.”
“Test?” I asked, tapping my chin. “What kind of tests?”
“Nothing dangerous,” she assured me. “We have two in this building right now, undergoing exams. I will take you to meet them in just a moment and you can see that everything is safe.” She put emphasis on that last word.
If everything is so safe, why was Kellen covered in blood? I wondered, but I wasn’t sure if I could ask that. “I assume you have medical personnel here,” I said and noticed something flashed through her eyes.
“Of course,” she said smoothly. “Our chief of medicine is Dr. Raleigh and we have several doctors and nurses working here to make sure everyone is safe and healthy.” Again, that emphasis that made me distrust her. “We do have medical experimentation with our–volunteers,” she said, raising her eyebrows at me. “But only for those who agree to undergo the experimentation.”
“What sort of experiments?” I demanded.
Jay pressed her lips together, forming a thin line. “We are working on finding natural remedies to health issues.” I didn’t say anything to that. Natural remedies sounded a long way off from alien technology that I assumed she’d rather have.
“W-we are also working t-to find ways to help those w-with impe…impediments s-such as my s-st-s-stammer,” Kay said, fidgeting slightly. “Obviously th-that’s not w-working out so well r-right now…”
“This whole operation is to find natural remedies and, um, electronics remedies?” I asked, glancing down at the abandoned device that Kay had spit out.
“Among other things,” Jay replied, smirking at me. “We are also studying how living so closely with nature changes a person. We are currently starting off our third generation of those born in the–those born to our volunteers,” she said, quickly changing what she was about to say.
“And they’re also volunteers?” I asked.
“Of course they are, Luna. The first generation were all volunteers and they raised their children up in our environment.” She gave me a slick smile that was still really too much a smirk to be called a true smile. “Once the children were old enough, they were given the decision to stay or leave. Most often than not, they chose to stay. Now we have a group of children once again and when they get older, they will be given the same choice.”
“And none of them ever question the fact you two never grow older?” I probed and Jay frowned again. “Well?” I demanded.
“They understand th-that we are d-different,” Kay stammered. “They d-don’t th-think it is..” He stopped and shrugged a bit. “Th-they are n-not bothered by it.” I could tell buy the tone in his voice that that might not be entirely true.
“Everything is above board here,” Jay added. “Our staff is happy, our volunteers are happy.”
What is it? I thought, rubbing my shoulder. There is something more about this place. What she is telling me is all glossy, just the surface. They’re doing something else. They have to be doing something else. It’s not… it’s not something as simple as herbal remedies and coexistence in nature. There’s more. Something… dark.
“Well, Luna?” Jay asked, looking rather concerned. “I think you would be a wonderful asset to the team. I would like you to come work with us.”
“Why was Kellen covered in blood yesterday?” I blurted out without thinking and her eyes narrowed slightly. “I–I saw him in town,” I added quietly.
“We had an accident with one of the volunteers,” she said very slowly. “She was undergoing one of our physical endurance examinations, to research ways to help relieve stress on the body during extreme physical duress. She was on an obstacle course and fell. As she fell, her side was cut open by a metal edge we thought was duller than it was. Mr. Wright carried her back here and then went into town to get supplies.”
Syringes are not supplies for something like that, I thought but I kept my mouth shut. “How come you didn’t have enough supplies here?” I asked, trying to sound innocent.
“Dr. Whittaker failed to fill out forms for supplies before we sent out for shipments last week,” she said, twisting her head down and looking very annoyed. “She sent it in a bit late and we made the mistake of assuming we could last with what supplies we had. We obviously could not. It was a regretful accident,” she added, glancing at me. “There are accidents in any line of work.”
“That is true,” I said, my voice rather clipped due to the bubble of fear in me.
What scared me was that I was actually starting to consider it. Kellen had said the money was better here. And Jay obviously wanted me to work here so I figured she’d give me a pretty good job. Plus if I worked here, I could keep my eye on things. Look out for any illegal activity. I would be on my toes, but if things were as clean and smooth as she was making them sound then it should be fine working here.
And honestly, so what if it was Jay? I mean, sure she was a cold person. But that didn’t mean I shouldn’t work for or with her. All sorts of cold-hearted people were in high positions. She was driven, and determined. Those aren’t bad qualities, I thought, pressing my fingers against my temples. I felt so confused and scared by all this that I wanted to curl up and never leave my bedroom again. But how would working here be much different than the S&W? Whatever had happened between her and my father and grandfather were years ago. Twenty years ago for my father, and sheesh–my father’s entire lifetime ago for my grandfather. Sixty-some years. Besides, wasn’t Mom always telling me to be a forgiving person?
“I’ll take it,” I blurted out, without even realizing it. “I mean–I’m pretty sure… I j-just want to talk to the volunteers first,” I stammered, sounding a bit like Kay. “S-so I might not take it. It d-depends.”
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands together. I couldn’t help but notice that Kay very apparently did not share his sister’s enthusiasm at me working here. That should tell me something, I thought then pushed that thought aside. It was ridiculous and I knew it. But here was as good as anywhere.
“I want to see the two people you mentioned,” I said, looking past Kay and staring hard at Jay. She nodded and started walking towards the door. I followed and Kay was behind me.
“Are you s-sure you w-want to work here?” he whispered as he brushed past me. There was genuine worry in his face. “Your f-father…”
“My father is my father, and not me,” I stated. “I appreciate your worry, but if you are so worried then why do you work here?”
He didn’t have an answer to that and remained silent as we walked down the hall and up to a wooden door. I could hear soft voices behind the door. Jay knocked but didn’t wait for an answer. She pressed a button by the door and then pushed it open, stepping in.
“We have important company, boys,” she said as she went inside. Kay followed her and I started to but then stopped, staring in utter disbelief at what I saw.
Oh my gosh, I thought, knowing I wasn’t able to hide my feelings right now. I was shocked. I mean, seriously shocked. I heard about them and knew they actually existed, but only recently had their country started mingling with mine in the past few years, it was that recent. It was rare to see them on TV which was understandable since a lot of people had a lot of trouble with them. Acceptance was unusual in most places. But it wasn’t anything like that that made me so surprised, it was just the fact that they were here. It was like seeing an elf, or centaur, or some mythological being.