The week at the lab was completely draining. Doctor Redding really pushed my abilities to the limit and if it wasn’t for my calls home and hearing Henri, Miracle, and Chance all telling me how much they loved and missed me then I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. I did see Professor Redding during the second half of the week. He explained he had been real busy making alterations to some security defenses within the building. I tried talkin’ to him some about my powers but he was just as ambiguous about how they made the psychics and what exactly went on in my blood to give me this ability. It drove me nuts.
All in all, I was glad when it was time to go home. Doctor Redding hadn’t said anything more about what we had discussed but that didn’t worry me too much. I figured–I hoped–she’d think about it. I was well aware what I was offerin’ her was risky. I did not trust her not to do something totally awful to me. But it was worth it. If Miracle got my abilities, or we had another flesh and bone child that got my abilities. That was a big if, and might not even happen.
“Better safe than sorry,” was what I told Henri the night I got home and we talked about what had happened. He was extremely angry about it and I didn’t quite blame him. “Miracle is so outgoing, so much more than I ever was, and I can’t imagine her having to be caged in like I was and sort of still am.”
“But it’s what makes you you,” he muttered, lookin’ quite sullen at me.
I touched the end of his nose gently. “But is it something you’d want to have your kids go through? Besides my family, you’re my only friend and even then things were strained with us cause of my powers–“
“Cause you were stubborn and refused to open up–“
“Hen, look, it doesn’t… it’s not just that. You know part of it was my powers and then for my adult life I am having to be a… a… a fake psychic detective–“
“You do a lot of good work and have put a lot of criminals behind bars!”
“Hen!” I snapped, tired of him cutting in. “The point is I hate my powers! I hate knowing how people feel, I hate knowing how my mom feels 24/7 and knowing how Miracle feels whenever we’re around and REAPER I am not looking forward to going through her teen years. Would you want to?” Henri still looked very sullen but he gave a shake of his head at that. “You know how I could always tell when you were all horny? You want your baby girl going through–“
“No!” He went from sullen to annoyed now. “I’m just saying, your powers aren’t the end of the world.” He took my hands and kissed them, tryin’ to calm me down. “I want the best for Miracle too. I want her to have an easier time than you, and yes with her personality it will be crippling for her having issues with people being around her. But I just hate that you act like your powers have destroyed your life.”
“You don’t know what it’s like, Hen. You don’t go through this. You have no idea. I mean, right now I know for a fact that Miracle is awake, breaking her bedtime rules. She’s under her covers right now, a flashlight on a book. I know right now my dads are cuddling up to a movie and being all mushy and romantic and–and feeling stuff I really do not want to know my maternal dad is feeling.” I tore my hands away from his and paced over to the window, lookin’ out at the dark sky. “I talk to anyone and I know more about them than anyone should know. When you were gone, one of the reasons I didn’t date wasn’t just because I missed you but because I knew how my dates were feeling, and I knew what they wanted from me, or didn’t want, and–and it’s just so much hell!”
I jerked as his hands went on my back but I didn’t turn. “Henri, there were so many times I wanted to just give up. You keep saying I gave you strength but you were the one who gave me strength. Life sucks enough as it is, with all the drama and heartache, adding these powers on top of everything else is not something I would wish on anyone, not even my worst enemy and especially not my daughter.”
“Selling your soul to the devil isn’t the best answer,” he said, and I finally moved my body so my eyes met with his. He reached up and tucked some hair back behind my ear and then he kissed me gently. “Love, Doctor Redding is as close to the devil that any human can get.”
My head found the part where his neck met his body, that little crook where my head fit so nicely and perfectly. “She’s as human as you or me. I know that’s not saying much considering one of us is a ghost and one of us is a psychic, but she puts her pants… or rather, her stockings on one leg at a time.”
“Are you sure she hasn’t developed some sort of molecular technology that rearranges atoms to form the stockings around her legs?” he asked and I laughed. He chuckled but rolled his eyes as he did so. “Hey, I’m being serious. She’s weird. She’s a freak. She’s cold, calculating, and does what is needed to get what she wants.”
“I’m doing what is needed to get what I want,” I reminded him. Hen scowled at that and said, “It’s different! You wouldn’t kill anyone and didn’t you say your grandma said she had killed people?”
I pulled away from him and began undressin’. Henri sat on the edge of the bed and watched me, waiting for an answer. When I said nothing he asked the question again. “Yes!” I snapped. “But yes, I would kill someone under certain circumstances. Not necessarily for what I want but if there was a threat to my children, or you, or my family, then I would do any–“
“I’m not asking about threats to the family because yes, I would do anything to protect you and our children. But Sen, I am talking about the fact she would do anything to get knowledge. Je n’ai pas confiance en elle! Professor Redding didn’t want you there and I don’t like you there, but I am willing to stand by your side–but not for such an extended period of time! You need to stop being stubborn. I’m tired of having this argument.”
I yanked on my nightie and collapsed next to him. “Let’s look at it this way. Whether we like it or not, the answer is in the hands of either Doctor or Professor Redding. Whether we trust them or not isn’t the issue. The issue is a way to stop this empathy power, in case Miracle or any or child we have gets it. I don’t believe there isn’t a way, if she manipulated DNA into having this power she can get rid of it. So to their hands we must go.”
Henri gave me a rather empty look then slowly, very slowly, he nodded. “Very well. But from now on, I am going with you. Kaylee can watch the kids, they are old enough for that. I want to be able to help you if you need it.” He kissed me hard and then pulled the blankets up around our bodies. “I love you, Sen.”
“I love you too, Hen.”
I tried not to let my unease show over the next few months. I really hated it when Sen got like this but she wouldn’t listen to me. The one time I brought up the idea it wasn’t good, she got all mad at me and I got mad and we had one of our usual arguments. We also got into an argument when she told me she wasn’t pregnant. I had no idea she even thought she was, and I made it clear I was unhappy at the thought she was keeping from me the possibility she might be. I hated arguing with her all the time but it was an unfortunate part of our relationship.
Our first trip back to the lab was real rough. It was hard especially for me to be separated from the kids since I had never once been away from Chance, and rarely away from Miracle–only when Serenity took her into town. We were both worried about how Chance would take this. When we called the first two nights he was okay, as opposed to Miracle who was throwing a fit, but then they switched roles. Chance got very quiet and sniffly whenever we called and Miracle was resigned to the fact it would be a few days before we’d be back. When we did come home they both came zooming out of the house, clinging to us and begging us to never leave again.
“I missed you, Daddy!” Miracle cried, turning her face up to mine.
I hugged her tight and kissed her forehead. “I missed you too, baby girl.”
So the second time we went was even worse when it was time to leave. Miracle was mad and Chance pouted as we packed, and when we called the first night they were less mad but more upset. Kaylee told us they were refusing to do anything but sit on the couch and watch TV. Miracle threw a tantrum when presented with schoolwork while Chance would just float around and not stay still. We told Kaylee it was okay for them to just have a break from schoolwork for that week, which relieved my sister-in-law.
I knew Sen was talking to Doctor Redding about ways out of the powers, and so I spent quite a bit chatting with Professor Redding and trying to find out anything from him. I didn’t get much of anything so between the second and third visit, Sen and I planned out some question for me to draw him into. How they got started on the tests, what they planned to do if anyone was too powerful, stuff like that. So when the four months were up, we said goodbye to our children and headed back to that stupid lab.
“Did you get anything?” Serenity asked our third night there. We were about to get ready for bed, both of us pretty tired since we had had an early wake up call from Kaylee. She had found this ghostly thing on the floor and couldn’t figure out what it was, and Chance refused to say what it was. After a lot of talking we finally figured out it was a tooth he had lost and just left laying around.
“Oh Reaper’s dirty laundry thank goodness,” she had said. “It doesn’t even look like a tooth! It looks like… I don’t know… a blob of ghostyness. It’s gross and weird, but actually kinda cool when you think about it; a ghost tooth! Does the tooth fairy give more for ghost teeth? Or less? They’re less substantial but rarer. Chance says he won’t have it under his pillow. He couldn’t sleep again last night, though, he’s having nightmares. Wow this is a ghost tooth, huh?” She had gone on and on and on, which Sen enjoyed until we realized it was almost six and we had been up since five. So our day had been long and we were more than ready for sleep.
I told Serenity everything I had found out from Professor Redding which had been next to nothing. Serenity sighed and then we crawled into bed, snuggling up against one another and quickly drifting into sleep. It didn’t take long before our alarm clock woke us up at seven, but when we woke up we realized quickly it wasn’t our alarm clock at all and it wasn’t seven. It was just after one in the morning, and the sound was some sort of trilling, screeching sound coming from everywhere.
Serenity put her hands over her ears. “What is that?” she asked as I turned on the light.
“I have no idea.” We got out of bed, me going over to the door to stare unhelpfully at it. “Maybe a fire alarm?”
Sen reached for her phone. She pressed it against her ear and frowned. “It’s not working. I don’t have any signal. I always have signal…”
I tried the door but it was locked. “If it is a fire alarm, they’d unlock the doors. Or come get us.” I wriggled the doorknob some more but the door would not open. “I don’t think it’s anything to worry–“
And then we were plunged into darkness. Serenity yelped and I dove for the light switch. Nothing happened when I flicked it and when I stuck my head out in the hall I saw lights were out everywhere. No sign of power expect that trilling, shrill alarm. “Maybe it’s a drill,” I said, trying to keep calm. I floated over to kiss Serenity then shifted from my pajamas to my regular clothes (one of the perks of being a ghost, I suppose). “Do you want me to go out and check?”
“That might be best,” she said, shivering in my arms. “I’ll change clothes. I just–it’s nothing, probably. Nothing to worry about as you said. Be careful.”
I smiled and then kissed her again. “I’ll be right back,” I promised and then floated out into the hall. The floor we lived on didn’t have many people living here, in fact I didn’t know of anyone who did. I figured I’d go down since two floors below us was where most the employees lived and I’d be able to find out something faster. I drifted quickly to the flight of stairs and floated down, or attempted to. I was halfway down when suddenly there was a loud, blaring sound and iron bars slammed down across the entrance. I turned and saw iron bars at the top of the steps as well. Then red lights began flashing everywhere. Shrugging, I kept going but when I reached the iron bars I discovered I could not go through them.
Staring, I put my fingers through the space between the bars but when I tried to put my hand through the bars themselves they would not go. I spun around and went up to the top entrance but the bars there were the same. I tried going through the wall, through the floor, through the ceiling but nothing would work. I was trapped. Like a regular person. I began to feel very panicked and probably would have had a real breakdown if I didn’t see a familiar person down the hall from the bottom entrance.
“Professor!” I shouted and he spun around, eyes huge. “Professor, help me? I can’t get through for some reason!”
He came over and I saw he had a bag with him full of lumpy objects. His helmet was on which made me wonder if he was going to go get Sen. “H-how did you g-get there?” he asked, pulling out a keychain.
“Serenity and I started worrying there was a fire alarm or something and since her phone can’t get signal for some reason I decided to find someone.” I watched as he unlocked the gate and pulled it back. I floated into the hall next to him and he quickly shut the bars, locking them again. “What’s going on?”
“A p-prisoner escaped,” he said carefully, avoiding my eyes. “A d-dangerous prisoner.”
“You have prisoners?” I asked, arching my eyebrows.
He shook his head and began walking down the hall, indicating for me to follow. “An exp-periment. W-well, an ex-experiment.” He pulled the bag of objects over his shoulders and frowned at me. “V-very d-d-d-dangerous, though. W-we’ve closed off th-this entire building and everyone m-must stay calm and stay in their r-r-r-rooms till we find him. But since you’re out h-here then you sh-should stay with me. I n-need to deliver these first then I w-will take you back to your room.”
I eyed his helmet then at the bag. The lumps inside seemed to be the same general shape of his helmet. “A psychic?” I asked and he nodded. “But dangerous? Why is he here if he’s so dangerous?”
“S-special c-c-circumstances,” he muttered. “I d-don’t like it. And th-th-this is why, I was worried he m-might escape. I was hoping this w-wouldn’t happen, but I knew if it happened th-then it could be bad.”
“But… why is he here then, if he’s so dangerous?” I pressed and Professor Redding looked terrified. “What is it? You’re not telling me something.”
“Henri…” he trailed off and then his entire body slumped forward. “It’s v-v-v-very reason I did not want S-Serenity coming here.”
The second Henri left, I wanted to cry. What if something truly horrible happened and Henri was hurt? I wished he had stayed with me. Someone would come for us at some point, they wouldn’t just—leave us. Right? Professor Redding wouldn’t. And Doctor Redding, the ice queen, wouldn’t either. I was too valuable for her research. Sometimes being a guinea pig was a good thing, if you were a rare enough guinea pig. She’d not let me perish. And Professor Redding would never let me just stay locked up. If it was somethin’ bad, he’d save us.
“Oh Henri!” I cried out as I saw a semi-glowing figure slide through the wall but then my hands went to my mouth. It was not Henri, it was not the black and grey/tan transparency of my husband but the red tone of someone else. I sank down on the edge of my bed, wrappin’ my arms around myself again. “I’m sorry, I thought you were my husband. What’s going on out there?”
The ghost stared at me for several seconds, long awkward seconds. Then suddenly there was a blaring sound and I saw red lights flashing through the crack under the door. The red ghost seemed to relax a bit. “Your husband is a ghost?” he finally asked, his voice low and smooth. Calm. It calmed me down a bit.
“Y-yes,” I said. “What’s going on out there?”
He looked up toward the ceiling then spread his hands out. “All hell broke loose. They’ve put this entire place under lockdown. I was looking for a place to wait it out. This door is locked?”
“Yes,” I said as I went over to my dresser to pick up a bathrobe. “Did someone break in?”
“What’s your name? Have we met?”
I looked at the ghost, tryin’ to figure out if it was someone I ever met. He was very familiar but I couldn’t place it. “I don’t think so. I’m Serenity.”
“Serenity…” he trailed off. “I see. This is a surprise. I heard there was a Danevbie wandering around this godforsaken place but I never in a million years would have thought it would be you.” He floated a little closer, eyes focused on me.
A shiver went down my spine and I stepped back. “Who are you?” I asked. “Have we met, then?”
“Oh no, we’ve never met,” he said with a laugh. “But I know you. You should know me but of course you don’t. Why should you?” His fingers twitched and he reached up, as if he was going to touch me. I jerked back, and he laughed. “Serenity Danevbie. After all these years. At last we meet. And here of all places! What a coincidence, hmm?” He pushed his hair back and then scowled. “Are you a prisoner too? What a bitch she is! Keeping you here! I won’t stand for it. I’ll do whatever I can to get you out of here. I will save you, all right? I cannot stand the idea you being here, in that horrible woman’s clutches.”
“I’m not a prisoner and why do you care about me?” I said, backed up against the far wall. “Who are you?” I wasn’t sure if he’d answer me, as his lips curled into a smile that seemed both kind and cruel all at once. It scared me a thousand times more than Doctor Redding ever scared me. I was worried for my life with a smile like that.
“Serenity Danevbie,” he said, shakin’ his head and sounding falsely exasperated. “How painful it is to me that you don’t recognize your own father!”