The video played in the rehabilitation room as a deep scowl traced Becca's face. What is this crap, she thought. Jerry had told her she had to go through "social rehabilitation" as part of her treatment, but this? This she had not expected.
So what exactly had she been expecting then? Certainly not for brain damaging propaganda videos to attempt to teach her her place in the world.
According to this she was supposed to have been popping out kids as soon as she had had her first period. Becca feared if her eyes rolled back any further they'd roll out of her head. Here she thought she had put all this behind her in public school.
Becca laid out across the chairs and tried to get comfortable, but every time she heard the words A women's place is in the home; not in the world her stomach did an unpleasant flip. She turned her back to the screen and tried to think of anything else: her parents, the SPP, Crystal—anything to keep the words from seeping into her brain.
Her mind eventually went back to the topic that was currently plaguing her thoughts. What was all this talk about Crystal being a virus? Becca wanted to pull her hair out. She was so confused! Who did she trust? Derrick had been the biggest asshole she had ever met as a kid. Now here he was telling her his name was Josh and she couldn't trust the person closest to her—herself.
"I miss you," Becca mumbled into the air as she thought of her green haired alter ego.
"What? I was only gone for twenty minutes." Jerry said with a smirk. Becca sat up to see her leaning against the door in the back. He took a seat next to her and they sat in silence for a few minutes, until he asked, "How's your pain level?"
"Better, a lot better." She could walk up and down the halls now unassisted. Being able to get out of bed felt amazing!
"Glad to hear. Once the video's done you have an appointment with the staff psychiatrist." Becca let out a sigh. Great, she thought, another psych evaluation. "Depending on how he thinks you're doing, you might be allowed visitors. There's been some people that have been calling asking to see you."
Becca's heart soared. She could see her parents? Did they want to see her? Would they let her explain what happened and hear her side of the story? The day they had taken her seemed fuzzy, like a distant bad dream due to all the painkillers she was hopped up on. She remembered her dad crying; she couldn't get that picture out of head. Try as she might though, she just couldn't remember what it was she had said that had set him off. It must have been bad to get her thrown in here.
"The physical therapist said he caught Josh alone in the room with you. Is everything ok? I noticed he seems to be watching you quite a bit which is . . . different than his usual spacey behavior. I almost want to say it was as if meeting you flicked a light on in his head."
"He told me some things, and I'm not sure whether to believe him or not. If what he says is true—"
"Let me stop you right there, Becca. Don't think too hard on it. Josh is a very confused individual. For one, his name isn't Josh; it's Derrick. No matter how many times we try to tell him otherwise, he always says his identity was changed. I've scanned his chip hundreds of times; he's still Derrick. I wouldn't rely on what he says to be accurate. He likes to play mind games; he's smart. He likes to bring up patient charts and use the information to put himself into other patients past."
"So he never worked for the government creating a virus named Crystal?"
Jerry smiled weakly and shook his head. "Is that what he told you?"
"He even showed me a picture . . ."
"Look at this." Jerry said. He logged onto his tablet and brought up the same picture of Crystal. "Was this what he showed you?" Becca nodded her head stunned. "It's an old screen shot your psychiatrist took years ago. It's just a picture in your file."
A weak smile stretched across Becca's face before she began to laugh. Tears of relief filled her eyes. "He told me I was infected. I really believed him! I was starting to think I had something evil inside of me!" She wiped the moisture off her cheeks.
"Anyone ever tell you you shouldn't believe everything you hear?" Jerry said.
Becca smiled. "I've heard it once or twice."
This message is for Trevor and Heather Strokes, this is Officer Mills from the Fawks Police Station. We've been trying to get in touch with you for some time. If you would please return our call at (499) 187-2932 ext 399 at your earliest convenience. Once again, this is Officer Mills regarding an urgent matter. (499) 187-2932 ext 399. Thank you.
Heather froze as she listened to the voice on the answering machine. The calls had been coming once or twice a week. Then it became once every couple of days. Now that Becca had been rescued, the calls came every day, sometimes in multiples as if she had forgotten to pay a bill. Except this collection agency wasn't after money; they were trying to collect her daughter. Becca was the only child she had left! They couldn't have her!
Her poor deranged daughter. When had, "Crystal," come back? How? Dr. Finnick said he had gotten rid of her. As for the how, she wasn't quite sure, but whatever he had done had failed. Crystal was back now.
"I remember you covered in blood!" was what she had said all those years ago. What had Becca seen that created this. . . other part of her. How many times had Heather told Becca to grow up because she was afraid of something as ridiculous as ponies? But that phrase. . . it had nothing to do with ponies. This other half of hers had seen or done something! This situation was far from normal.
Heather tried to think back. What could have caused Becca to snap and hurt Brian? It wasn't like the first time! Becca had been backed into a corner the first time. She hadn't even known what she had done to that poor boy. Not to say he didn't have it coming, but to beat him to the point of having brain damage! He was never the same after that. They had never told Becca just how much she had hurt him.
"We need to call." Trevor said, breaking her from her trance. Heather looked up at him as if he had just slapped her across the face. "Just come and see."
Heather stood in the midst of the disarray. Someone had been here. The place was now completely torn apart. Sure, the basement had been too messy to clear out in the midst of their grief, but now . . . She took in the garbage and clutter that had been shoved from the desk and counter to the floor.
"Was it the police?" she asked. Trevor let his held breath out and waved his hand through his hair.
"Someone was looking for something." He bent down and picked up a yellow folder out of the trash. He skimmed through the first pages before setting it aside. "I guess we should clean up some of this stuff."
They spent the majority of the day bagging trash and sifting through papers. "This stuffs so over my head." He nodded in agreement. Brian's notes might as well have been in another language. Drawings of chemical compounds filled the pages in intricate shapes. "What is all this stuff? I thought he made games?"
"This doesn't look like games to me." He spotted something sticking out of one of the folders. Trevor pulled it out and examined it, before furrowing his eyebrows in confusion. It wasn't like any of the complex symbols scribbled across the other pages. Instead it was article about the suicides from thirteen years ago. He scanned the article before setting it aside. "You remember when they found all those bodies in the warehouse?"
Heather looked up from the pile she was meticulously scanning through. "Of course. That was terrible!"
"There's a lot of research about it." He showed her the article and pointed towards the ground. There were at least 50 pages scattered across the floor. Curious, they both bent down to pick them and put them in order. "Oh, god!" Trevor explained as they looked through them. "Those people were used as lab mice!" The culprit had never been released to the public, but in these science journals the reason was listed. Those people had been given the time altering drug and as a result, they slowly went insane. He shuddered at the thought. So it had been a drug trial gone wrong.
Trevor looked up as he heard a strange noise. Heather stood beside him with a hand over her mouth. Her face was ashen white. "What? What is it?" She pointed to the picture of the man responsible for the deaths. It was a picture of Dr. Gregory Finnick—Becca's psychiatrist. Trevor's eyes went wide. "What . . . what did Becca tell you? What happened at the SPP?"
She answered him, voice barely above a whisper. "She said it was an experiment. You don't think. . ."
"I think it's time we returned that phone call."
Officer Mills sat across the table from Heather and Trevor Strokes as each held a cup of coffee in their hands. The room was tense. Before them sat the stacks of papers from Brian's lab, along with their son's hard drive. Neither parent knew what it contained, but Officer Mills called them to meet after going through it. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good.
"Thank you for finally agreeing to meet with us." Officer Mills said. "Before we discuss what we found, we've made a few calls to gather information from various sources and dug a little into your daughters medical history. I'm just going to ask you a few questions, and I'd like you to verify if these statements are true or not."
The two of them nodded their heads solemnly. They were about to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all.
"Your daughter, Becca, she's had a history of mental illness, is that correct?" Heather nodded her head. "Can you explain?"
"We believe it all started from playing a tampered game at the Sphere Center as a child." Heather answered. "She was never the same after that." Officer Mills scribbled her response down on a piece of paper. Heather stared at him. She had never seen anyone take notes long hand before.
"Helps me think better." He answered, as if reading her mind. "She's had a history of violent behavior as well?"
"There was one incident when she was nine." Heather answered. "It only happened once. There was in incident in school where she felt she was in danger, that's when we believe Crystal first appeared.
He jotted it down without looking up. "Who is Crystal?"
"Her other personality."
"And who diagnosed her with a split personality?"
"Dr. Gregory Finnick. We had been taking her to him for years after the virtual reality incident. When we found out he had moved into town recently, we scheduled Becca an appointment with him. She wasn't taking Brian's death well."
"So this other personality Crystal, she has a tendency to be violent?" He asked.
Heather remained silent so Trevor answered instead. "We think she used to come out when Becca felt like she was in danger. Sort of like her brains last ditch attempt to save her from danger."
"What do you mean she used to come out? Does she not anymore?" The officer asked.
"We honestly thought it was behind us. We hadn't heard a thing about it; Becca seemed normal. She wasn't talking about a second avatar anymore."
Officer Mills looked up confused. "A second avatar?"
"Becca had, or has, the ability to control two avatars at once. One for each personality." Trevor explained. "My wife met her once, and it startled her. She didn't seem normal. Dr. Finnick talked about being able to cure Becca of her affliction and—"
"Being able to have two avatars? That's amazing! Why would you want to get rid of it?" He asked.
"I thought she was evil." Heather spoke up. "So we got rid of her. Becca said it wasn't the case; she was just a separate identity that didn't know any better. People were hurting Becca, so Crystal would protect her."
"So why did you get rid of Crystal if she was just trying to protect your daughter?"
"I didn't know it at the time, I believed Crystal was the way she was because she held Becca's repressed memories. I thought if I got rid of the identity that held those memories, it would be like it never happened to Becca if those memories never came back."
"Do you believe it was Crystal that had something to do with your sons death?"
"I don't want to believe that. Becca loved Brian so much, she would never harm a hair on his head!" Heather insisted.
"I'm asking about her other personality."
This time Trevor spoke up. "When I was in the hospital with her, she said it was an accident. I was in so much shock I never asked her what she meant. Crystal has only ever emerged when Becca was in trouble."
"So what do you think caused Becca to feel in danger, assuming what you say about Crystal is true? What made her come out?"
Trevor shook his head. "I've been thinking about it a lot. I believe Becca was in full control that night. Becca doesn't remember when Crystal takes over. She was never told she had a split personality."
"Why is that?"
"We didn't want her to know what she did to that boy." Heather said. "She gave him brain damage. He had a bright future ahead of him and now . . ."
"What happened? Were any charges filed?"
"No, she was given amnesty because of her diagnosis. His father was livid. I believe Derricks in a health care facility now."
"Alright. That's all I wanted to ask. I think I have everything I need. I feel one hundred percent confident in my decision now. I believe I have some good news and bad news regarding your daughter." Officer Mills said. He picked up the files and flash drive. "This might be a little difficult to hear, but I believe I have the answers to what happened to your son. He was murdered, as we initially believed."
Tears streamed down the faces of both parents. Was he about to tell them what they already suspected? "Becca had nothing to do with his death. Neither did Crystal." They looked at the man stunned. They stared in silence. "This was the information I needed to make a conviction of the real culprit. Unfortunately, the man responsible for Brian's death has already passed."
"What?" Heather choked out. She didn't catch any of what he said past the acknowledgement of her daughter's innocence.
"What did Becca mean when she said it was an accident?" Trevor asked.
"We believe there might have been a struggle that night. Even if Crystal did come out, it wasn't to hurt Brian; it was to protect him. Thanks to the evidence you presented us." He patted the hard drive on the table. "We were able to secure a search warrant and find enough evidence to convict the real culprit. Your daughter might have accidently pulled the trigger in a struggle for the gun, but our records uncovered evidence of a hired hit. Becca was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"So then…who? Why?"
"Are you aware of the experiment Doctor Finnick was involved in?"
"The one with the time altering drug?" Heather asked. Officer Mills shook his head.
"No, this was a different experiment. One that involved children; your daughter to be precise. The tampered game you mentioned. Groups of young children were subjected to horrific things in order to study the effects of childhood trauma. Doctor Finnick was employed by a company called Sacrio Pharmaceuticals to help map the brain."
"Oh, Becca," Heather whimpered. Her eyes watered as a sudden thought horrified her. "The SPP, Dr. Finnick was always the one to encourage her dream. We thought she was having a break down when she told me about it. You don't think—" Heather broke down in sobs. "Oh, Becca! Trevor! Oh, God. Trevor! She was telling the truth!"
"What does this have to do with Brian?" Trevor asked as he tried to console his wife.
"He was researching the experiment behind what Becca experienced as a young child. It looked like Dr. Finnick found out somehow and tried to silence him before he put the pieces together. They used the drug he was experimenting on as a scapegoat to blame the deaths of the cadets."
"So the SPP was never real?" Trevor asked.
"There is a real Sphere Protection Program. Just not the one Becca went to."
"What about the teenagers who were killed? And the other people with Becca?"
Agent Mills shook his head. "We looked into it as soon as we found out. It was too late. They aborted the program, and the cadets. Becca was the only survivor, if you hadn't pulled her out when you did, she wouldn't be alive."
"Trevor, we need to go to California. We need to bring our daughter home."