As Sandra fled from the premises, the self-proclaimed owner of the broken home retracted her invisibility spell, revealing her true colours. She was as the ghost storyteller had foretold, a bald female dressed in a tattered garb. She was having a difficult time recovering from Sandra's strike, but as she saw everything that she had worked toward engulf in flames, she hastily limped over to her lab as quickly as she could.
"No! Nononono" she cried desperately, her mind being unable to process what was happening. The intruder had only been within that room for a mere couple of seconds, how could she summon such a wildfire so quickly?
The wallpaper peeled and screeched in agony as the torrents of fire and heat continued to rise and grow stronger. The thick smog was pesky to her lungs, but the toxicity that entered her body wouldn't make a difference to her fate if she didn't make it to her desk in time.
She waved the black air away with a mighty slap of her hand, attempting to find her place in the small yet clustered room. She could already see that her supplies had fed the inferno, but she could replace those over time, there was one thing that she couldn't though and even if it meant losing a limb she had to find it.
Once she reached her workstation, she immediately knelt down to the bottom drawer, regardless of the upper half being the centremost of the bonfire. The metal knob burned her hand as she haphazardly yanked it out, only to find that the papers in question were already half ablaze, the formula that used to reside on the page now being incomplete and useless to her efforts.
She slicked back the hair that didn't exist on her chrome dome, her countenance beginning to crumble over the stress and macabre of the situation. She could've sat there and burned alongside her work and it wouldn't have made a difference to her, but she summoned the courage to pick herself up and escape her hideout before either the fire department showed up and extinguished the flames or the doomed building reduced to ashes.
She went out the backway, hoping that the teenagers that ruined everything she had wouldn't see her.
After cutting through the backyard and a couple others on the way, the hairless has-been began to wander through the streets, lifting her hood over her head and hoping no one would recognize her. Not that it was a neighborhood she was familiar with, but if there was an investigation she would hope that she remained out of the collection of suspects.
Her thoughts ranged from 'what now?' to 'I should've stayed in that fire.' All in all, it wasn't a pleasant time. She just wanted to fall flat on her face, see just how much worse her day could be. For the past three months her life was dedicated to that cure and she was relying on it to pull through.
Her fingers phased from fist to flaccid, wanting to punch something, defeat her depression with aggression, and beat something until the bones on her hands broke.
She had to keep calm, keep composure so that she didn't attract attention to herself. It would cause a passerby to either outrage or attempt to help her through, but she wanted neither. Sometimes she just wished all the souls on the planet would just disappear so that she could run everything herself. She knew it was more than she could handle, but she would at least give it a good effort.
The mobile mixed ball of emotions seemed as though she was getting nowhere fast, but she did have a destination for her free roam. There was only one person she could vent to at this point, and she'd need a computer in order to get the word out to her. The visible spectre had to pay a visit to her local public library.
After a long stroll of moping and misery, she reached her destination, entering with ease and passing by the shelves of written knowledge without much care for anything in the world.
She sat a terminal, glaring at anyone nearby in order to cause them discomfort. She already had the guise of a street dweller, so the added intimidation would no doubt cause a stir in most people to want to steer clear.
Once she was logged on, she began to type away, the reflection of the screen in her watery eyes. She opened an E-mail application and her fingers swept away at the keys.
Greetings she instantly pasted her digit against the backspace, her other hand covering her lips as she wondered for a second if she should continue going on with the message. She wanted the release, but she wasn't certain if the person on the other end was ready to read what she was about to send. She continued regardless.
it's Margaret, again. I know you're worried about me and I've gotten your last E-mails, so I suppose I'll let you in on what's happening. So, as you know, I came down to visit dad like every other summer. This might be a bit difficult to explain, so I'll start from the beginning I guess.
Alright, so dad has had this project going on for a long time. I think I was ten when he first introduced me to it, but he's been working on it before then. He told me to never tell you or anyone else because it was a big secret at the time. Still is.
I don't quite know how to explain this part… Dad made this creature. It was like some kind of test tube baby, but by the time he introduced me to it, the thing looked to be the same age range as me. I think I was older than it at the time, but anyways everyone called it twenty three. Every summer I would visit he'd show me the progress of it, but I never really got acquainted with it. It was a really creepy looking thing. Eyes of a shark and some kind of sword stuck to its left elbow joint.
He said it was some kind of 'advanced' police officer, or like a new line of swat team specifically engineered and taught to deal with augmented humans that turned criminal. I don't know if he had government ties, but by the sound of that, I'm fairly certain he did and still does.
So, I know most of this story doesn't involve me yet, but I'm getting to it. A couple years back, dad stopped showing me his pet project and gave me vague answers whenever I asked about it, stuff like he had put his attention elsewhere or that they were having a tough time controlling twenty three.
You know how closed off he can be at times, so I was kind of concerned for him. I don't know how he acted around you, you two were separated before I could remember, but he never talked to me about anything besides what he was doing. Yeah, he would usually respond to when I told him stuff, but he would always say things like that he was proud of me and to keep doing well in school, but he never sounded legitimate.
So when this past summer came around, he was all mopey about not having any test subjects. I hated to see him the way he was, so I agreed to let him test on me. He was working on psychic links, the first time I've ever heard of legal augmentation experiments. He said he was going to start with linking my mind to that of a fly, a link that he could easily reverse, or so he told me.
I don't know what happened during that operation, but when I woke up I wasn't me anymore. My hair was gone, my limbs were sore from some kind of injections. My head felt like it gained a couple pounds. It still does.
I was scared, dad requested a private meeting with me once I came to and he began to spout some bullshit about how I was too deep into the operation and that they had to fully inject me which is when he revealed that the whole endeavour was to try to control twenty three and then he had the balls to ask me to go on field assignments with his creation. Oh, he gave me the ability to hide myself so I'd be safe, but he did that while I was sedated, before he even asked me if I wanted to hold the leash on his attack dog.
I don't care what that man says at this point, he used me. He assumed that I would just do whatever he wanted and he gave me cancer, threw my life away as though it was nothing, and he thought I would be okay with that.
Margaret began to get incredibly riled up, her fingers pressing the keys more forcibly as though the device was malfunctioning. She reveled in it though, she preferred a fury of rage over moody depression.
I'm not going to lie, I punched him square in the face. I punched him real hard. I wish I could feel that sensation over and over again. I don't care anymore that he is my father, I will knock him down straight on his ass any day of the week. I demanded for all the notes he took on the operation he did on me and I booked it before he could call any guards on me. Not that it would've mattered, he gave me the easy way to escape any situation ever.
I didn't demand to have his doctors reverse the effects, for all I know they would've 'screwed' up again and dad would've tried to pin another one of his projects on me. I didn't look for help either. First of all, as I said I don't know how deep dad's connection to the government is, so if I checked into a hospital I could've just reawakened on that damn lab slab. Secondly, I had all the references I needed to try and reverse engineer the formula myself. Dad was so damn proud of me getting the chemistry award three times in a row, I was going to use that against him.
Look where those awards got me three months later though. No closer to curing myself since I started and every reference I needed was burnt to a crisp. Thanks for building me up to fail, school. I'm so deep in the hole at this point and now I'm on a timer thanks to the tumors dad shoved into my brain. What is there left for me?
Margaret clutched at her smooth skull, her head hung over the keyboard unsure of what to type next, where to go. She was far from her mother's house, on the other side of the country in fact. For all she knew she was a fugitive, even before her crime spree in order to acquire the equipment she needed for her makeshift chemist setup.
In her unrelenting rage, the only thought of revenge. Revenge against those who wronged her and set her on the path of doom. As much as she would love to physically abuse her father, it would be quite difficult for her to do, mostly because she'd have to make another venture through the desert and sneak into his facility.
That was when she hatched a devilishly clever idea. It was probably something she should have considered when she first escaped from her father's establishment, but her mind was only on survival at that point. There was little time for petty vengeance, but she had until the day that she dropped to ruin everything for everyone else. She could die happy if she uprooted her father's company in addition to the life of the girl that threw hers out of whack.
Margaret went over her message once again, making sure to edit a couple of key parts. She made sure to reference the fact that the company her dad owned was named A.M. laboratories. She changed twenty three's title role from 'police' to 'assassin.' In addition to it all, she altered her stance on the volunteer aspect of his experiments and instead made it out as though she was kidnapped and forcibly sedated in order to run more tests.
She grew a smirk on her furrowed face, hitting the send button without any hesitation. She also copied the document and began to surf the internet, looking for websites that dealt with conspiracies and created a post, titled 'Look what I found on a computer in my library.'
She was satisfied with her plot against her father and left the terminal a bit happier than when she arrived, though her streak of joy would not be complete just yet. There was still more than enough misery she had to spread, and she had a score to settle with the one that put her in the spiral of mental torment.
As the saying went, an eye for an eye, and Margaret was craving to get her hands on that eye.
Elsewhere, a different time and a different place, more specifically later that day when the clouds began to wrangle in and the sun was nearing its late night retreat and somewhere within the neighborhood of Sandra's home. Miller was skulking about, still disguised as a man wearing a blanket.
He had considered the wise words of Pip and returned to his temporary home. If the voice in his head was right in its suspicions then there would probably still be an investigation going on. From his vantage point though, he could only make out two cars.
He was lucky to make it this far. He was absolutely lost for the last couple of hours, but with the activity of the fire trucks being at a peculiar high (not that he would be able to recognize that), he was able to find his way back using them as a breadcrumb trail.
He was still uneasy about approaching the place, still believing his brain's chaos theory. As much as he wanted to return to Sandra and continue life as it had been going for the past week, there wasn't enough evidence to provide him with leeway for doubt.
He poked around the fire station for a moment or two and then proceeded to slowly creep toward the house, more specifically the point in which he defenestrated earlier in the day.
Miller dove underneath the base of the port, taking note of the fact that someone had closed it since his escape. It suggested that Sandra had potentially made it back to her room since she wouldn't have let the cooler outdoor air infect the stagnant heat that was built up in between the walls. It was definitely not going to be a welcome feeling to return to that. In fact, besides the potential dangers that his return would entail, the heat was the aspect that the blade armed individual was dreading the most.
He peeked over the edge of the pane, the blinds doing their job significantly well, but Miller fought them as well as he could. Through the slits, he managed to make out a scene. It was not a thorough investigation by any stretch of the imagination, but from what he could tell his ex-caretaker was in the fetal position atop her bed, upset over something.
The estranged being sat himself down quickly, feeling as though a hole had grown in his heart. He instantly felt guilt flowing through every fiber of his being for putting her into such a state. If he was the one to do that anyway. It was an inch, but it was enough to bring him back into the fight with his other voice.
'She doesn't care that deeply for us, stop being so self-absorbed. A number of other things could have made her upset. She performed a test today, she might've failed it. Us not being there is a mere afterthought for her.'
"She was there for us when we… me… I was not feeling well. Why shouldn't I do the same for her?"
'It could just as easily be a trap too. They left her for bait and are waiting for us to take it. They'll spring us up like a rat in a trap.'
"Who is they!? Who is after us!? The scientists? The Augmented-Human Alliance? The government itself?"
'It could be any or all of them! We have too many enemies to take these types of risks!'
"She took the risk to trust us, I will take the risk to trust her" Miller finally decided as he stood tall and confidently, knocking on the glass in order to get the girl's attention.
'You will be the death of us.'
In due time though the shutter flew open, a jingle escaping into the outside air that repeated 'always look on the bright side of life.' The window cover zipped away as Sandra's disastrous face came into frame, her swollen eyes looking as though she poured an entire bag of salt onto them. Once her lackluster vision was able to pick up on who was in front of her, she nearly leapt out to hug him, though stopped herself short on the account of two reasons; not wanting to activate her powers once again and that there was still a wall dividing them.
"Oh thank Christ you're still okay!" her voice cracked as she sidestepped away so that the black eyed beast could crawl in.
After Miller was safely inside, she shut the opening and returned to her spot in order to wallow in her sorrows some more. It left the being rather curious as to what had happened. It wasn't just his leave because she would be back to her usual self if he was present (at least in theory). That wasn't the case though, however, the tiny girl's reaction to him still suggested that there was a worry for him regardless.
The one armed wonder eased himself and took a seat next to Sandra's bed, knowing that she never enjoyed him being close to her, but wanted to be within a close range of her once more.
The television was a strange sight, though anything on that screen tended to be odd or out of the ordinary. It was a group of crucified men singing in a joyful manner. It was much more endearing than the film about the man-eating bed, so Miller was fine with it, though still concerned for Sandra, trying to think of a way to insert himself into a conversation with her so that she would ease up or confess to what was bothering her.
"I haven't really told you about me…" the mini maiden muttered, her voice sounding as though she was suffering from a cold. "I mean, like why my room is always so hot. You've heard about the mutant girl, right?"
Miller thought on it for a moment, the concept being something he was familiar with, but he hadn't heard anything about it in years. Once he started putting the pieces together though, his mind screamed at him of the dangers of staying within ten feet of her. Miller gulped, though still sat where he was, trying to make it seem like the new information didn't bother him. "Yes… Now that you say that more things make sense" the creature replied uncharacteristically calm.
"Then I'm guessing you know about the whole exploding thing… It happened again today" she stated as she dug her face into her knees. "I'm getting really tired of not being able to go anywhere without fearing that I might burn the whole damn building down. Not only that, I can't touch people, I can't be in close contact for too long, basically I'm designed to be a hermit and there's nothing I can do about it" she continued, being further muffled by the fabric of her pants.
Miller kept silent. He had no idea what he could say in rebuttal. He wasn't exactly prepared to handle the situation and even if he was given prep time he wasn't sure he could make a comforting statement. On top of that, the song from the TV was distracting him greatly.
He then stumbled upon an idea though, remembering how his concierge had tried to ease his tears when they first met. It was a long shot, not to mention that Sandra was better versed in comedy than he was, but he had to try something.
"Knock knock" the big eyed behemoth uttered, turning his head towards Sandra.
The gruff girl snorted, her abdomen containing her laughter, which was jumping about jollily. Her face reared itself once more, looking down upon her house guest. "Who's there?" she added with a slight smirk.
She hid herself between her legs once more, this time around for the sake of hiding her uproarious laughter. "Oh my god, Miller please no more of your shitty knock knock jokes, I can't even handle one" she replied in a cheerful manner.
"Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" he tacked his punchline on, despite her refusal to want to hear it.
"Oh god. No. Miller. Why?" she muttered as she wiped her head clear of her sweat and tears, whilst she wore a grin so bright it caused Miller to flinch. The ball that she was tucked into broke apart, allowing her to reach for a pillow from her headboard and tossed it at the blanket thief. "I wish I had a tomato for situations like this. I might need to stock up now."
From that point on, the dangerous duo continued watching cheery comedies and other such movies in order to keep Sandra from going over the edge. There would be times where they had to pause for her to sob to herself. Miller could sense the tempest of negativity washing over his caretaker's mind, so he would attempt to ease the pain of it all with his outdated jokes, seeming to have a preference for knock knock jokes.
It was merely distracting the problem she was having, though the lab-born man didn't have any solutions for her otherwise. Augmentation was not something that could just be turned off or on and considering that research had been outlawed for years prior, there wouldn't be too many experts in their day and age that could cure her. The most they could do was ease the stress Sandra was going through and hope for something better in the future.
At the end of their movie marathon, Sandra popped her roommate a new inquiry. "So, I was thinking about inviting a friend over during the weekend. If that's going to be happening I'm going to need you out of here or you're gonna have to hide under the bed all night. You seemed to be able to deal with going outside decently today… by that I mean you came back and weren't stressed out over something. Can you do that again? Or maybe sleep on the roof again?"
Miller gave off a slightly nervous expression. While he was able to find his way back, it was through circumstance and luck. Sure, he wouldn't be aimlessly running away the next time, but it didn't make him any more comfortable with it. Not unless he had some sort of way of communicating with Sandra, or something that would ensure him that he was safe to venture the outside world, like a safety escape rope. "If you give me a way of contacting you…"
"Look, I can give you my cell phone and teach you how to use it in case you need directions or help or whatever."
"What if I fall unconscious or someone finds me and tries to steal me back?"
"Uh, what exactly would you expect me to do in that situation?" she returned in a rather confused manner.
"Do you have a device that could track me or warn you if I'm in trouble?"
"That doesn't really answer my question, but my grandpa has a heart monitor thing that makes sure he's not dead. Do you want me to get you one of those?"
"That sounds like it should suffice."
"Alright, I guess I'll go pick one of those up tomorrow. You won't try to run away while I'm gone, are you?"
"Maybe if I have a way of keeping contact with you."
"You get lonely don't you?"
Miller nodded his head rather rapidly.
"Fine, I'll teach you how to use my laptop too. I'll have my cellphone on me and you can stay here with my laptop, you can still talk to me that way. I don't think I'll be gone for that long, but if you so insist" Sandra shrugged as she wandered to turn off her light and prepared for bed.
She creaked her door open slightly, taking note of the fact that the rest of her family was sound asleep at the time of night they were up and about. "Okay, last chance for a bathroom run, let's go" she instructed the lab rat as though he was a toddler.
The titan excitedly paced himself over to the washroom, taking the lead. Sandra followed behind, shaking her head softly, though keeping a sweet smile.