Layla waved out of the back window to Jessi, as I buckled into my prius. My car, compared to Jessi's, was a lot more subtle but less cool. You give and you take, I geuss. At least I had a car.
"Okay, then. So where are we going?" Layla asked, turning around.
"Murphy's. It's as good a place as any to start gathering information, I guess. He started working on something for me yesterday. I'll explain to you what's going on at Murphy's."
I glanced over at the camera that was permanently stuck to the rearview mirror. Hopefully Layla would get the hint. Fortunately, the camera couldn't hear us but it did have a video feed. The audio had been removed after I had bought a Justin Bieber album. My suffering came through in the end.
Layla, bless her, did seem to catch on. She tilted her head towards the blinking red dot on the camera and asked, "So, Murphy? Is his house as crazy as yours?"
If she thought the safe house was crazy, I couldn't wait to hear what she thought of Murphy's paralyzing gel. "Apartment, actually," I corrected. "It's interesting. Just a warning - on the way in, you're going to want to follow my footsteps exactly."
Hesitantly, Layla asked, "Why?"
"He has a gel that paralyzes on touch." I smirked. "Doesn't last that long though - only an hour."
Layla leaned back into the chair, blinking her eyes. Heaving a sigh, she shook her head. "So, in essence, what you're telling me is that all of your friends are crazy."
"In Murphy's defense, that gel's come in handy." Her eyes widened and she gave a wheezing kind of laugh. Poor thing, so unused to the life of trusting no one.
I stopped the car in front of Murphy's building and Layla's face fell at the normalcy of it. Four stories high and bricke. It didn't look anything special. I'm pretty sure Murphy was the only 'abnormal' tenant.
"So I follow exactly what you do?" Layla asked, hopping up the steps two at a time.
"Yeah," I nodded, grinning, "you could do that or be paralyzed, your choice." Then, I realized something. "Oh my gosh, I should have totally snitched Murphy's key when I was here last time."
"A key for his apartment?" Layla stopped and leaned against the railing.
"Yeah." I sighed, pulling a bobby pin out of my hair. "Oh well, I have this baby." Once again, I was forced through the procession of knocking incessantly. Growling to myself, I jimmed the bobby pin into the lock, forcing my entrance.
Layla did her best to follow my actions. In the end though, I had to yank her out of the way. The gel fell from the ceiling, splashing onto the welcome mat and Layla's left hand. Her eyes widened, almost comically, as she lifted the paralyzed hand up to her face. Her mouth fell open and wobbled. "Uh," She squealed, panic rising, "I can't…" She shook her arm and the hand toppled from side to side, doing whatever gravity demanded of it.
"I'll, uh, go find Murphy and see if he's worked out an antidote. You stay here."
"Murphy!" I barrelled through the apartment and into his bedroom. He glanced up from his tablet, eyebrows furrowed. At least he was awake. "Layla got some of your gel on her hand."
He groaned, rolling out of his bed and onto his mile-long legs. Then, he brightened all of a sudden. "Is she completely paralyzed or is it just her hand?"
I shrugged. "I dunno. Have you developed an antidote yet?"
His face was practically glowing now. "Yeah, I found out-"
"Dude," I said, going back towards the kitchen where I had left Layla, "just go get it."
Murphy instantly gravitated towards the kitchen cupboards. While he rummaged he quizzed Layla on her condition.
"Yeah," Layla answered, flopping her hand around. "Only my hand is paralyzed. Can you fix it or do I have to wait an hour?" She swung her hand around, watching intently as it flopped around like a fish out of water. "I think I can wait an hour if you can't," she continued. "It's quite entertaining."
Murphy mumbled some scientific jargon to himself, pulling out a bear shaped jar of honey. "The chemical configuration of the honey counteracts the gel." He grinned, his whole face lighting up. "It should be fine in ten minutes or so," he drizzled the honey onto her hand and gave her a napkin to catch any spare drops.
"We gonna get down to business now?" I asked, moving from my perch on the back of a chair to the couch. Layla joined me on the couch, sitting fairly close.
Settling into the chair beside us, Murphy turned to Layla. "How much do you know? Talia's not the greatest with giving out information." He stuck his tongue out at me, immersing himself in the cushions.
Dude, what the heck? I'm a spy; I'm not supposed to give information out easily.
"I don't know much," Layla shook her head. "And," she eyed me conspiratorially, "yes, she is bad at giving information."
Murphy grinned brightly, waving a hand for her to continue. "Gonna need to know more than that. I need you to tell me what you know so I can fill you in on what I know." He glanced towards me, "and hopefully blondie will be able to give the rest of the info."
I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "You're blonde too, dummy."
I would have counteracted his statement if we all knew it wasn't true sometimes. The hard life of a blonde, teenage girl.
"All she told me was that we were coming here and she would tell me then."
Murphy groaned, rubbing his right temple. "Okay," he started, "so usually SPECTRE isn't very meta-friendly. Doesn't help that metas aren't seen as humans in the government's eyes. Usually, they track the metas down and do some tests on them to keep them 'safe'." Murphy's shoulders bunched together and he paused for a moment. His next words came out very tight, as if he had to force them out. "At least, that's what we had thought. We found out they were doing worse than that. Did Talia tell you about Lazarus."
Anger rose within me. I could feel it bubbling up. My Dad had been so confident with SPECTRE that some of it had rubbed off on me. I had blindly trust SPECTRE and I shouldn't have. I had helped round up metas in an attempt to keep them safe. And what did I subject them to? A life as a lab rat. Names flashed through my mind.
Allison McKinney, Jeffrey Patton, Grace Hines, Raul Owens, Kerry Flores, Monique Pratt.
Some of them would have been safer to leave at their homes.
Layla and Murphy were still talking. Murphy was guestering jerkily with his left hand, his right hand trapped under a pillow. "Lazarus was that meta Talia had taken care of at the school. He had taken a cyanide capsule." Murphy explained. "Tal's cleanup crew had checked 'im out. He was all sorts of dead in medical eyes. On the coroner's table he got up, strangled the coroner, and almost escaped."
He rubbed his forehead, stress lines hovering on the corners of his eyes. He glanced at me and tilted his head. "I've been trying to figure out what's going on after that. They had used some-" He paused, hesitating. Taking a deep breath, he continued, "type of drug to get him down and experiment on him. Whatever they found out was enough to change their meta program and hide things from us."
I wanted to kill someone. Preferably Jacobs. The jerk had purposefully been hiding lying to us. Life as I spy promised people lying themselves up a wall to you. But to have it come from within? Unacceptable.
But most importantly, why had he lied? Briefly, it crossed my mind that he could be a double-agent but I shoved that thought back almost immediately. Being a liar and being a traitor were too very big, very different things. I couldn't accuse him of being a traitor until I had all the facts.
Murphy and Layla were still talking.
"Wow!" Layla leaned back, excitement shining in her eyes. "So are we breaking into their intelligence?"
Murphy grinned, somewhat smugly. "I helped code their firewalls."
"I wanna see the files." I demanded, standing up. Layla startled beside me. "I wanna know what they were doing." Layla made a small noise of agreement.
Murphy stared me down, picking apart my expression. "You, maybe." He addressed me. "Not Layla. It's on my computer. Just search the video files for 'metas'."
I nodded jerkily and stalked into Murphy's computer room/closet. The Star Wars night light lit the room. The many paneled computer was on display. My stomach twisted as I approached it.
Whatever was waiting for me wasn't going to be pleasant. Not with the face that Murphy had made while he was explaining it.
There was only ten videos to choose from. I choose the most recent. The video focused on a small, brunette girl. Her name was Veronica, I think. Wires were stuck to her head, spin, and over her heart. Monitors were set up, each watching over her vitals. A low beeping echoed constantly through the room.
She had a shock collar on and was staring at the man holding the camera with wide, scared grey eyes. Another man entered the scene. Hale's right hand man, Austin, came on. He was holding a syringe full of a light blue liquid.
"Today is November 5, 2015." He stated to the camera. "I am here with subject 325-5F. Today is the eighth attempt at mind wipes with this subject."
I shut the computer down after she started screaming. I was ready to murder someone.
I leaned back in his swivel chair, breathing deeply. I needed a plan to get those kids out of there.
Murphy choose a great time to interrupt. "Hey, Tal." He glanced towards the computer screen and back towards me, his smile instantly fading. "Would you mind letting me borrow you for a quick experiment?"
"How many videos do you think there are?" I asked.
He bit his cheek, sighing. "I don't know, a lot."
"I want to see all of them."
He didn't seem to agree, but he didn't argue. Instead he just led me out to the kitchen.
I settled into one of the chairs by the counter. "What do you want me to do, Jacob?" I growled.
Those videos were important and I needed to see all of them, see what I had done to all of those people.
Murphy stared at me for a second before handing me the wires numbly. I jammed the wires onto my temples. He opened his mouth to say something but, thinking better of it, closed it with a clack of teeth on teeth. "I'm, uh," he turned to Layla, smile forced now. "Going to compare you and Talia's brainwaves. On my signal, Tal."
On the count of three, I turned invisible. Then visible. With my mind focused on the kids I had subjected to torture I couldn't focus on staying invisible. I sputtered in and out of the visual spectrum.
Murphy stood up to his full height, towering over me. I glared up at him, daring him to say anything. "Talia!" He barked. We stared at each other, neither of us backing down. He took a deep breath before narrowing his eyes. "Go compose yourself."
I pushed myself away from the cupboard, glaring him down, as I left the room. I settled myself in front of the bathroom sink and scrubbed at my face, borrowing one of Murphy's extra fluffy washcloths.
As much as I hated it, I needed to distance myself from the situation, for their sakes'.
The anger slid back into my mind and a new feeling, one of calmness, clicked into place with ease. Now was a time to act.
I reentered the kitchen, only to be met with Murphy shouting, "Scan her!" He was grinning brightly, as if he'd just had a brilliant idea.
"Alright," Layla said, narrowing her eyes and looking at me intently.
Murphy cackled with delight as I settled onto the chair beside Layla. "This is great!" He squealed. "Can you do it with pictures of people or do you have to physically be near them?"
I leaned forward resting my cheek on my hand.
"I don't really know," Layla scratched the plastic around the wire. "I've never tried it."
Murphy giggled at the prospect of finding out something new that no one else knew. Nerd.
The coding screen on his laptop disappeared for a moment, only to be replaced with a football player.
Layla's face morphed to the one from earlier, when she had scanned me. "Well, from what I'm getting, he's a five."
He nodded, triumphantly and took a few notes before switching back to the coding screen. "Would you mind giving Talia the wires? I wanna try testing her again."
I was able to go invisible much easier this time. Murphy nodded, taking the wires from me.
"How do your powers work?" Murphy asked Layla. "Tal's are related to her emotions."
"I can observe people and know, if that makes any sense."
"Not a bit." I said. "But it doesn't matter. We need to make a plan to get those kids out of the labs. We're wasting time. Suggestions, Murph?"
He hummed noncommittally. "I can arrange to have a meeting with Jessi tomorrow, I think. I'll try and find the schematics too. We can go over it then."
"Talia if we want to get those kids out without any of them being killed or captured and our self in that matter we need to make a plan." Layla said.
"I know that." I ground out. "I'm trying to think of one. We need to get those kids out as quickly as possible. I'm the one that put them in there and I need to get them out, one way or another."
Murphy frowned, stepping forward slightly. "It's not your fault, Tal. You didn't know-"
I stood up. My chair toppled to the floor behind me. "Jacob, stop it. We both know that I could have found out, like now. I decided to live in ignorance and now others are paying the price. I'm going to get some gear together. Come on, Layla, let's go." I started for the door but stopped and turned back. "Actually, it might be better if you stayed here. I'm going to get some information. Murphy, don't let anyone that's not cleared in."
He knew what I meant by 'get some information'. His face looked pained, but resigned. "You should at least bring Jessica."
I shook my head, my blonde hair spilling around me. "Jessi's a citizen. She can be taken under custody. I'm not going to do that to her."
"And if you get captured?" Murphy asked, raising an eyebrow.
I stopped in my tracks and thought for a moment. "I won't." I said and resumed walking towards the door.