Let’s take a trip to the dark side. Groovy, right? This chapter follows Lulu as she reconnects with some familiar test subjects… In fact, what happens is so mind-boggling that Luna herself has earned the title of “Evil Genius” (at least, according to Kacie).
The near transparent and space purple plastic covering the wires and circuitry that spanned the walls brought a wave of nostalgia over the doctor’s features, a longing for a time she knew she shouldn’t be feeling. She was on the wrong side then. Rena took her hand and almost giddily bounced in her step down the familiar hallway ahead, a behavior that befit her younger sister with the Junior Science Fair lab coat more than the fully fledged professor in front of her. It looked like a scene from her own past, and through that realization, Lulu’s frown went hard.
But the worst part was finding exactly what she expected these walls to lead to. The old equipment, the labs, the test chambers, everything- even the test subjects. And some of them were still alive, cowering in the corners of their cells with inky black veins scrawling from the injection site.
“Rena, what in science’s-”
“Isnt it wonderful?! I moved the entire base of operations here,” she said, leaning down to press each finger to the scanner, the green laser bar flashing with each pass until the door finally unlocked. Rena tugged her older sister along up the stairs and to something like a security office. Thick, pixelated TVs stacked against the wall showed a few scientists doing routine work in the labs below.
“I had them keep everything the same! Aside from some practical updates, of course.” She gestured to the processors, all updated modules that better suited Rena’s own office in the castle above than the blast from the past down here.
“You certainly have an eye for detail…” Dr. Louis managed and stumbled a half step forward, eyes darting to each screen, finally landing on the store room. The same vials of spectre goo that were in Rena’s office filled the shelves. Only, with the new fish-eye lens to the camera, she could see dozens of the same cases stretching out of view .
“And some size adjustments,” Rena added, following her gaze. “All is going according to plan. Well- your plan, that is. Of course.”
Someone cleared their throat behind them, and the two turned to see Harley fidgeting with their clipboard, pushing up their taped glasses before they spoke.
“I was told to tell you the high council has gathered in the observation room for the demonstration,” they said, a bit more hesitantly than the quick chattering the mousey assistant usually spoke in.
“Excellent.” Rena clapped her hands in front of her, smile turning more from kid on a playground to the smart kid in class about to ace a test. “Shall we meet them now?”
Dr. Louis, still struck by the newest development, managed a tight nod, looking like her thoughts were elsewhere. Rena’s eyes lit up, an evil tint to her grin now.
“That’s the scheming face, oh it’s been so long. Glad to see you back in the action again.”
Louis gave a halfhearted laugh in response, letting Rena’s fantasies carry her away again as she followed her to the observation room.
The sterile, white room had long, downward angled windows to the labs below, another one through the hub they had just passed through to get up here. In another, someone was being sat on a table and bandaged like this was just a routine trip to the clinic for their shots.
A group of people in stately uniforms and suits sat on the other side next to a window overlooking many more of those tables, the black veins of the miasma infection snaking through each of the patients on some body part or another.
“Dr. Saltzman?” a mans voice called, and Louis’ gaze snapped away from the window to meet his. “Dr. Louis Saltzman? Boy, I haven’t seen you in years!”
Louis’ confused expression turned more into pain as the surly man scooped her up into a crushing embrace, dropping her to her feet when he was done.
“Course I’d just been ‘born’, so you know,” he continued, using air quotes and laughing like this was a high school reunion.
Lulu looked shattered, pieces barely held together with Fudd’s glue. Before the little trip to the miasma valley and the talk with the real Kenneth, she might not have been able to recognize the man, or the woman right behind him talking to some politician.
“You’re the first possessions, yes.” Lulu’s voice was distant. “Id always wondered how the procedure went. I unfortunately didn’t get to see the end of it.” She cast a glance at Rena beside her, who nervously picked up the conversation and steered him away from her and towards the group again.
Before Lulu could intervene, a flat voice crackled over the loudspeaker.
“We are ready to begin professor,” Harley said from the adjoining control room window, clearly to Rena, though their eyes were on Louis.
Rena stopped, politely excusing herself from the council to answer the call with an intercom mic of her own at the front. Everyone took a seat on the blue plastic chairs, and not too many made a show of it being very comfortable.
Below, the infected patients did little other than pace a bit before assistants ushered them to their tables again. They looked like zombies already. The assistants filed out of the room and a single scientist entered, carrying a stand of vials of dark liquid. One by one, the HCP suited scientist emptied the vials in the general area of each patient, and one by one they began to spasm violently for a few seconds before lying completely still. Everyone, even Dr. Louis watched in rapt attention, neither the subjects nor the audience moving a muscle for one long moment.
Then one by one, as if they were trained to, the patients stood up, gathered in front of the window and stared upward with blood red eyes.
Horrified, Lulu turned around. All of the faces watching the window were in awe but one. Harley stood in the control room still, clipboard in hand, frowning as they watched the mindless figures stumble about now. Louis raced up the steps to the room, shutting it behind her and yanking Harley by the arm to spin and face her. She fumbled her words for a second, then seemed to finally get out the one question she most wanted to ask.
“If this is all here, then what’s still on Demonwall?” The doctor all but threatened, the steely look on her face preventing all hope from crossing it.
“From the looks of these files,” they stated cooly, thumbing the clipboard papers, “enough of ghosts like me rigged to be set free and take over everyone on that mountain.”
Dr Lulu gasped, physically taken aback. “The kids- we have to warn- Wait, what do you mean “like me”?” She asked, torn from her worry with the sudden stillness of an eclipse.
“Lulu,” Harley chided, hands on their hips and a tiny curl at the edge of their lips. “Sure, the new body affords the ability to speak a little better, but I thought you’d be able to recognize me still. Then again, the energies are all mixed up here.” They pushed up their glasses, the glare flashing across them failing to have that sinister edge it had before.
“Harley, are you saying…?”
“Please, for old time’s sake, call me Anti-Kenneth.”