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The digital ring of an alarm clock woke up a sleepy British lawyer who had nearly forgotten about his afternoon meeting with a troubled man who was in serious trouble. How much trouble the man was in, the lawyer was not sure of. The details had been refused to be given over the phone, which filled the lawyer with anxiety. Therefore, the lawyer was not overly excited to visit this man—Mr. Elderwood.
The lawyer drove leisurely down the freeway out of the city and out into the countryside, where virtually no one seemed to exist. After exiting the highway and taking several wrong turns, the lawyer arrived at the bronze gates that blocked off Mr. Elderwood’s driveway, which the lawyer assumed led to his mansion. Mr. Elderwood was the richest man in the world. That was the only information that had been given to the lawyer. Apparently, the lawyer was here to discuss the financial state that Mr. Elderwood was in. According to the miniscule paragraph the lawyer had received on him, Mr. Elderwood was apparently “experimenting with unauthorized technology” though what this technology was hadn’t appeared once in the file.
The lawyer parked the car and exited his BMW, which he took much pride in owning. After retrieving his briefcase from the trunk, the lawyer advanced forward towards the bronze gates. They towered over the lawyer, as if warning him not to trespass or else; yet he continued to walk up to them until he was a few feet away from it. The lawyer looked up and spied a security camera, its red light glowing like a menacing red eye.
There was a metallic click followed by a high-pitch beep and the gates swung open. The lawyer gave his BMW one last look before continuing up the long driveway towards Mr. Elderwood’s mansion.
After several minutes of walking along the hedge-lined driveway, the lawyer paused at the doorstep. The wind cut through his suit mercilessly and he longed for his car, which must have been warmer than the autumn air. Silently, the lawyer hoped that Mr. Elderwood had a proper heating unit as he rang the doorbell.
A few seconds had passed when a little girl around age nine opened the door. She had blonde hair that had been put up into pigtails. The lawyer was momentarily puzzled, for he did not read that Mr. Elderwood had a daughter. Of course he hadn’t read much else on the man either but the lawyer thought that a daughter was at least important to mention.
The little girl smiled up at the lawyer. “Hello. Are you here to see Daniel Elderwood?”
The lawyer smiled back politely, though he was slightly on edge. The way the girl looked at him was like she was analyzing every bit of him. Her smile hinted that she knew something he didn’t.
“Yes, I am. Can you take me to him?”
The girl spun around and headed down a narrow hallway. The lawyer followed, examining some of the many pictures that lined the walls. Most of them were from science fairs and newspaper articles.
After taking many twists and turns, the girl stopped outside a locked door.
“This is his study. He doesn’t like us bothering him when he’s working,” she whispered.
Despite what the girl said, the lawyer still knocked. Glancing down at his watch, he noted that he was a few minutes late.
A muffled voice said, “Come in!”
The lawyer heard the click that indicated that the door was unlocked. The little girl skipped forward and pushed the door open roughly. The lawyer spotted Mr. Elderwood, who was reclined at his desk. A newspaper was folded up in his lap. He winced as the door hit the wall with a bang.
“Careful, Lucy! You’re going to damage the woodwork!” Mr. Elderwood chided.
“Sorry, sir,” she muttered.
The lawyer knit his eyebrows together. What daughter called her father sir?
Mr. Elderwood grinned as he spotted the lawyer. “Lucy, go make us some tea please.”
“Yes, sir!” she squeaked. She skipped out of the room, her ponytails bouncing with every step.
Mr. Elderwood studied the lawyer. “So. You must be my lawyer, Gary Larson!”
The lawyer, Gary, forced a small smile on his face. “Indeed. And I presume you are Daniel Elderwood?”
“Oh, please! Call me Dan.”
“Very well, Dan. May I sit down?”
Mr. Elderwood gestured to the chair across from his desk. The lawyer pulled it over so he could be sitting directly across from Dan. The moment Gary sat down, he caught a whiff of cologne and tried not to gag. It had to be the worst cologne the lawyer had ever smelled in his life.
Mr. Elderwood put on a winning smile. With his sparkling brown eyes and wavy bronze hair, Mr. Elderwood looked quite confident and intimidating.
Gary cleared his throat. “So. I am here on business, Dan, as you must already know.”
Mr. Elderwood’s smile wavered. “Yes, I was generously informed this morning at five A.M.”
The lawyer gently laid the file on Mr. Elderwood’s desk. “I was told this case was confidential and that you would give me the full details of the situation. I was informed that what you have been up to lately has been most…disturbing.”
Mr. Elderwood laughed nervously. “Is that so? Well, I’m afraid the public does not see my achievement as advancement for our future generation.”
“Yes,” Gary agreed. He examined the notes that had been given to him. “In fact, they see it as a potential threat to the population.”
Mr. Elderwood looked around nervously, as if he thought someone was eavesdropping. “Do they now. Well, I suppose I should explain—”
Lucy came bouncing in, carrying the tea. She stiffened when she noticed how troubled Mr. Elderwood appeared.
“Is something wrong, sir?” Lucy gave Gary a death glare. Suddenly, the little girl didn’t look so harmless. Her eyes made the lawyer uneasy.
Mr. Elderwood tried to put another winning smile upon his face, but it looked slightly forced. “No, not at all, dear. Go run along now! Find Jordan; I’m sure he would like your company.”
Her smile came back onto her face. “Yes, sir!”
Once she left, the lawyer cast Mr. Elderwood a wary look. “Is that your daughter?”
Mr. Elderwood’s face paled. “No. No, she isn’t.”
The lawyer looked at Mr. Elderwood for an answer, but he averted his gaze. The lawyer tried again.
“Who is that girl, Dan?”
Mr. Elderwood looked up with a guilty look in his eyes. “I’m not entirely sure, I’m afraid. But she’s a nice young lady, isn’t she?”
The lawyer stared him down. “What is going on? Does this have something to do with what you are being charged for? Why the government wants your equipment?”
Mr. Elderwood let out a dry laugh. “The government won’t ever get my equipment. It’s hidden away in secret. Quite far away from here, actually. As for the girl, she is part of my project. I can assure you, she is completely harmless.”
The lawyer tensed. Thinking about the way she had stared daggers at him, the lawyer replied, “Dan, what did you do to that girl? What project? Is this what the case is on?”
Mr. Elderwood gave the lawyer a creepy smile. “Yes, I’m afraid the case is on exactly this. As for the project…now, that is tougher to explain.”
“Dan,” the lawyer warned.
“Fine,” Mr. Elderwood replied stiffly. “But you are putting yourself in danger. The project was to find a way to enhance the human mind. Find a way to make learning easier and quicker. The CIA objected to this. They complained it was too risky and impossible. But I disagreed. I continued the project, even after the CIA shut the program down. And Lucy is one example of a better, stronger being.”
The lawyer stood up abruptly and asked in horror, “What have you done?”
Mr. Elderwood smiled evilly. “I told you. I enhanced the human mind! I made a stronger, more complex being! And she is perfectly stable!”
Briefcase forgotten, the lawyer ran to the office door. He knew that he might get lost in the mansion, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to get as far away from that mad man as possible. After taking too many wrong turns, however, the lawyer found himself in a room filled with TVs and computers. The TVs seemed to be displaying feed from surveillance cameras, and the computers displayed the status of…something.
The lawyer paused at one of the TVs and saw about a dozens kids, ranging roughly from ages six to seventeen. On that TV, the kids were doing things that kids their age shouldn’t have been able to do. For instance, the six year old was bench pressing and one of the oldest was punching a heavy bag—made out of metal. With every punch, he grunted in pain, but he kept throwing punches.
As the lawyer backed away nervously, one of the computers caught his eye. There was a list of names—hundreds of names—that kept scrolling across the screen with little status bars next to them. Most of them read stable with a lime green light next to the word. But one by one, they began to blink red and the word stable became unstable.
All at once, the computers and TVs began to beep and flash with a red light. The lawyer stared with horror at the TV he had been watching earlier. The kids had gone nuts. Some looked like they were screaming at the walls. Others were trying to kill one another. Only two looked completely sane still, and they looked around them in fear as kids killed each other.
The lawyer was about to turn around and run again when something hit him square in the back. He felt something snap and at the same time, the lawyer lost all feeling in his legs. He fell to the ground in agony. Before he could even scream or cry out, Gary was flipped over and a small, but sturdy hand clamped itself over his mouth.
The lawyer stared up in horror into the eyes of the little girl Lucy. Her knuckles were bloody on one hand from striking the lawyer in the back.
“Silence him,” ordered an older boy.
Lucy stared blankly at Gary the lawyer before she snapped his neck.
* * *