The Bug (Full Version)

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in Short Stories | 2 comments

(Originally published May 6, 2015)

Martin was freaking out. On a good day, he was an intense person, but he had achieved a new high, and he suddenly looked every bit of his forty-five years. He stood and strode purposefully to the Tibetan prayer wheel on the far side of the yard, where he first cut off a piece of bamboo, then started collecting wildflowers.

I slowly walked toward him. He was tense, but I wasn’t concerned. We’d been having sex regularly for three weeks now, and I had him pegged. I knew what he would do; he would give me the crappy piece of bamboo along with a threat to keep my mouth shut. When he realized I had no intention of saying anything, he would give me the flowers to show he cared. He was so predictable. I could even see the small bouquet clutched in his right hand.

His back was to me when I stopped a few feet away. Martin turned and, as predicted, held out the piece of bamboo. I smiled and glanced to his other hand. But when he unfolded his fingers to show what he held, it wasn’t flowers. Rather, it was a small pill that looked dirty, as if it had been in the ground a while. I peered closer and realized it was actually some kind of pod. About the size of a gel-cap, it alternately looked brown and silver, the colors swirling and moving underneath the semi-opaque casing. I had a fleeting thought that this was man-made, not organic.

Curious, I leaned in. “What is that?”

He threw the pill into my shoulder-length brown hair, and it started making a loud cicada-like sound as if it was some kind of bug, and I shook my hair to get rid of it. “What is that?” I said again. I was beginning to worry. The noise was so loud.

The noise got quieter, and I stopped shaking my hair. As soon as I stopped, I felt a sharp pain on my left shoulder, as if something was burrowing into my skin. I jumped, and whatever it was got dislodged. The cicada noise started again, nearly deafening.

I hate bugs. “What is that?” I shrieked, turning in a circle.

Martin wouldn’t actually hurt me, I knew, but there was something there, and it wanted a home inside of me. Despite my growing panic—and in spite of the dawning realization that Martin felt more threatened than I thought—I remained certain this was a practical joke designed to scare me into silence. I just knew he would pull it off before real harm was done.

I guess I was mistaken.

The thing finally burrowed into the base of my skull. My last thought before losing consciousness was that this was all a silly misunderstanding. If only Martin had taken the time to talk to me, this entire farce could have been avoided. I would never have said anything.

I drifted in and out of consciousness, my mind feverishly reliving the events of the previous few hours, trying to make sense of it all.

Martin had been anxious to leave that morning. I didn’t know why, but something had clearly set him off. He paced anxiously as we waited on the street outside Barnsdale College for the bellman to load Martin’s large steamer trunk into the airport shuttle.  As the bellman swung the trunk into the back of the vehicle one-handed, I thought fleetingly that he must be very strong. That trunk weighed a ton.

“Where are your things?” Martin asked. His blue eyes were angry.

I let his intensity wash past me. “I’m not going now,” I responded breezily. “I’ll leave later.”

Martin looked both surprised and displeased. I didn’t know why. I had never intended to leave that morning, and nothing that had happened the night before changed the fact that I had obligations to tend to that afternoon. Martin and I weren’t going to the same place anyway. He would go . . . well, wherever he was going, and I would head out on break.

Not to mention that there was something off about the airport shuttle. I didn’t think it was a normal shuttle, and the driver appeared annoyed to have to wait for Martin. The driver looked dangerous, too, his black sunglasses hiding his eyes as if he were an assassin or a mafia driver. The vehicle itself looked more like a repurposed military vehicle than a traditional shuttle—black and sleek and huge. I was secretly relieved I would not be getting into that car. It felt ominous, like if I got in, I would never get out. And I didn’t much care for the creepy passenger sitting in the shadows of the back seat.

The bellman walked away, and Martin loaded his suitcase into the shuttle.  He’s a fairly good-looking man—I wouldn’t have slept with him otherwise—not tall, not short, with black hair and a domineering attitude. It doesn’t bother me, his controlling nature. After all, he’s twenty-five years my senior, so it’s to be expected, and he doesn’t control me anyway.

As for Barnsdale, I’d turned down a prestigious scholarship to MIT to come here, much to my family’s consternation. Of course, rumors had been circulating for some time that the college was in financial trouble—and the dilapidated mansion it inhabited certainly bore that out—but I didn’t care. As long as I got to continue my work with Professor Tate, I was happy to be there.

I had a particular fondness for Professor Tate’s lab, with its linoleum flooring, out-of-date equipment, Bunsen burners, and black chemistry desks. I was fond of Professor Tate too—all tweedy and distracted, with his unruly brown hair and wireframe glasses, so intent as he bent over some perplexing question of science. I’d come here for him, actually, because his research involves things outside the acceptable subjects for scientific pursuit. There’s something so sexy about illicit science.

Martin’s wife works with Professor Tate as well. On what, I don’t know, and Professor Tate won’t say. My eyes flashed to her apartment window even though I knew she wasn’t there.

I had met Martin’s wife exactly once, earlier this semester, when she summoned me to her apartment. Her entryway had a small round table with a doily, and her couch was a turn-of-the-century antique, all maroon velvet and such. It was a room for an old lady, although she certainly wasn’t that old. She wanted to discuss some ostensible academic transgression, but as she was neither my teacher nor my advisor, I failed to see the point—unless it was to put a face to me. I can still imagine what she thought: Well, she’s not that pretty. Kind of average, really. And it was true. I was pretty enough, but of average height and average build, with average-colored hair, and average brown eyes.

Above-average intelligence, though.

Itching to get Martin on the road so I could get back to my research, I decided I could at least be helpful in getting his stuff loaded.  I went up the stairs to the overgrown courtyard that fronted the old mansion and collected the rest of Martin’s things. I waited on the flagstones, my arms full of stuff. Martin took the things from me without a word of thanks and put them in the back of the car. He then rushed back up the stairs, apparently having forgotten something else.

Martin must have been single-mindedly determined to get what he needed, because he walked past me without so much as glancing my way.

As he headed across the yard toward the Tibetan prayer wheel on the other side of the dilapidated pavilion, I said casually, “Professor Tate will be back this afternoon.”

My comment was innocent, but Martin stopped dead in his tracks halfway to his destination and collapsed into a cheap plastic folding chair. He dropped his head in his hands, pinching his nose as if I’d given him a horrible headache. I thought idly that the chair must have been in the elements a while. It looked filthy. Martin would ruin his impeccable trousers.

Martin was clearly annoyed, his shoulders tense and his face pinched. And of course he would be. I’m sure he assumed I would tell Professor Tate of our recent activities. I found his worry amusing. I had no intention of revealing what we had done.

“I am his research assistant,” I noted.

That got Martin moving again. He stood and strode purposefully to the Tibetan prayer wheel on the far side of the yard, where he first cut off a piece of bamboo . . .

~~~

I finally awakened. When I stood, I was no longer in the overgrown yard where I had collapsed. In fact, I wasn’t even in my body. Surprised, I looked down.

Yep. There my body was, lying in the trunk next to Martin’s dead wife.

Awesome.

I heard voices coming from the middle seat. Taking a single backward glance at my body, I drifted closer. I have to say, as awkward as this entire situation was, there was definitely something convenient about being disembodied. Were I still incarnate, I would never have been able to stand in the back of this shuttle, but as I had no body, I could easily float over, my legs trailing behind.

“So, now we have two to dispose of.” The speaker was the stranger who had been sitting in the back seat of Martin’s shuttle. He sounded irritated, his gravelly voice grating on my incorporeal ears.

“After a fashion,” Martin responded defensively. “Hannah’s not dead. At least not yet.”

Well, that’s a piece of good news. I glanced again at my body. It did look to have better coloring than the corpse of Martin’s wife next to it. Interesting. I had assumed I was a ghost. My scientific brain clicked in, and I became terribly curious as to exactly what that thing was Martin had thrown at me and why—if I were still alive—my spirit was no longer tethered. I toyed with the idea of seeing if I could re-enter my body at will, but decided that wouldn’t be prudent. After all, what if I couldn’t get back out? I really wanted to know what was going on here.

Clearly Martin knew what he had thrown at me, and obviously he knew I wasn’t dead. But I wondered if he knew I had left my body behind and was now spying on him.

As if he heard my unspoken thought, Martin glanced briefly over his right shoulder. He had no reaction at all to the fact that I was floating a foot off the ground in the back of the shuttle. Emboldened, I drifted directly next to his right ear.

“And the information you were to obtain?” the stranger asked.

“Stop pushing me!” Martin snapped. “Your ridiculous rush is why we are in this situation to begin with. I told you I needed more time!”

The stranger leaned against the leather seat back and steepled his fingers. He appeared to take several calming breaths before speaking again. “I am not the one in a ‘rush,’ Mr. Templeton, your employer is. Your debts are not yet paid.”

“My ‘debts’?” Martin sounded outraged. “This is a business arrangement.”

“You have been given a substantial deposit to provide certain information, which you not only have failed to do, you have now created a mess that we have to clean up.”

“I have the information; I just don’t understand it. Hannah will be able to help when she wakes up.”

Suddenly I saw my relationship with Martin in a whole new light. From the very beginning, he had been interested in my research with Professor Tate. I supposed it made sense—he was married to a scientist after all—but he knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. Still, he continually asked me. I had taken those questions as interest in me; I thought his questions showed he cared. And then last night, he took my hand and said, “Hannah, it troubles me that there is an entire part of your life you have shut me out of.”

I had caved, taking him to Professor Tate’s lab and pulling out the laboratory books. Martin spent hours poring over those books—drinking in every word written in Professor Tate’s cramped hand, taking notes in a small book he had carried with him, and occasionally asking me a clarifying question.

For someone so intelligent, I certainly am a fool.

The shuttle came to an abrupt stop. Peering through the heavily-tinted back windows, I saw that we were stopped at a security gate. The guard spoke to someone, and the vehicle continued onward, finally stopping in front of a concrete, bunker-like building. And here I thought Martin had been heading to the airport. I guess I was right not to want to get into this “shuttle” in the first place.

The back hatch opened, flooding the storage area with stark light. The driver stood there, Martin and the stranger standing just behind him. Martin looked like, well, Martin, only more stressed than normal. The stranger, however, was dressed entirely in black and wearing a cloak—yes, a cloak—along with a fedora. Who dresses like that? His face was heavily scarred along one side as if he’d been burned.

The driver looked directly at me—through me, really—before pulling out Martin’s wife’s body. The corpse’s head thumped on the bumper, and I winced. Hopefully they wouldn’t treat my body that way; I didn’t want to wake up with an unnecessary headache.

Martin reached in and picked up my body, walking away toward the entrance to the building. I thought I would stay in the car—I really didn’t want to see the inside of that place—but I couldn’t. As soon as Martin had walked through the door, I felt a strange tugging sensation in my solar plexus. Then, like a rubber band that had been stretched too tight, whatever connected me to my body snapped back. I was flung out of the car, through the closed door, and down the hall behind where Martin was carrying my body.

I could see Martin’s back getting closer by the second, and I dug in my incorporeal heels to try to slow my forward motion—I was certainly better off not in my body—but naturally I couldn’t get any traction. Stupid physical reality. I whirled through Martin and felt him shiver before I slammed into my body. Dammit!

When my spirit snapped into place, I gasped. Martin stopped walking for a moment before quickening his pace. “She’s waking up. Take Miriam’s body to the crematorium; I’ll put her in the lab.”

Shit. Shit. Shit. I kept my eyes closed and concentrated on keeping my breath deep and even.

Martin laid me down on some type of cot—or at least I assume it was a cot, because it wasn’t comfortable enough to be a bed. I heard running water then felt a cold compress on my forehead. Martin sat on the cot next to me and patted my hand.

“Hannah. Hannah, Darling,” he cooed. “Come on, Sweetheart, wake up.”

I desperately tried to figure out some way to pretend to stay asleep, but Martin started shaking my shoulders. I knew him; he wouldn’t stop trying to wake me until I was awake, so I gave up the charade, blinking open my eyes and saying a groggy, “Wha—?”

“Hannah, Darling, you’re awake. Thank goodness.” Martin’s relief was almost believable. In fact, it would have been completely believable had I not known what I now knew.

I asked what I assumed would be the next logical question. “What happened?”

“What is the last thing you remember, Sweetheart?”

The last thing I remember. I remember everything, you bastard. “Um . . . You had some kind of pill, or a bug or something? I think you threw it at me.”

Smooth, Hannah. Why did you say that?

Martin paled slightly, but recovered quickly. “No, Darling, I didn’t throw it at you. That was something I kept by the prayer wheel. I thought you would find it interesting. As a scientific matter.”

I knew I shouldn’t argue, but I couldn’t help it. “What do you mean? How did it end up in my hair if you didn’t throw it?”

Martin’s eyes hardened, but he kept his tone soothing. “Sweetheart. You’re imagining things. It was supposed to be inert, but it activated itself accidentally. Had I realized what would happen, I would have kept it inside a box for you to look at.”

My head ached. “Is it still in there?”

“Of course not! That’s why you’re here—I had it taken out.”

Maybe if I hadn’t overheard the conversation in the car, I might have believed him. But I did overhear the conversation, and he was a liar. Not to mention that his wife was dead, no doubt by his hand. I decided to switch tactics.

“Where is here?”

Martin relaxed visibly. “This is a lab owned by my employer. They’re the ones who invented that little pill you saw. I brought you here because they would best know how to remove it.”

As opposed to a hospital, I suppose. My headache got worse. What was that thing doing in there? I rubbed the front of my temple with my right hand.

Martin patted my hand again before standing and picking up a small syringe. Tapping it, he said, “I think you need some rest, Darling. This will help you relax.”

I thought briefly about making a run for it or screaming for help, but I decided either would be futile. Besides, maybe if he knocked me unconscious, I would leave my body again.

Martin smiled and stuck the needle in my arm.

~~~

I drifted for a while, enjoying the soft pillowy relaxation offered by the drug Martin had given me. I gradually started to regain consciousness. I opened my eyes, but I didn’t see anything other than the back of my eyelids. I sat up abruptly.

Yes! My body was still lying there, asleep, but I was up and around. Excellent. I stood and looked back at myself. Truthfully, I looked a bit more peaked than I had in the car ride over. Not a good sign.

I drifted over to inspect the lab in which I had been placed. It was a fairly large room, with several large tables set in the center and state-of-the-art equipment, complete with computer. The entire thing gleamed. Professor Tate would go nuts for it. My non-substantive hands itched to get ahold of some of that equipment. But that wasn’t why I was here; I needed to figure out what was going on and how to extricate myself from whatever it was.

The entire lab was neat and tidy—not a single note or stray clue for a wayward spirit to find. The file drawers may have been locked, but I wouldn’t have been able to open them anyway. Unless . . . I stuck my head through one of the cabinet drawers. Sure enough, I could see the files stored there. But it was so dark that I couldn’t read them. Rats.

I heard a click in the outside door and quickly pulled my head out of the drawer. Martin and another man in a white lab coat entered the room with some surgical equipment, the cloaked man from the car tight on their heels. Seriously, he was still wearing a cloak. I wondered if he LARPed.

Lab Coat Man and Martin rolled my body over so that it was face-down. I drifted closer to get a better view. Lab Coat Man put on some surgical gloves and selected a scalpel.

“Now tell me again what possessed you to use our prototype on this girl?” Cloak Man said.

“I had to act quickly, and it was the only thing I had that wouldn’t call attention.” Martin managed to sound both offended and deferential at the same time.

“Well, you had best hope Dr. Crayton is able to get it out of her. I would hate to have to tell my boss that it was lost.”

Lab Coat Man—who I assume must be Dr. Crayton—pushed my hair up and swabbed an area on the back of my neck with alcohol and iodine. He then took the scalpel and began to cut.

Holy crap! This man was cutting me open. I halfway expected myself to swoon—after all, normally I’m a big sissy when it comes to blood, especially my own. I guess the good thing about being incorporeal is that I can’t have a vagal reaction. I moved closer as if my proximity would somehow make him a better surgeon.

“At least we know it works,” Martin said defensively. “We didn’t know that until now.”

“That information will not help us at all if we can’t get it out. With your wife dead, there will be no way to recreate the device without the prototype. Killing her was quite shortsighted.”

“For Christ’s sake, Bain, that was an accident,” Martin practically yelled. “I told you that. Besides, in the worst case, we still have her lab notes and materials.”

The doctor set down the scalpel and pulled out some small tweezer-like tongs. He began to dig into the back of my skull. I became concerned that he would do some serious damage to my brain stem—after all, that thing had dug in pretty deep.

Bain started pacing impatiently, his cloak flapping behind him. “How long will this take?”

“Almost there,” Dr. Crayton answered. Then he pulled out a goopy-looking lump that I assumed must be the bug that attacked me. “Victory.” Dr. Crayton dropped it into the metal pan that sat on his surgical table before picking up a needle and stitching me up.

“She’ll need to rest for a couple of days,” Dr. Crayton said. “And she will likely have a headache when she wakes up.” He collected his surgical items, leaving the tray with the bug, and left the room.

Martin, Bain, and I all moved closer to the device. I was bolder than the other two, for one because I had already experienced what the bug did, and two because, well, good luck burying yourself into a ghost, you little monster.

Martin gingerly poked it with the end of a pencil before breathing a sigh of relief. “I think it’s spent.”

It’s not spent, I thought. It’s waiting. I could see the silver and brown colors swirling underneath the blood that coated its surface. Martin scooped it into a plastic baggie and set it on the laboratory table.

Bain leaned down to take a closer look at my body. “The doctor said she would have a headache when she woke up. You’d better have an explanation ready for that and for the the new cut on the back of her head.”

“Would you relax? I have it covered.”

“And as soon as she is up and around, you need to put her to work finalizing the device. Now that we know it will embed itself in the correct part of the brain without killing the host, we need to ensure that it will reanimate on command.”

The puzzle pieces clicked into place. Martin and his wife had been working with these people—whoever they are—on a weapon of sorts, a device that would embed itself into the enemy’s head, killing the opponent or, at least, rendering them insentient.

Professor Tate and I had been working on ways to reanimate the dead. Standing as I was outside my body, I could see clearly how the whole thing would work. The bug would render the person unconscious, and then the bug’s owner would be able to reanimate and control the body—sort of like a living zombie. To what end, I couldn’t say, but it was a titillating concept, especially since I knew what they did not—whatever that bug did caused the spirit to leave the body, allowing the host to watch what went on and, when the host woke up, the host—and not the bug’s owner—was back in control.

I wish Martin had just trusted Professor Tate and me with what he wanted to accomplish; we certainly could have helped. Too late now, I guess.

Martin pulled out another syringe and stuck it into my arm.

“Now what?” Bain asked irritably.

“Pain medication. I want to be sure she doesn’t hurt too much when she wakes up. Buy us some time before she asks too many questions.” Martin flipped me over onto my back, and my limp arms flopped about. It occurred to me that now that the bug was out of my body, I probably wouldn’t be able to leave again once I woke up. I decided to try to stay out for as long as I could.

Martin and Bain left the room, and I moved to follow. As soon as I neared the door, I felt a slight tugging in my solar plexus. I took one more experimental step, and the tug got stronger.  I started to slide backward. No, no no! I was not ready to go back into my body. I ran a few steps back toward where my body lay—thinking that if I got ahead of the tug, I could stay disembodied. My theory worked, and the tugging stopped.

Drat. I was trapped in this lab.

A few minutes later, Martin came back into the room. He was wearing a white lab coat and was accompanied by some kind of technician, if the clipboard and pocket protector were any indication. Martin readied another syringe. Tapping it, he approached my body.

“Time to get up, Sweetheart.”

Oh no! I didn’t want to wake up yet. I wanted to explore the lab, continue to spy, and figure out a plan for getting out of here. Maybe the stuff in that syringe wouldn’t work.

No such luck. Martin had no sooner pushed the plunger down on the syringe then I got sucked back into my body, awakening with a gasp. Martin was ready on the draw, patting my arm gently and cooing, “There, there. It’s alright.”

Once he was sure I was fully awake, Martin said, “Let’s see if you can sit up.” He put one arm under my head and lifted me into a sitting position.

The doctor said I should rest a couple of days, jerk. But I found that I could sit with relatively little difficulty, although when he drew me to my feet I became immediately dizzy. Martin nonetheless guided me over to the counter where the bug lay and parked me on one of the stools.

“Now, Darling,” he said. “I need you to help me with a little problem. I want you to analyze this device and these papers.” He set down a stack of scientific papers. “And tell me how to replicate it.”

Several responses flitted through my head from “hell no” to “go ‘F’ yourself,” but I decided none of those would be wise. Martin apparently took my hesitation for what it was, because he roughly grabbed my arm and pulled me toward him.

“Hannah. Darling. I want you to look at this device, review these papers, and see how you can replicate it. Now.”

“No.”

Martin looked as though his head might explode. “No? No? That is not the right answer.” Martin pulled a revolver out of a shoulder holster and set it on the table next to me. Keeping his hand on the gun, he said, “I asked you nicely, and now I will rephrase. You will do as I’ve asked, or there will be consequences.”

I can’t believe I slept with this guy.

I pulled the papers closer to me and started to read. Martin hovered over my right shoulder.

“Would you quit it?” I snapped. “I can’t concentrate with you hovering like that.”

Martin narrowed his eyes at me before nodding to the technician. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” He stalked out of the lab. The door clicked shut and the lock engaged.

The technician sat on a stool in the corner and started to read the newspaper. Left to my own devices, I considered my options. The lab had no windows and only the one door, so busting out would prove difficult. Not to mention that the guy I assumed was a tech was still in the room. I wondered if he was armed. Speaking of armed, Martin had killed once and likely would again, but he couldn’t afford to kill me now. Not so long as he needed me to learn how to replicate this thing—not so long as the information on how to replicate it was in my brain.

I pulled the scientific documents to me and got to work. As promised, Martin came by two hours later and brought me lunch. I barely acknowledged him. It is so rare in life that one’s intellectual interests and self-interest lined up so perfectly, and I was completely enthralled by what I was reading.

Later that evening, Martin returned with Bain.

“Hannah, Darling, I would like you to meet my associate, Winston Bain,” Martin said formally.

I gave Bain my coldest look. I didn’t want him to think I was intimidated by him in any way—even if I did find his half-burned face creepily disturbing. “Nice to meet you.”

Bain looked amused by my attempt at nonchalance. “Have you made progress?” he asked.

“Progress?” I rolled my eyes. “There is a lot here, and I am reading through it. I will need at least until tomorrow and maybe longer to replicate this thing, whatever it is. You know, it would be helpful if you could give me a little more information.”

Martin started to speak, but Bain cut him off. “What exactly would you care to know?”

“What is it?

“Ah.” Bain smiled, which only served to make him look more creepy. “Well that I can’t tell you other than to say it is a hybrid bio-mechanical.”

“A hybrid bio-mechanical weapon, you mean.” Jeez, Hannah. Shut your mouth. Sometimes I can be such a dolt.

Bain cocked his head sideways. “Now why would you assume that?”

Martin put his clammy hand on my arm. “I think you should just finish what you’re doing, Hannah, so we can all go home.”

God, I think I hate him. I looked at Bain. “Mr. Bain—”

“Just call me Bain.”

I cleared my throat. “Bain. I understand that you need this device, and I understand that you need me to fix it for you. Why do you need Martin?”

The technician in the corner looked up from his paper, surprised. His eyes cut to Bain.

Martin made a choked noise beside me. “Now, Darling, what a ridiculous question. Bain and I are business partners. Of course we need one another.” His grip on my arm became viselike.

Bain gave me another of his creepy smiles. “Interesting question, my dear. I shall have to consider it. In the meantime, Martin, let us leave her to her work.”

Martin’s withering glare was somewhat diminished by the sheen of sweat on his forehead. He leaned in close and whispered in my ear, “I don’t know what game you are about, Hannah, but don’t cross me. You will regret it.”

Martin turned on his heel and followed Bain out of the lab.

I turned back to the laboratory books, a small smile playing on my lips. They had bought it, hook, line, and sinker. I didn’t need more time to digest the contents of the lab notes—I had already done that—I needed time to work on the bug itself. I carefully removed the bug from the plastic bag and took it to the sink where I rinsed it clean of blood.

I then brought it back to the gleaming laboratory table, placed it on a small tray, and got to work.

When Bain and Martin returned three hours later, the bug was sitting on the tray, looking for all the world as if it had just been created.

Martin peered at it. “Now that looks like progress. I guess you just needed the correct motivation.”

“Careful,” I warned. “It’s active.”

Martin took a large step back. “Then I guess we are done with you.” He pulled out the gun and pointed it at me. Then he nodded at the technician in the corner, who also stood and took out a gun.

Adrenaline coursed through me, and I jumped off the stool.  “Hey! You said if I helped you I could go home.”

Martin nodded. “Yes, Sweetheart, but I lied.”

My heart was beating so heard I could hear it, and my blood rushed in my ears. Martin raised the gun and pointed it at me. As his finger moved to the trigger, I flipped the dish off the counter and flicked the bug directly into Martin’s face. It hit him in the third eye—right between his eyebrows—and buried deep. Martin crashed to the floor unconscious, the gun skittering away from his limp hand.

The technician stood there stunned for a moment before remembering that he was supposed to shoot me, but it was too late. Riding high on the adrenaline rush, I pulled a second bug out of my pocket and flung it at him before he could bring his gun around.

Out of bugs—I only had time to make two—I turned to face Bain. He stood there, his hands hanging relaxed at his sides, an amused look on his face.

“Well,” he said, “that was unexpected.”

“You were going to let them shoot me!”

“Actually, no. I would have intervened. Joe over here—” Bain gestured vaguely at the unconscious technician—“was supposed to shoot Martin, not you.”

The adrenaline rush was starting to fade, leaving in its wake a deep sense of anger. “Seriously? I mean, seriously? He pointed his gun at me. At me. Not Martin, me.”

“Yes, well, that was to throw Martin off his stride.” Bain moved to a nearby stool. “May I?”

“Sure. Knock yourself out.” Why hadn’t I made three of those accursed things?

Bain sat on the stool and pulled the lab books over to him. He perused them for a moment before saying, “Professor Tate has done well with his grant.”

This man knows Professor Tate? Now I was truly perplexed. “What grant?”

“The grant provided by my employer to hire a research assistant. He did well when he selected you.”

It was my turn to sit on a stool—my legs wouldn’t hold me up. “Your employer . . . and who would that be, exactly?”

Bain smiled his creepy smile. “Latrodectus Industries. I doubt you’ve heard of it.”

No, no I hadn’t. I think I would have recalled a company named after a black widow spider. I affected nonchalance. “Can’t say that I have.”

“Martin’s wife was in our employ, as was Martin. Professor Tate, however, adhered to his academic standards and selected you rather than our pick for the position.” Bain pierced me with his gaze. “It seems he was right, and we were wrong.”

They were wrong, and Professor Tate was right—these people knew who I was and had watched my career. My mind started to fantasize about the science I could do in this lab, with this equipment and no moral constraints. When working on the bug, I had already started the roadmap for improving its function, and I would have loved to integrate some of Professor Tate’s research into what this company was doing. Of course, in all likelihood none of that would be possible; they probably saw me as a loose end.

Martin stirred at my feet. I jumped off the stool and stomped him in the head.

I decided to go on the offensive. “Ok. So Professor Tate picked me, and you think that’s grand, but Martin here is going to kill me as soon as he wakes.”

“You control him now, don’t you?”

“No, I don’t. His spirit is floating around here somewhere, listening to us, and when Martin wakes, he will once again be in possession of his faculties.”

Bain frowned. “Well, then, I will have to get rid of him. We will have to find a way to rectify that flaw in the bug.”

I suppose I should have felt badly that Bain was going to kill Martin, but really I was relieved—not that I would make it out of this mess alive. And I so wanted to be the one to “rectify the flaw.”

I looked at Bain, my heart beating hard. “So, what happens to me now?”

“You?” Bain smiled again. “I’d like to offer you a job.”

 

– The End –

2 Comments

  1. Intriguing story! I enjoyed it.

  2. Love the story, i hope it was longer.

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