Lemniscate

“Are you sure?” Remiel asked.

The old woman before him nodded.

“Place your hand here,” he continued. She followed his order and placed her hand on the smooth tablet he held before her. Then he ushered her to the door behind him. The door closed with a thud that echoed through the great room. It was all white. Even the lone table and two chairs. There were no windows or lights. The whiteness of the walls, floor, and ceiling seemed to reflect each other in a way that illuminated every inch of every surface. No shadows existed anywhere.

He sat down to find another dossier had replaced the last. He rested the tablet on the table then picked up the file and flicked through its contents reviewing the information inside. The information that would allow him to pass judgement on his next guest.

When he was satisfied he had seen enough to make an accurate decision, he dropped the dossier onto the table and rose. The human named Francis Nguyen arrived through the door in front of him. A hint of confusion was visible on the small man’s face as he strode across the large room. Each footfall echoed within the chamber and Remiel made an adjustment that softened the noise. Then, as he approached Mr. Nguyen, he reduced his own size to be identical to his guests by shrinking a few inches and thinning himself.

“Mr. Nguyen,” Remiel greeted his guest and showed him to the lone table. Mr. Nguyen bowed graciously before taking his seat. Remiel took his own seat before formally beginning the conversation. Mr. Nguyen had been composed so far, which was an excellent sign.

“Do you know where you are Francis?”

“I do,” Mr. Nguyen said, briefly taking in more of the modest room. “It is good to see you again, Mr. Remiel, though I do not seem to recall the last or first time we met.”

Remiel smiled. “That is to be expected. I am familiar because we have met on multiple occasions.” Remiel himself did not know this until a moment ago when he reviewed the dossier and regained his memories of the previous Francis Nguyen, who had been called Lindsay Williamson. She had been eighty-two years old, whereas Francis was thirty-eight.

“Can you remind me why I am here?” Mr. Nguyen asked.

“Your time has ended, for now, in the land of the living.”

“Ah, I see, and I am here for my final judgement.”

“Not yet, Mr. Nguyen. You have lived just over two hundred years across five lives. You have a few more to experience before the final judgement is given.”

“I will go back then?”

“Not as you are currently.”

Mr. Nguyen’s eyes narrowed and he turned his head ever so slightly.

“What do you remember of your previous lives?” Remiel asked.

“Nothing.”

“That is because you cannot take your memories with you. You must start again. A clean slate. No prior experiences and under new circumstances. You have done this several times already. Only when you have lived your three hundred and thirty-three years will you be ready to receive your final judgment.”

Mr. Nguyen nodded. “Yes, I’m beginning to remember, but please forgive me. Why so many years?”

“One life is too short to accurately pass judgement on a soul. Multiple lives are required to collect the necessary information to make a proper assessment.”

“Then I have no choice to accept?”

“There is always a choice.” Remiel picked up the tablet and rose from his chair. Mr. Nguyen stood as well. They walked a few paces before Remiel turned to face Mr. Nguyen and present the tablet.

“When you place your hand on this, it will absorb all of your memories. Then you will pass through the door behind me to begin your next life. The choice you have in this moment is where you will be born and how long your life will last. You cannot choose who your parents will be or how you will be born or any aspect of how your life will be beyond where it will begin and time it will take. You will have no control over how your life will end and no memory of the length you had chosen. You will be born into the world you just left. Nothing will have changed. You currently have 129 years to live before we meet for the last time. Knowing this, make your choice.”

Then, as if from a particle of dust in the spotless room, a miniature earth grew into existence above the tablet until its surface could be seen in detail. Mr. Nguyen examined the moon slowly circling the planet and was tempted to pluck it out of orbit and look at it closer, but he quickly returned his gaze to the world before him. He remembered everything he could about what the world was like. After a few moments he made his decision. Niue. A small island in the Pacific Ocean. He loved the water and hoped to have a simple, yet enjoyable life there.

“Seventy-two years.”

“Are you sure?” Remiel asked.

Mr. Nguyen nodded.

“Place your hand here,” Remiel continued.

Mr. Nguyen followed the instructions and placed his hand on the tablet. Every memory withing him transferred to the tablet. As did Remiel’s memories, through his own hand placed on the underside of the tablet, until both of their collective memories had been extracted.

When Mr. Nguyen removed his hand. Remiel looked up at him and smiled. Then he guided his guest to the door behind him and ushered him through. The door closed and Remiel returned to the table and placed the tablet on its surface. All memories of his previous guest were gone. A new dossier was sitting on the table. He sat down and flicked through the pages absorbing the memories of his next guest. Remembering each time they met and the lives this one had lived. Once he felt prepared, he placed the information back on table and rose to greet his new visitor as she walked through the door.

Against the Current

Garreth picked up the metal pipe that had fallen from his overloaded leather bag and kept going. He was late with his meeting before the Thinkers. He hoped that he would be able to join their ranks should they accept his invention. It had been a dream of his since he was a boy. To be a Thinker meant he would be given access to all resources to improve the city. He could travel to nearby cities as well and be given the same treatment.

He stumbled through the door to the massive Citadel in the center of the city. It was the largest building ever made, and it consisted of an amalgam of precious metals, solid stones, mixtures that dried harder than even marble, and other mysterious substances that held the structure together in certain areas. Many of which had been lost to time. Garreth believed some of the formulas still lay within the vaults of the structure. Locked up where only a Thinker could gain access.

His mind wandered at the thought of all the knowledge stored beneath his feet. His absent stride echoed through empty halls. A figure burst forth from a room further down corridor and his attention returned to the present. He eyed the figure as he approached and realized it was woman. She had stopped in the middle of walkway with her head held low as the door slowly closed behind her. Before he was close enough to ask her a question, she huffed and threw the object in her hands against the stone wall and stormed off. Garreth remained silent as she raged by. She gave him no mind at all while he observed how her black hair fluttered about her face as she took forceful steps. He even caught the soft green scattered within her otherwise brown iris.

He watched her exit. A sudden sadness came over him. One that made him wish he had spoken to her, but the thought was fleeting. He had come to join the Thinkers and that decision was soon to be made. He approached the door she had left behind. He reached for the handle and was stopped by the sight before him. The object she had thrown. It looked like fabric stretched taught between wooden rods. He found he could only guess as to the purpose of it.

Muffled voices penetrated the large wooden door. Garreth had cracked it open without noticing. Through the slit he heard the Thinkers arguing about the woman.

“The device could be useful,” a high-pitch voice said.

“It doesn’t matter how useful it is,” a deep voice boomed, “no woman will ever be a Thinker. It’s unheard of. No text has ever hinted at such a thing being the case and there must be a reason for it. We must maintain the integrity of our forebears.”

The murmuring of small conversation ensued until a composed voice rose above it. “Perhaps we should investigate the nature of Howell’s argument. If research should show even one idea within the archives was founded by a woman, we will admit Cassandra within our ranks.”

“But even then…” the deep voice sounded, then trailed away.

“You may come in now,” the composed voice called out.

Garreth knew he was the recipient of the command and entered the hall. It was a large atrium filled only with a tall, semi-circle dais and a small platform of stone one foot from the ground. Garreth came forward and stepped onto the platform. He looked up at the Thinkers, all wearing the robes of their rank, and they looked down upon him.

“You wish to become a Thinker?” The composed voice said. It came from the man seated directly in front of him. He was older and wore the signature medallion on his left breast signifying him as the Primary. The head of all Thinkers.

“I do,” Garreth managed.

“Come, show us what you have there,” the Primary requested.

Garreth pulled the pipes from his bag and began assembling them. He began his presentation as he fitted the first few together.

“This model will show you how I believe it is possible to harness the river north to provide water throughout the city.”

“Harness the river? How?” The deep voice called. Garreth noted the man immediately. He was toward his right. A larger man with a mustache which still contains remnants of the man’s breakfast.

“Here,” Garreth said, pointing to the open pipe at the top of his contraption, “is where it begins. We build this structure at the beginning of the waterfall north of the city. The water flows into the pipe where is can be diverted to various spots around the city.” He pointed to several points along his matrix. “Where the water can be stored in containers for regular use.”

“The river would be fully diverted? This would prevent water from reaching the irrigation channels further south.” It was the higher pitched voice. Garreth registered the man. Young, thin frame with large eyes. A genial look on his face that Garreth believed to be both an eagerness to learn despite a deep well of knowledge.

“The water,” he lifted a jug and poured it slowly into the open pipe at the top of his contraption, “would be diverted through the city, past the collection points, and guided back to the riverbed before it reaches the channels, therefore it would not disrupt the food supplies.” The water exited the web of pipes into the collection pan he had set at the base.

“Impressive,” the high-pitch voice said.

“What would this structure consist of?” the mustachioed man asked.

“Marble.”

“Why?” the Primary followed.

“To prevent contamination. The water would be river water, but if the materials were metal or a baser stone, then we would risk particles being released into the water that could be harmful even when boiled.”

“You’ve tested materials?”

“Yes. Marble proves the best suited for this project.”

“It would take years to complete such an undertaking.” This came from the fat mustache.

“Perhaps too long,” the Primary said.

“No longer than it took to build the bath houses,” Garreth said. He meant it as fact only but could see from the look of the bigger man that offense was taken.

“You know the intricacies of masonry?” the deep voice boomed.

“Not all.”

“Then do not falsely claim to know deeply of things you have only seen in passing.”

“I made no such claim.”

The bigger man rose from his seat on the dais to grow a few feet more above Garreth.

“You dare to-”

“Calm yourself Baron,” the Primary called, “You do not act your station at the moment.”

The mustache rumbled as Baron let out a huff at the Primary’s words and returned to his seat.

“Garreth, is it?” The Primary asked.

“Yes sir.”

“You have brought an interesting proposal before us. We thank you for this. We shall deliberate upon it and make our decision momentarily. We ask that you wait outside the Citadel for our response.”

Garreth thanked each of them and gathered his contraption. He wandered outside before stopping to properly dismantle the remainder of his model. He slipped a pipe into the bag. The clink of metal on metal was followed by a woman’s voice.

“You want to become one of those idiots?”

Garreth turned to see the girl from earlier. Her cheeks slightly flushed from recent tears. The name he overheard flashed across his mind. Cassandra.

“To become a Thinker is great honor. There is much to learn in the Citadel.” He looked up at the large doors he had just left. Cassandra followed his gaze.

“You are right. Too bad it’s all a farce.”

“How do you mean?” He asked it despite knowing she was telling a truth she did not fully understand.

“They are all old men. Too tied up in traditions to live up to the reputations created by those before them. I’d say the Citadel lost its ingenuity a few centuries ago.” She sighed.

“What was it?” Garreth asked impulsively.

“What was what?”

“The thing you left behind.”

“Ha,” she huffed, “It was a device that would let us harness the wind. Turn it into a mechanical force.”

“Really?” He stepped closer to her eager to hear more about it.

“Doesn’t matter now,” she said, “It’s impossible to build anything new without the Thinkers money. It wasn’t even hard to build.”

“Could you show me?”

She stared at him. Slowly the suspicion faded from her eyes as she realized he still held the spark of curiosity. She picked up a piece of straw from the street and began drawing in a patch of dirt at the base of the Citadel wall. She explained the intricacies simply and Garreth found himself inspired. He couldn’t fathom how she hadn’t been granted the robes of a Thinker. Then he remembered the discussion he overheard before his own presentation.

“This is fascinating.” He meant it, and she must have accepted his words honestly because she smiled. “As you said, this wouldn’t be hard to construct. Have you considered building it yourself?”

“Even if I had the money, only Thinkers get permits in the city.”

“What if you built it outside the city?”

She looked at him as if he had asked her to build it beyond the stars. The doors opened behind them and a courier presented Garreth with scroll. The Thinkers seal was pressed into the wax. Inside would be their decision. He held in his hand the answer to his future.

“Have fun being a Thinker,” Cassandra said as she got up. She smiled at him and walked away.

He watched her walking away, then turned his attention to the scroll, then down to the drawing in the dirt. He shoved the scroll into his pack without breaking the seal and ran after her.

“Wait,” he called as he caught up to her.

“What? You want to gloat?”

“I know of a town about a day to the east that could really benefit from your idea.”

A dubious look filled her features.

“I’m serious. You could really improve their lives out there. Isn’t that why you wanted to be a Thinker? To help others?”

“Don’t you have business in the Citadel?”

He shrugged. “It can wait. I’d hate to see your idea lost. It’s a Thinker’s responsibility to preserve ideas. To help those with the spark flourish.”

“You think I have the spark?” she asked with an incredulous tone.

“I know you do, and I know this world can’t afford to lose it.” He smiled in an attempt to convince her.

A moment passed before her own smile spread across her cheeks. “Where is this town?”

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). With Disney’s animated movie based on this book, released in 1951, and their two live-action versions of based on this book and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, I think nearly everyone knows of this story. However, I think the number of people who have read the book would be surprisingly low, which is why I’m recommending it. Have you read this book?

It is an easy read. You can usually find a version that includes both Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass in one volume (as I did). The first book was published roughly 150 years ago and was influenced by an actual girl named Alice. I’m much less certain about the origins of other beloved characters such as the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter.

I believe so few actually read the story nowadays because there are so many versions out there (mostly movies). Several books have been based on the original Alice stories as well. I have yet to read them, but I know about two “retelling”s of the story itself that take the story in a drastically different narrative. One I believe is actually quite dark. (Side note: A quick Google search produced at least 83 modern versions of this story which is insane, but it is popular for many reasons.)

My reason for recommending the original story is twofold. It is a good story and it’s always good to read the original content, and it is a glimpse into history. Sure, this book probably seemed insane when it came out 150 years ago (I mean, they did have drugs back them too), but Queen Victoria like it! They didn’t have nearly as many forms of entertainment back then that we do now, and it was definitely not as accessible, but this fun little story has persisted through the years to entertain us. I hope it will entertain you as well.

Because it came out that long ago, and Mr. Carroll/Dodgson is long gone, I can provide a free copy of both books to you without an ounce of worry. Feel free to jump right in.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Happy Reading.

The Worth of One Life

She tightened the restraints and checked them three times. The man struggled futilely as she stood and looked at him, bound to the straight-back wooden chair. A wad of cloth muffled any words he attempted to shout at her. Haley once thought she was incapable of murder, of snuffing out the life of any creature, but she found it grew easier with each sacrifice.

She pulled the wad of cloth from the man’s mouth and began unraveling it.

“Let me go you stupid bitch,” he screamed. The building was empty. She made sure of that so no one would hear him scream. She chuckled at him.

“Why would I do that?” she asked. “You can’t say you don’t deserve this.” She took the length of cloth and wrapped it from his chin to the top of his head. She dug a wooden cylinder out of her bag. It was intricately carved. A knob carved with the likeness of a face protruded half-way down the cylinder. She placed the knob in the man’s mouth to once again stifle his words, then she tightened the cloth until he could no longer move his jaw.

“I would say I’m sorry about this,” she said, “but to be honest, I’m not. The world is better off without trash like you.” She pulled out a knife and shoved it into the man’s chest. She stared into his eyes as he glared at her first with hatred, then pain, then fear. Blood dripped to the floor, but she continued to stare until the light faded from his eyes. The cylinder rattled as he died.

She wiped the blood from her blade, cut the cloth, and withdrew the soul-catcher from the man’s mouth. Counting tonight, it had rattled 98 times. One more and I can finally bring him back, she thought.

She grabbed the canister of gasoline and doused the body then sprinkled the room. She pulled out her lighter, lit a cigarette, and inhaled deeply. Danny was the reason she quit, and she promised to quit again when she had him back, but she could not fight the overwhelming need to have one after each of her kills. They were all terrible people. That was the only way she could convince herself to even do it. She would only collect the souls of those who shouldn’t have to wait to go to hell.

Haley looked at the body in front of him. She’d already forgotten his name. She found him through the sex offender registry. He had received a light sentence for a heinous act, and she took it upon herself to remedy that fact because it would serve her purpose and relieve the world of a terrible person. Before her crusade, she would have simply been saddened and sick upon hearing what he had done. Now she had strength.

She took one more draw and exhaled. A flick of her finger sent the glow of the cigarette tumbling through the air. The room ignited upon its landing and Haley watched from the doorway as the flames engulfed the room. Then she left for home. The knife and soul-catcher safely secure in her coat pockets.

The next day she perused the local paper for news of any recent crimes. She was really looking for suspected persons she could use as her last sacrifice. She was so near the end she felt impatient, but knew she had to be careful. Her exploits were not going unnoticed.

One article mentioned her nightly activities as a cleansing fire across the city. She smiled at the phrase, but could not shrug the fear that her victims have been tied together. The police were surely investigating the killings. They could potentially have leads. She hadn’t seen anything, but they may purposely be keeping the search quiet. She had to be careful. It would all be worthless if she were incarcerated before she could finish. It would be almost be worse if she were caught after she succeeded.

She scanned the paper until she found a lead. A man had been accused of several hate crimes over the course of the last few years, but he had never served second for the damage or fear he caused his neighbors. He even fired gunshots at their house. They moved after he was released a third time without any consequence. He would be her last sacrifice. Her impatience won out. After tonight, she would set this all behind her and live the life she was meant to have.


The soul-catcher rattled. Before she could remove it from the dead man’s mouth, the spirit within it emerged. A darkness hovered behind the body. The spirit’s form was darker than the shadow cast in the moonlight. Green flames emerged as eyes set into a pale-white skull.

“You are but one of few to have accomplished this task,” it spoke. The raspy voice echoes around the room as if it did not belong to the form in front of her.

“Give him to me,” she said.

“Ah, but you have not yet finished what you have started,” the voice circled her.

“What do you mean?”

“What is the worth of one soul?”

“You said yourself ninety-nine souls could be traded to bring one back from the dead.”

“I did, but collecting ninety-nine souls was merely the beginning. The final requirement now falls before you. The worth of one soul is not quantifiable by numbers. A sacrifice is required by those who would reverse death.”

“What are you saying?” Haley could feel tears welling in her eyes. All of that work. All of those people. The things she had done. She could not believe it was all for nothing.

“One more soul is required to bring your son back. The soul that has tied his to this world. Yours.” The black shroud moved and lifted the soul-catcher from the dead man’s mouth. The knife floated from the man’s chest. Both items were brought before her. A green flame swallowed both items. The blood from the blade evaporated within the flame.

“Do what must be done,” the voice echoed.

Haley grabbed the soul-catcher. The green flames died away at her touch. She slowly inserted the knob of the cylinder into her mouth. She gripped the handle of the blade and held it above her chest. Tears danced across her cheeks.

The soul-catcher bounced against the concrete floor. The blade soon followed. Haley fell to her knees. “How can I be certain you can bring him back,” she called.

A laugh grew louder around the room. “What do you think I have been doing while you toiled away in this…..mortal plane?” The shadow beneath the skull pulled back to reveal an incorporeal image of her son.

“Danny,” she yelled.

“He does not have the ability to hear you in this form. Complete the task and he will take your place in this world.”

The blade and soul-catcher once again were encased in green flame. She picked them up and readied herself. The image of her son gave her the resolve to finish what she had started.

A rattle sounded in the room followed by hollow laughter on the wind. Outside, the cries of a child filled the air.

Phase 3

Madie’s heart jolted but she remained still, frozen in the bare metal chair next to the man in the bed. The man she had brought back from death.

“Your name is not Adam Robert Monteller?” she asked.

He closed his eyes and rest his head on the pillow. “I can’t remember,” he said, “but I don’t think so. How did I get here? What happened?”

“You were in a car accident. Do you remember anything prior waking up here?” For some reason she felt the need to be careful with her words. She technically had not lied to him and decided she would try her best not to.

“Nothing.” He opened his eyes and stared into hers. She lost herself in the blue depths of those eyes, then caught herself and readjusted in her seat.

“You were found dead at the scene, but with emergency surgery we were able to bring you back. You may have suffered some neurological damage during the time your brain wasn’t receiving oxygen. We will be monitoring you during your recovery, but we believe you will regain your memories in time. If you need anything, just press this button,” she handed him the button connected to the side of the bed. It was programmed to a pager she would now keep on her at all times. Not that she planned on straying too far from her work.

“Get some rest. I’ll be by to check on you soon.” She left the makeshift clean room and went upstairs. A burning desire to shoot the coroner from whom she’d bought the body filled her entirely and she bit the meat of her thumb to keep from screaming. It wasn’t as if she could return the dumbass and demand further information. She’d risked enough just getting the body.

What she needed was time to think. She grabbed her keys and carefully locked the two deadbolts before walking to the corner coffee shop.


It didn’t matter if the man she reanimated was Adam Robert Monteller or not. The file she was given didn’t provide anything but a basis on which to judge if the final solution was needed. What really mattered was that she had successfully brought him back. He had been dead, and she had brought him back.

This was a success in its own right. Even if Adam, or whoever he was, wouldn’t survive beyond the week, her researched proved fruitful. She could replicate it if needed. If the file was wrong and this man had relatives who expected to see a body, then she would pack up what she could and destroy any evidence of her work.

She finished her coffee, paid, and left. The pager buzzed and she checked it. He was needing something and she had been gone long enough. She’d made up her mind after she first questioned him.

She bought a paper before returning to the house. A missing dead man would make the news and she would prefer to know if the authorities were searching for him, or if the coroner confessed to his dealings.


Madie entered the clean room and began checking the man’s vitals.

“I thought a nurse would come by and do that for you,” he said as she moved to check the readout of the EEG machine.

“Sorry for the delay, I was with another patient. What did you need?”

“I was wasn’t sure if I would need a new one of those.” He pointed toward the IV bag.

“You won’t,” she said, “now that you can eat and drink on your own.” She removed the needle from his arm and bandaged it.

“Oh, I guess that makes sense.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“I feel sore, all over, but it’s not terribly painful.”

“The surgery you went through was extremely invasive and taxing on your body. You will be in a lot of pain if we don’t maintain your medication.” She handed him two morphine tablets and a glass of water. He took them without question and handed the empty glass back to her. She opened the refrigerated drawer and withdrew the final solution. The dark red-purple contents could have been mistaken for blood. She pushed the solution into the port of the dialysis machine.

The man soon lost consciousness. She unhooked him from the dialysis machine. The last thing she needed was for her synaptic repair solution to be filtered out before it could work. If he truly wasn’t who she thought he was, she would need to know sooner than later.


He stirred awake and the restraints pulled taught. He looked at them, then up at Madie sitting in the chair at the computer station.

“Hey,” he said quietly. She remained fixated at on the screen in front of her. “Hey,” he called louder. This time he caught her attention and she looked over. “Where am I?”

“Good morning,” she said despite the hour, “How are you feeling?”

“Not too bad…for a dead man.”

She raised her brow at that. “So you remember?” She wasn’t terribly surprised at this. An hour after he had fallen asleep, the EEG readout became sporadic and only returned to a steady, normal pace after about thirty minutes.

“Yeah. I guess I can’t complain about feeling anything at this point. What happened? Where am I?”

“First I need you to answer a few of my questions.” She grabbed a clipboard from the desk and rolled over next to the bed. “What’s your name?”

“Tim Waldrop.”

“Last thing you remember?”

“Driving down 59.”

“And after that?”

“Waking up here.”

“Profession?”

“Army Engineer. MVD.”

“Commanding Officer?”

“Sergeant Houston.”

“Last contact?”

“Where am I? I’ve answered enough without knowing what’s going on.”

“How you answer next will determine if you get to walk out of here. Last contact with your commanding officer?”

He looked at her sternly. His face slowly relaxed and he answered, “Four days ago. I was leaving the base when I wrecked.”

Madie pulled the gun from its holster at her lower back and pressed it against his temple. He struggled against his restraints.

“Why?” he asked.

She looked directly into his eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said and pulled the trigger.


Within minutes she had wiped the computer, packed what she could, and destroyed everything else before setting fire to the house. She was on the edge of town when two black SUVs skid to a halt in front of her. Teams of armed men surrounded her and tall man stepped out of the second vehicle.

“Madeline,” he said, “What’s the hurry?”

“Pierce,” she said curtly.

“General Pierce. No need for informality here. Though I can’t return the favor as you no longer are associated with this outfit.”

“How did you find me?”

“Simple really. A trail of missing cadavers is not uncommon unless you know what to look for. They’ve already quelled the fire in Necaise. Poor Waldrop would still be alive, or could be again with your help, if you hadn’t painted the walls with his brain.”

“Who’s Waldrop?”

Pierce smirked. “Come now, you wouldn’t have gone through such measures if you hadn’t been successful. It’s time you returned now that you have successfully performed the procedure.”

“I’m not going with you.” She pulled out her cell phone but one of the armed men quickly confiscated it.

“Madeline, you know you don’t have a choice in this matter. There’s no need to struggle. We already have a lab and a new patient waiting for you in Puerto Rico. We will be there in a few hours.”

General Pierce returned to the car. A gun prodded her toward the open door and she quietly followed the instruction and got in. The door shut and they were on their way.

“So what changed?”

“You. Actually. Once you went rogue, we followed your trail finding improvements along the way. You going off on your own actually proved exactly what was needed to convince the higher-ups that this project had legs. Of course, bringing you back in was the main contingent of the project moving forward.” He smiled at her. “You’ll have everything you ever wanted in Puerto Rico. A whole team. Any resource you want. They’ve gone all in, especially after I reported about what we found in the last hour.”

“Tell me. Was Waldrop a set up?”

“Nothing ever escapes you does it. Yes. Waldrop was planted. Not easy. Sergeant Houston didn’t know of course, but the incompetent coroner was paid and since removed.”

Madie sat in the back of the SUV, certain there was at least one if not two barrels pointed at her the entire way to the airport. Her mind was running scenarios. Weighing pros and cons. Determining whether to play along or plan her escape. An entire lab would be nice and would expedite the process. Resources were hard to acquire on her own, but she didn’t know what they planned to do with her solutions though she had an idea. It sat like mercury in her stomach. Heavy. Slowly killing her. If she stayed and finished her work through Pierce, she would have to abandon her humanity, and that was a cost she wasn’t sure she could pay.