The Towers' Syndrome – Chapter 10
Written by papayoya1 :: [Sunday, 25 March 2018 12:33] Last updated by :: [Monday, 26 March 2018 08:39]
Sienna is looking for answers.
To Sienna, the worst part of having decided that she would keep a low profile for a while was that she was not able to test herself. Her body was asking her to.
“Soon” she promised herself in front of the cracked mirror.
It was not time to indulge, though. It was time to gather information. And she knew where to start.
It took her a couple of seconds to start processing the images in the different TV news channels as she switched between them with the remote control.
The date and time in the bottom right corner let her know that she had been out for two and a half days. It matched with the smell of the Swiss guy’s corpse. Sienna did not know what to make out of that information. Was it a long time? If she considered that her body had fully recovered from a deadly wound, it did not sound that long. In absolute terms, two and a half days were a lot, though. They were time enough for many things to happen.
Sitting naked in the warm bed, Sienna soon noticed what was relevant: what she was not seeing.
There was no news about her. Her ego felt a bit offended for an instant before she realized that it played to her advantage. Certainly, a woman finishing dozens of cops in a matter of minutes with her bare hands would have been relevant enough to make the headlines for weeks, so the fact that she was not seeing or hearing any reference to her in any of the news networks could only mean one thing: the FBI, or whoever it was that was after her, wanted to keep things quiet.
Sienna imagined that it could not be an easy task. She had not been shy, and between the ones she had killed and the few ones that had survived, there had to be well over a hundred-people aware of her presence. This meant that whoever was after her was investing a massive amount of resources on keeping things quiet.
Sienna had no doubts that she was being hunted, though, only the hunt seemed not to be public. She had woken up alone in the same room where she had passed out, which meant that they had not found her yet. If she thought about it, Sienna had to admit that she had probably been very lucky. After all, she had not taken too many precautions when she had fled the spot where she had been shot first and when she had headed back to downtown later.
She did not know what would have happened if they had found her while she was asleep, but there was no point in thinking about that now. She had woken up, she had recovered her full power, and she had the upper hand now. They were hunting her. It was time for her to hunt them.
Sienna knew there was only one reason they had been able to stop her three days before: she had been caught by surprise. She would make sure this would never happen again.
It was obvious the FBI had been working while she had been in the middle of her second transformation. She had given them the means to. Her files, the meteorite, the tests she had programmed… she had left everything ready for them after she had had to flee Eclipse in a rush. And it was evident that someone had learned what to do with all that material.
Sienna had no doubts that the weapon that had been used against her had been a result of that work. And, what was worse, she could not rule out the possibility of the scientists that had picked her research up where she had left to find some new and creative way to hurt her.
It was frustrating to think that, especially once Sienna had thought herself invulnerable, but there was no point in denying the possibility. Her ignorance had already cost her too much.
The risk, of course, was not acceptable, so neutralizing it was her priority. Her new power gave her total freedom… once the threat was gone. So, Sienna had to find out who were those that were hunting her, she had to learn their plans and what they knew about the rock and her and then she needed to eliminate the menace. Once she did, the world would have no choice but to bend the knee. And she would be able to indulge in her new abilities.
It was time for Sienna to get to work. The increasing stench coming from the bathroom told her that she had some homework to attend to first. Looking at the tube from the door, Sienna twisted her lip while she observed the rotting body on it. She had to go, but she could not just leave the body in there, ready to be found. Right now, the fact that the FBI had no clue about her whereabouts was as much of an advantage as her power, and she was keen on keeping it.
The answer to the issue came quite naturally as Sienna’s eyes started glowing red. A second later some wisps of smoke started rising from the corpse. She had not realized that her mastery of the power was so developed until then, but welcomed the finding while she regulated the intensity of the energy projected through her eyes.
There were no proper beams. The energy was not even visible, as it was kept mostly in the infra-red. It was as effective as she needed. The temperature in the room started rising at a steep rate as the smoke gave way to what could only be described as embers. Soon, the smoldering flesh started turning into ashes. Sienna increased the intensity a bit, impatient to get done with the process. A few seconds later, the only evidence that there had been a full-grown man in the bathtub was a sizeable pile of gray dust on it. That and a room temperature that was way out of the comfort zone for a human being. Had there been any woman other than Sienna in there, she would have passed out long ago.
Sienna was happy about having taken care of the corpse problem, but now she had a new issue with the temperature. When an idea came to mind, she just shrugged.
“Why not?” she wondered aloud as she puckered her lips and started blowing as soft as she could. After all, she was not interested in unleashing a hurricane, but in something else.
Sienna focused on her exhalation and tried to modulate it, imitating an attempt to cool down soup or a hot coffee. This is what a normal person would have probably achieved. Sienna’s power was, of course, immensely larger than that of a normal person, so the results she obtained were several orders of magnitude above. She had to force herself to stop abruptly when she saw frost forming in the bathroom’s sink.
“Oh well,” she let out, both impressed and excited at having discovered what seemed to be a new ability.
Sienna smiled, letting her imagination wander through the multiple possibilities this new power could offer her. Once more, her ego demanded her to get out and test her limits. She was ready to deal with the impulse now, though. Now, she had a plan. And a purpose.
“Soon” she promised herself once more.
First, she had some findings to do.
“Time to get out,” she said. She then looked at the bathtub and said: “I might as well take a shower.”
The drain took more time than she had expected to swallow the ashes of what had been a two-hundred-pound man, making her impatient. In any case, half an hour later, Sienna was fresh and ready to go out. A last look at her reflection before leaving the room convinced her of making a stop at a mall. It was time for her to get some new clothes.
Fiona Black panted as they walked down the stairs to the morgue.
“Take it easy. It’s your first day out of hospital” Agent Smith said.
“I’m fine” Agent Black snapped back, letting him know that she did not fancy the type of conversation that revolved around her wellbeing.
They walked down the long aisle in silence, the clacking sound of Fiona’s heels being the only sound accompanying them.
The medical examiner was waiting for them, the corpse ready in the examination table. There was a brief exchange as everyone introduced to each other.
Fiona was soon by the body, bending to examine the crushed throat. It was like nothing she had seen before her first visit at Eclipse, less than a month ago.
“Three days” she muttered, repeating out loud the time it had taken the Silverport Police Department to determine that the taxi driver’s death belonged to the category they had been asked to report immediately to the FBI.
“I’m afraid that the initial diagnostic was done too much in a hurry,” the examiner said a bit sheepishly. It was obvious that he was the senior doctor in the morgue and that he was trying to cover for the mistake of one of his junior colleagues.
“What was the initial diagnostic?” Fiona asked.
“Umm… the examiner on duty speculated that his neck had been caught in a hydraulic press” the man replied.
Agent Black could have insisted. She was upset enough that her subconscious demanded her to humiliate the man. It would serve no purpose, though. She would not have them make the same mistake twice, in any case.
“Suspend the examiner on duty. From now on, every corpse getting in here will be examined for any signs of unnatural physical strength. Every report will specify whether it was observed or not. And you will be the ultimate responsible for all of them” Fiona said before turning and heading out of the room.
“You cannot do that” the examiner protested.
Agent Smith looked at him and said:
“We can. You’ll get your written orders within the hour.”
He then turned and caught up with his colleague.
Paying for her clothes at the counter had felt weird to Sienna. It had not been a problem, of course. After all, the Swiss guy had had plenty of cash available. But still, her ego had instigated her to just break into the shop and take anything she fancied and get out, pushing a few people around in the process.
Thankfully, her mind could govern her impulsiveness by now, preventing her from falling into the same errors as in the recent past. She would soon be able to reveal her new self to the world, but it was not time yet. She needed to learn more about what had happened while she had been out, first.
She had not been able to bring herself to look ugly again, though. After an entire life of being physically unremarkable, Sienna was not in the mood to hide her new exuberance anymore. The tight-fitting jeans and tank top she had chosen highlighted every inch of her perfection, and the high-heeled boots she purchased right after made her already notable height stand out even more.
Sienna enjoyed the looks of admiration and lust as she walked down the street, looks from people that could not suspect yet just how much above them she now was.
“Soon” Sienna repeated to herself. She had decided not to hide her looks anymore, and soon she would choose to stop hiding her power. And she longed for that moment to come. For the moment when the millions of people around her would have no option but to bend to her.
She knew that showing herself without any disguise was exposing her, but she was not too worried. She had concluded that the only chance the FBI had against her was if they managed to ambush her again, and as long as she was taking the lead, that would not happen.
The fact that the looks she was getting were sexual rather than driven by fear confirmed to Sienna that whoever was chasing her was interested in the public not knowing about her yet. She did not mind. Right now, it played to her advantage.
She stopped two blocks away from her destination. It was no other than the Eclipse Labs headquarters. Once more, Sienna pondered about just how easy it would be to rampage her way in. It was not in her best interest, though. So, she just blinked and smiled as the world around her came to a halt.
Sienna admired for a couple of seconds just how slowly the leg of the man ahead of her advanced, taking what seemed like forever to complete the first arc of the movement that would bring it to step forward.
Back at her full strength, Sienna had regained the ability to slow down her surroundings to the point where they felt almost motionless. Of course, she knew that was not really what was happening. She was a scientist and, as such, she knew that the only thing capable of changing the pace of time was a speed close to the one of light. It certainly looked like she was slowing time down, though. She knew it was a combination of her senses giving her a perception of her surroundings that was several orders of magnitude faster and more precise than that of mere humans, with a brain that could process it and react to it and muscles that could move fast enough in this new frame of reference.
Sienna just walked, taking her time to get around those that stood between her and the building’s entrance. The door was closing behind the last man that had got in, a tall, brown-haired guy she did not recognize. At the new world’s pace, though, it would take the door a few more minutes to complete its process of shutting, so Sienna had no problem at all to get through it and around the man, stepping into the lobby and stopping to look around.
Eclipse’s entrance was busy. Groups of people were gathered together, their conversations about different topics interrupted in Sienna’s new reality. Some were lining up to have their badges scanned at the security entrance. A woman was discussing with the receptionist.
It took Sienna a couple of seconds to identify the entry point. Walking calmly to the reception desk, she stood in front of it for an instant and then hopped over it, easily clearing the table and landing beyond the receptionist, who was seconds away from even realizing that her hair had been ruffled by Sienna’s air displacement.
She smiled as she walked by the security guards that were manning the checkpoint and headed for the elevators. Two of the carts were on the ground floor, their doors closing. Sienna saw that each featured at least half a dozen people and decided that they were not a good option.
The doorknob to the emergency stairs crushed as she grabbed it, reminding Sienna that each of her movements when the world was slowed down carried thousands of times the momentum of her actions in the “real time” world. Cursing and hoping that no one would notice, she took incredible care to get the door open and get into the stairs.
The second story, where her former lab was, was accessible enough. She was surprised when she found the door to it firmly shut. With no one around anymore, there was no point in keeping in slow time, so Sienna just blinked and let the world get back to normal.
Two stories below, the receptionist looked around as she felt a blow of air disarraying her hair.
Sienna frowned and thought about what to do. Her intention had been to leave no trace of her presence in the building. The “accident” with the doorknob on the ground floor had already been unfortunate enough. Getting back to her former workplace would require some more breaking of stuff, though.
She smiled when an idea came to her. Deciding that it was worth a try, Sienna placed her palm flat on the door, in the area where the lock was, and relaxed.
“I’m not just stronger,” she thought as she reached out with her mind.
Not being able to see the lock made things quite harder. Closing her eyes to concentrate, Sienna tried to feel it, rather than see it. Her efforts were soon rewarded as a three-dimensional image of the door and what was beyond it formed in her mind. For lack of a better description, she thought about it as a sonar-like image.
Smiling while she kept her eyes closed, Sienna focused on the area of the image that contained the door and its lock and zoomed into it. The tiny piece of metal was then no match for her telekinetic powers, as she guided it in the right direction to get the door open.
She smiled as she turned the handle down, gently pushing the door and walking into the empty space beyond. An ability such as the one she had just discovered would have felt meaningless just a few days ago, when Sienna had unleashed her physical strength to finish an entire SWAT detail, but it certainly had come handy now.
She forgot about her latest finding of her skillset as soon as she got into the stance where she had worked less than a month ago. Had it not been for the weird location of the columns, the doors, and windows, it would have been hard for her to recognize it as the same place.
It was totally empty. Sienna had to admit that whoever had done the job had been thorough. Not even with her ultra-enhanced vision, she could detect a trace of her former lab in there. There was no doubt in her mind that the authors of the “cleaning” were the same ones that had been chasing her.
They were certainly meticulous. Sienna had not had too many hopes of finding all the answers to her questions back at Eclipse, but she had hoped to at least get a lead. It was obvious that someone else had thought the same and had anticipated her movements well in advance.
Her target had changed, once more. Her next objective was to find out where the equipment at people at Eclipse had been moved together with the comet. There was no doubt in Sienna’s mind that the servers, lab equipment, and people were still working on the rock. No matter how lowly she thought about them, had she been the one tasked with reverse engineering what she had done, she would have also enrolled the help of those that knew at least a bit about the project. Of course, she would have placed new supervision on them, but she would have still used them.
So, Sienna was pretty sure that Ray, Aaron, Miles and the rest of her ex-colleagues would be somewhere, trying to find out the secrets of a rock she had already unlocked weeks ago.
With this knowledge, her plan was quite simple: find out where they were and find them and the rock. The rock, she had a use for. Her ex-colleagues, she had not, other than showing them what she had become and eliminating the threat they represented in one of the multiple ways now at her disposal.
Her plan had required her to find at least some clue of the new whereabouts of her former lab mates. She had not thought that her visit at Eclipse would turn out to be so unproductive.
Sienna thought about what to do. She had plenty of options available. She could get to Security and try to get the information she needed from Mr. Van Zandt’s successor. She could also ask around. The lab might have disappeared, but the rest of Eclipse had not. Someone, somewhere, had to know something.
The problem with most of the options she was pondering was the same: it would require exposing herself. And right now, secrecy played to her advantage. The solution to that problem was so simple that Sienna let a laugh out when she thought about it.
She walked to the center of the stance and took a deep breath. And then, she just let her ears work. Her super-hearing was more than up to the task she had set for it. Less than a second later, hundreds of conversations were flowing into her mind. Sienna let her computer-like brain process them all, looking for any relevant piece of information.
She did not need to wait too long. The sentence had been almost inane, but not the voice that had pronounced it.
“I’m going home, Janine. Don’t pass me any calls, even if they are urgent.”
Sienna would have recognized Richard Dormer’s voice any day. They had been required to attend the all-employee meetings, and the old man had visited the lab of Project Prometheus more than once. Her lips curled in satisfaction. Dormer was a good lead. Being the CEO, he was likely to have information that could interest her.
Life was ironic, Richard Dormer thought as he sped way faster than advisable in the curvy road that would lead him home. Some of his vice presidents fancied the city. Eclipse’s salaries for executives were more than enough to let them live in some of the luxurious penthouses that lined the river. Richard and his wife preferred solitude. In his mind, the vast property he owned was more than worth enough driving forty minutes in each direction every day.
The wheels of the large Mercedes barely skidded as he drove well past the speed limit. He had been fined on more than one occasion. He could not care less. If there was something he did not need, that was money.
What worried Richard was not his personal future. He and Martha had nothing to worry about. It was Eclipse that did not let him sleep well at night.
He did not own the company. He barely had two percent of the shares. But after nine years as CEO, he might as well have had all of them. Eclipse was his life. And whatever happened with the Labs would be his legacy.
Dormer had taken the company when it had been nothing but a name with a dwindling reputation from a golden past and had brought it back to the top. Its market capitalization had increased ten-fold during his tenure, and in the last three years, he had put the Labs back where they belonged: the elite.
It had not been easy, but he had had both the vision and the will to execute it. It all started by hiring only the best, often paying them way above the market. He had got deep in debt to fund way more research and development than the P&L could afford. His aggressiveness had brought Eclipse close to bankruptcy twice. And then, it all paid off.
His researchers started winning awards; his projects started generating massive revenues in intellectual property. And his years of working his way into the Government had finally rendered results. Prometheus had been the culmination of all this, the project that would bring Eclipse’s name between those of Apple, Google or Tesla. A reference company. A company that shaped the world to come.
It was ironic, he thought again, that just as Prometheus had lost his wings of wax as when he got too close to the Sun, Richard Dormer was about to lose Eclipse, his life’s project when he had been so close to make it a reference.
It was unfair, he reflected. He had hired the best that could be hired. He had established stricter security policies than the ones NASA had required. And still, everything had gone to hell. In a way, he felt like a blackjack player that had been counting cards and still got beaten by a lucky strike from the croupier.
Absorbed as he was in his thoughts, Richard needed half a second more than it should have been necessary to react to the person standing in the middle of the road after he took a curve at high speed.
Out of instinct, he turned the steering wheel abruptly to his right, barely avoiding the person. He realized in the last instant that she was a woman and that she was standing with her hands on her hips.
Richard did not have too much time to reflect on this, though. At the speed he had been driving, there was no way he could stop the car before it violently crashed into a tree, some thirty feet outside of the road. The crash was hard, very hard. It would have been much worse if he had been driving a lower end car, though. The Mercedes had probably saved his life.
His head hit the airbag and Dormer was momentarily disoriented. The world blurred first and took a red hue as the blood of his torn eyebrow started flowing over his right eye. He tried to sit back, moving his bruised arms to check the rest of his body. It ached. It ached terribly. And yet, he did not think there was anything broken. It was too soon to reach that conclusion, of course, but his first thought was one of relief for having apparently gotten out of the accident in one piece.
The sound of a window shattering way to close to his ear made him focus back on his surroundings. Glass rained over him, and suddenly a hand came out of nowhere and stopped inches away from his bruised body. It was a woman’s hand, its long and elegant fingers stretching back from the fist they had formed, featuring well-polished black fingernails. It took Dormer a second to realize about the most surprising element of the situation: the hand was unscratched, it’s smooth skin seemingly not affected at all by the fact that it had broken through a thick glass.
The fingers curled and took hold of the wooden insertion in the door. The lacquered oak splintered at touch and did not stop the fingertips, which continued pushing until they started carving the metallic frame below. The entire door started groaning just then, and Dormer let out a shriek when the metal started bending and ripping from the chassis. A second later, the door was gone, and a figure started to crouch, its torso soon becoming visible.
As startled as he was, Richard could not prevent noticing the perfection of the woman’s body as she came into view, a cruel sneer forming in her face when her icy blue eyes locked with his. And then, he recognized her. The body was way different from what he remembered. The face was also changed, even if it kept some resemblance. But the look was unmistakable. He had seen that air of mad superiority before.
“Dr. Towers,” he said.
The woman smiled, now genuinely.
“It’s good to see that you still keep the proper respect” she replied in a husky voice.
She did not wait for his answer. Instead, she reached for the seatbelt and pulled, ripping it as if it had been made of paper. Next thing he knew, her fingers wrapped around his shirt and he was flying. Richard felt weightless for an instant, his body gradually recovering its weight as he got closer to the ground.
He rolled several times on himself, the bruises of his landing blending with those of the car accident. When he finally stopped, a pair of leather boots was standing inches away from his body. He looked up to see the woman sitting on her haunches, the mystery of her instant appearance next to him adding to a list that had started with her ripping a steel door and tossing him over fifty yards.
Dr. Towers smiled at him again; hands rested on her knees.
Richard felt a shiver running down his spine as she looked at the smirking face of a woman that had worked for him and that had started the chain reaction that was threatening to finish his company. The FBI had shown him the videos of her rampage, the day killed several of his employees and broken into Prometheus’ testing room. He remembered having felt both disgusted and appalled. Now, he was just terrified. His body betrayed his feelings by shivering noticeably, despite the warmth of the evening. Dr. Towers noticed and broadened her smile, making Richard also feel ashamed.
“What do you want?” he asked between coughs.
“Everything,” she said.
Her look of superiority brought memories of his first meeting with her back into Richard’s mind. Ray Danvers had introduced her as the most brilliant of the new wave of researchers he had recruited for Prometheus, but Richard had been unimpressed by the woman. Cold and obviously lacking any social skills, her answers to his small talk had revealed the acutest case he had ever seen of the arrogance and sense of purpose some researchers seemed to have. He remembered warning Danvers, who promptly dismissed it with a laugh and saying that if he did not recruit arrogant scientists his team would only be half-staffed.
Richard should have followed his instincts back then. Now, this woman had put his life’s project at risk.
“You’re crazy” Richard spat back, the momentary spike of hatred for Dr. Towers making him put the fear aside.
Dr. Towers raised an eyebrow and then said:
“Oh, we shall see about that.”
Her tone of voice as she said that suggested that he had made a mistake. Dr. Towers then extended her index finger and brought it to her lips, licking it provocatively. Right after, she reached out to him and rested its tip on his thigh. Next thing he knew, he was yelling, the pain coming from his leg so unbearable that he was about to pass out.
When she moved her finger back, he saw it was bloodied. Realizing what the piercing feeling had been was almost as dreadful as the physical pain itself.
Sienna cleaned her gory finger in his shirt. Then, she asked:
“Would you like to reconsider your opinion?”
He was still moaning in pain but tried to keep the volume down, more out of dignity than anything else. His leg hurt like hell, and his attempts at moving it were even more painful. Richard realized that her finger had torn through skin, muscle, and bone with the ease of a hot knife carving into butter.
“Please,” he said, a tear forming in his right eye.
“Now, that’s better,” the woman said, looking obviously satisfied. His repulse for her increased once more, but his fear had now reached a new level that prevented him from reacting stupidly.
“What happened to you?” Richard then asked, trying to contain the sob as he shivered.
“It did not just happen. I made it happen!” the woman said, obvious pride in her voice. “I put myself in the position I should have always had” she added.
Richard Dormer had never been so put off by someone in his entire life. Sienna Towers represented everything he hated in a person. Being intellectually honest, he knew that part of it had to do with the new relative balance of power. Dormer knew he was arrogant. He was also ambitious. The main difference between him and Dr. Towers before had been that he was socially able. He was a winner. She had been a loser. And now, seeing her holding so much power over him made him sick.
Her voice came back, taking him away from his thoughts.
“There are some things I need to know. You will help me” she said.
Dormer surprised himself by asking:
“Why should I do that?”
Dr. Towers did not immediately reply. She just proceeded to straddle him and then took his head with both hands. There was nothing he could do to prevent her from lifting his torso and bringing his head close to hers.
Then, a force that he could not comprehend started pushing his skull, a throbbing pain making him lose the perception of the world for a second. It stopped an instant later. Her face was so close that he could feel her warm breath as she whispered.
“Do you really need to ask?”
Richard never knew what drove his next impulse. He did not remember having engaged in physical violence since his days in elementary school. And still, he threw a punch into Dr. Towers’ stomach with all the strength he could muster. He might as well have hit a brick wall. His knuckles hurt, and he was not sure that he had not broken any finger.
His skull was compressed once more, the pain getting so intense that he was about to black out. The pain remised and her whisper came back.
“I don’t think you understand just how hard it is for me to keep the right balance not to break your skull. Keep pissing me off, and I may end up popping your head like a grape unwillingly” she said, her plain tone contrasting with the contents of her words.
Richard then started shaking uncontrollably, tears now rolling down his cheek. He had seen the videos, true, but no matter how shocked he had been by them, he had not grasped the full extent of Dr. Towers’ power until now. As a matter of fact, he realized that he probably did not completely comprehend it.
And suddenly, Richard felt impotent. It was the first time in his life, and it was horrible. He understood that the tables had turned and that the ambitious but pathetic researcher he had despised now held the ultimate power over him. Suddenly, all his contacts, all his social skills, all the soft power he had gathered along the years meant nothing. He understood that his world had changed. The world beyond him had likely changed, as well. And people like him no longer held the upper hand. He felt rage at the loss. He felt hatred at her. But beyond all this, he was afraid.
The seal now broken, Richard Dormer was now openly crying. Dr. Towers’ sneered in disgust when she saw it. His inner self protested and demanded Richard to put back the mask of dignity he had built over the years. But he just did not find the strength to do it.
“Will you let me live?” was all he could ask to this woman that now held so much power over him.
She raised an eyebrow as if thinking. Then she said:
It made his blood freeze. She curled her lips and whispered:
“I could have fooled you, but there’s no point. You were never going to live” she said.
Richard’s first reaction was to plead. He quickly understood it would do no good. His dignity managed to prevail this time, so gathering himself a bit he asked:
“Why should I help you then?”
Dr. Towers’ raised an eyebrow again. He had learned to fear that gesture. When she whispered back to him, her words confirmed his fears.
“You know? Martha is starting to wonder why you are not home yet” she said.
Richard lost control of his body, which stated to shake uncontrollably.
“I can feel some concern in her voice. It’s easy really. She is only a couple of miles away. I could always visit her once I’m done with you, let her know what happened” Dr. Towers’ said.
“Nooooo!” he caught himself screaming.
Her smirk made him hate her even more.
“Do we understand each other?” she asked.
All he wanted was to hurt her, to kill her, to make her suffer. He knew he was powerless to do so. More reluctantly than anything he had done in his entire life, Richard Dormer nodded.
“Good,” she said. “Now, start talking.”
“Good night,” Ray Danvers said to officer Ramirez, trying to be polite despite the bitterness he felt at the entire situation.
Meeting his family at a restaurant was weird, but it was the high moment of his week. As usual, this high point was followed by a very low one, as he walked into the safe house, escorted by officer Ramirez, and realized that he would not see them again until a week later.
Not for the first time, he reflected that he should not have left the project. His colleagues, former direct reports, were away from their families too, but they had been given better conditions. He had had better conditions when he had worked with them, too. This was not the only reason for regretting having abandoned Project Mjolnir, though. It was not even the main one.
Memories of Sienna the day all hell had broken loose kept coming to his mind, sometimes waking him up in the form of nightmares. Images of her, unnaturally strong, killing coworkers with utter contempt kept haunting his days and nights.
He knew he was not alone in this affection. Everyone else in the Lab that had witnessed their former colleague’s actions had required psychological support. It was worse in Ray’s case though. Because, different from everyone else, he felt responsible for it.
His pride had prevented him from admitting it to anyone yet, but he could not fool himself. Sienna was his creation. She was his responsibility. And in a way, he was accountable for her actions.
He had recruited Sienna, stealing her from a University research lab run by a former colleague that had not ended up well with him. Her brilliance was unordinary, but so was her attitude. Sienna was the first case where Ray had received a note from HR recommending not to recruit someone based on the results of the psychological profile. She was not considered fit to work in teams. Ray had had to escalate to get the necessary approvals. It soon turned out that HR had been right. And yet, once he realized about that, it was already too late to get rid of her. She was so much better than anyone else that Ray had known that firing her would have put the entire project at risk. Of course, having won a Nobel Prize meant that he would never admit publicly that his research depended on a 29-year-old that was a nobody in the academic circles. But deep inside, he knew it did.
The pressure on Prometheus had been so high, and Sienna’s work had been so instrumental, that he had ignored her attitude and given up any hopes of managing her. He had not been great at managing the team either. And, as expected, things got out of control. He was once more seriously considering either firing or isolating Sienna when one day she suddenly dropped cold while working at her desk. The three months that followed, with Dr. Towers’ in hospital, proved to Ray that he could not do without her. Progress had never been slower. His pride had never been so hurt as when he realized about just how much he needed her. And then, she had come back… and everything had gone to hell.
Sienna had been a complicated person before her coma. She had been just impossible after it. Half his team was using any chance they had to mock her, while the other half was complaining to him about her attitude. Her work was as good as always, probably even better. But she had got to a point where more than making him feel uncomfortable she had started to make him afraid.
So, when the security team had informed him about her blatant break of the security policies, Ray had felt concern but also some secret relief at the decision on Sienna’s future being made for him. And then… then her inner monster had emerged.
Ray had seen her kill four people in the meeting room where she was being suspended. He had seen her kill Sarah. She had tried to kill him too. The look of mad satisfaction in Sienna’s eyes as she slowly crushed him to death still haunted him. He had survived only out of sheer luck.
And then, he had promised himself that he would finish her. It was a promise born both out of spite of what she had done to him and his colleagues but also out of his ego. All along her insane rampage, while she pushed him around as if he were a little child, Sienna had boasted about her success, about being a much better scientist than him. And he was going to prove her wrong. Ray had never harmed anyone, but he would enjoy finding a way to finish his former protégé.
And then, the FBI had put Larkin in charge, and he had let his ego get in his way once more. Angela and he went way back, and Ray had not been able to work with her for more than a week. Angela was as much to blame as he was, but he should have known that presenting his ultimatum to Agent Black would have only one possible outcome: his “decoupling” from the project.
He had already gone through denial and anger. He was in the middle of a depression, especially after he had learned that his personal situation would not improve. He had complained as energetically as possible, but Agent Black had been clear: he could either accept living in a safe house while his family was being kept safe somewhere else, or he could go to prison. After three weeks, the only obvious advantage to the preferred option was the fact that he could have dinner with his family once a week. The rest of the time, he basically could think about his current worthlessness.
Officer Ramirez got into the apartment in the first floor as they both nodded to another officer, whose name Ray did not remember, that was sitting in a chair by the stairs, his gun very obviously ready.
Ray climbed the stairs alone and searched for the keyhole to his temporary home in the dim light. His accommodations were far from luxurious, but he could not complain too much either. With his status and salary, Ray was used to better, but the FBI had not put him in a shithole either.
Two steps into his apartment, Ray’s blood froze. He had not switched the lights on, but the moonlight getting through the window easily highlighted the silhouette of a tall woman with an obviously magnificent figure. The door closed behind him, even if he had not pushed it.
Ray’s mind quickly made the connection. His first reaction was to scream, to warn the multiple officers in the building. When he tried, he found out that he could not. He fought, trying to push the air from his lungs through his vocal cords. Almost as a reaction to this second attempt, his throat was pushed tighter, almost choking him.
“I’d rather keep this intimate, so I would appreciate some discretion” a deep voice said from across the room.
“Sienna” Ray whispered since the current tightness of his throat did not allow for any other tone.
A shiver ran down his spine as he understood that the monster that kept him awake was now standing in front of him. Ray also realized that his lack of ability to scream was somehow related to her presence. But how?
Almost as an answer to his mental question, his two-hundred-pound body started being pulled by an invisible force. His feet lost contact with the floor. Soon, they were hovering ten inches over it. He wanted to scream once more, but as in his previous attempts, he could not.
“How?” he whispered, terror now reaching every cell in his body.
He saw Sienna’s silhouette waving a hand, and the force that had been pulling him upwards suddenly pushed him to the side. It was like being shoved; only he could not see who was shoving him. Still, the crash with the wall was not violent, as if the master of the force had not wanted it to be.
His feet were still hovering over the floor when his back was pushed harder into the wall. The silhouette of Sienna’s had waved again against the moonlight, and the tightness in his throat was extended to his chest. It gradually increased, soon threatening with breaking his ribs. Ray tried to yell once more, now out of pain. He was still unable to.
Sienna did not move until then, her figure walking sensually across the room, her face becoming recognizable when she stopped a couple of feet away from him. Her hand was extended, palm oriented towards him. Somehow Ray understood that this was controlling the force that moved him around first and was crushing him now. But his scientific mind could not find any reasonable explanation for what was happening.
Sienna gave him the answer.
“The word you are looking for is telekinesis. I guess you know the Greek word. ‘Tele,’ for distance. And then ‘kinesis’ for movement. I had already been toying with spoons by the time you tried to fire me, but the second dose of the rock took it to another level. Dontcha think?”
Almost as if trying to make her point, Ray felt his chest being pushed harder by the invisible force Sienna commanded with her superstrong mind. He groaned in pain, the soft sound dying a few feet away from him.
“I can crush you with only my mind if I wanted to, Ray. Don’t you think it’s fitting? But I need something first.”
With barely a thought, Sienna released the pressure a bit, almost as if she was permitting him to talk. Still, he could not let out more than a whisper.
“What do you want?” he gasped, trying to speak and catch his breath at the same time.
Sienna chuckled in a soft, unsettling tone – the eerie type of laughter that one might hear echoing through the psych ward of a hospital. Ray could not remember ever having felt so humbled and terrified in his entire life. Despite his fear, the scientific part of his brain was in sheer awe of the power his former team member now possessed.
“I want so many things...!” Sienna mused, keeping her voice low enough as not to attract the guards, not that it mattered in the least. Sienna knew from her one-woman demolition a few days ago that there wasn’t a guard – or even an army – that could stop her now. That feeling of raw power made her tingle with excitement, and she leered at her frightened prey and flashed an evil smile. “And I will have them all!”
Ray did not reply. He did not know what to say, and every word was very painful to let out.
“You know what? I really wanted to show off for you. I came to work at Eclipse just because of you, Ray. So imagine my disappointment when I realized the sad truth behind your Nobel Prize. It did not take me too long to understand how much brighter than you I was, and I could have lived with that. But I could not live with you hiding behind the team, and more importantly, letting the team drag ME down. Thank God I found my way around it....” Sienna mused as she looked down stared at her arm and made a clenched fist, as a reminder of her fantastic discovery. She cooed to herself as she could almost FEEL the rivers of supercharged DNA flowing through her veins.
Ray knew it was not a good idea to reply, but his pridefulness instinctively overtook common sense as he softly whispered:
“You were lucky....” As soon as he spoke, Ray had regretted his decision and hoped maybe she did not hear him. She did.
Sienna didn’t even initially look up. But the pressure intensified almost immediately, threatening to break his ribcage. The pain became almost unbearable to Ray until two of his lower ribs finally could not take it anymore and shattered. Sienna looked up and smirked cruelly at Ray as her superhearing detected the sound of the two ribs snapping like kindling inside his body.
“Lucky?! Now, I know you don’t really think that is true” Sienna said in a cold voice as the pressure released, and he groaned. “You are way too smart to think that. While I admit the initial first instance might have been slightly serendipitous, what I’ve become now, is all me!”
“What are you going to do?” he stammered, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“What do you think I am going to do?” she replied with a question, waiting a few seconds for him to answer. After a moment of awkward silence, Sienna continued.
“Now I realize I might have been one of the smartest people on Earth, to begin with, but I also realize that having smarts wasn’t nearly enough. The world responds to strength, Ray. We all know that! So….., I just went out and made myself the strongest person on Earth too,” Sienna stated matter-of-factly with a girlish grin.
“You are mad!” Ray spat out, realizing almost immediately that the pain was going to come back.
It did, the pressure the most intense yet. He felt four more ribs breaking before Sienna let go, keeping him stuck to the wall as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“B-B-b-bitch” he managed to blurt out said between sobs, fully expecting Sienna to collapse the rest of his ribs due to the remark.
Quite surprisingly, the pain did not come back. Instead, Sienna just smirked and said:
“The question is: what are you going to do about it?”
Ray finally acknowledged what he had unconsciously suspected since he had recognized Sienna in the room. He was going to die. Quite surprisingly, the thought helped him weather the fear a bit better.
“Please, get done with this already” he whispered.
Sienna’s evil smile widened.
“Not yet. This was not just a social visit. You have something I want….: names, projects, places,” she said.
“I’m not telling you shit!” Ray spat back, in the last attempt at keeping some dignity.
Sienna’s eyes started glowing in an intense red, giving her a devilish appearance.
“Oh, you are telling me everything I need to know,” Sienna said confidently as she crossed her arms in front of her, somehow accentuating her already remarkable chest. “The only question is how long it will take you.”
Ray’s hand started to burn just then, the skin of his fingers blistering first and melting later. He wanted to scream his life out. He couldn’t.