Arnaud de Fohn's Incidents
We were in an
underground lab somewhere in the Swiss Alps. A white, clinical hallway stretched away in front of me,
leading to two closed steel doors. Suddenly
a machine gun shoved me in the small of my back, and I stumbled forward.
“Walk,” a harsh
voice commanded. I walked. We proceeded down the hallway
until we reached the doors, and then one of the men behind me reached out
and punched in a security code. The
doors slid open to reveal a vast room, whitely lit. I saw that a section of it was set
up like an operating theatre, and that another part was set up as a lab. The walls were brushed steel and
white tile, and the floor was concrete.
And standing calmly in front of it all was a man I immediately
recognized as Arnaud de Fohn, a white lab coat over his clothes.
“You finally made
it here,” he said to the guards, a hint of annoyance in his voice. “Glad to see you could follow
your orders. Venez,” he
said, turning. The man behind
me pushed me, and I resisted him, hoping to break free. Arnaud heard us scuffling, turned
to look at us, then continued walking. The
man shoved the gun into my shoulder blades, and I reluctantly walked
you,” Arnaud said to me conversationally. “This is my little lab.
I’m sure you’ll find it much to your liking after you’ve
stayed here for a time.” As
he talked, we walked through the room.
Passing the operating theatre, I struggled violently to break free
from the black-clad Neanderthal holding me, but he wrenched my arms around
so roughly that tears of pain sprang to my eyes. Arnaud stopped talking, walked
back to me, and grabbed my hair, twisting his hands in it until me pulled
my head back. He put his face
very near to mine and said softly, “Stop it. You really won’t like the
consequences if you continue to try to break free. I don’t want to have to hurt
“Go to hell,” I
He nodded to another
guard, who deliberately drew his hand back and slapped me hard across the
forced out between clenched teeth. “Alright. Oh, God, stop.”
released me, and I nearly sobbed with relief. He nodded at my captor, who let go
of me roughly. I stumbled
forward, the stood, chin set in defiance.
“Call off the guards. I
promise you that I won’t try to escape as long as you call them off.”
He considered me for
a minute, then nodded. “Allez,”
he said, waving his hand imperiously. The guards turned and disappeared out through the stainless
doors. When they closed
again, the sound had the ominous hint of finality to it.
“Let me introduce
you to the members of my team,” Arnaud said to me. He took my upper arm in a grip
that was deceptively gentle.
“Whoa, whoa, wait a
second, Monsieur de Fohn,” I said hotly. “I want to know what in God’s name the meaning of all
this is. Who gave you the
right to kidnap me, drug me, and bring me here!”
that,” he replied, sounding none-too-apologetic. “But you were about to travel
overseas, and that didn’t fit into my plans at all. I had to get you while it was
still easy to do so.”
“What?” I exclaimed. “How did you know that I was going overseas?”
“Oh, it was simple,
really,” he said laconically. “We
completed all the work on this project yesterday, except the last stage,
and so I’d been checking in on you for the last week to make sure that
you wouldn’t slip out of my grasp.
I noticed that you’d withdrawn a large sum of money from your
bank account, and the rest was simple detective work.”
“Excuse me,” I
said starkly. “But what the
hell do I have to do with this project of yours?”
He ignored my
question and said instead, “This way.
Come meet my fellow scientists.”
His hand tightened its grip on my arm.
I tossed my hair
angrily. “Fine,” I said,
and pinned my green gaze on his broadly muscled back, hoping to bore holes
into it. It didn’t work.
me through a small door on the left that I hadn’t noticed. We passed out of that glaring
white room and into a small, softly lit, carpeted waiting room. Standing around in it were about five people, four men and
one woman. They all had a
hard, dangerous look about them, a look not belied in the least by their
scientist regalia. All of
them were lean, muscled, and unsmiling.
It was hard to believe these people were scientists, despite their
getup of labcoats and ID’s.
Arnaud said, “May I
present to you Andrea Kanovfara, our test subject. I traveled with her on a train
from France to Germany about a year ago, and we had quite a nice time
passing the time together.”
I looked at him and
said sharply, “Don’t get any ideas in your head, buddy. All we did was talk.” I knew that he had to know who I
was, but it was a shock to realize that he’d remembered me from a single
train ride a year ago. But
then again, I had recognized him at first sight, too.
“Mademoiselle Kanovfara, may I introduce to you Monsieur Thibaut--” a
tall, blonde man came forward, “Monsieur de Montpar--” a hawk-nosed
man, “Herr von Waldenhaus--” a raw-boned German man, “Monsieur
Lewis--” an ebony-skinned, stunning black man, “and last, but
definitely not least, Demoiselle Bretagne.” A woman in her mid-thirties came
to stand beside Arnaud and placed a hand possessively on his arm. She looked me over in a slow,
contemptuous way, then stood back again.
I was wary of all of them, but I was immediately afraid of her. Although she was quite attractive, her eyes were flat and
dead…but for a moment I thought I caught a glimpse of crimson flame in
said. “I think that you
should rest for a day before we proceed.”
Bretagne shot me a murderous look, but the others nodded in
consent. “If you please,
walk this way then,” he said, steering me out through another door into
a small hallway.
We walked down the
hallway, passing doors on either side, until Arnaud stopped beside on and
opened it, pushing me into the room.
I found I was in a small bedroom with no windows. No television, either. All there was was a bed, a small
closet filled with various clothes and a bookcase containing books of all
genres. Off to the side was a
small door leading to the bathroom.
I flopped onto the
bed and looked expectantly at Arnaud.
He shut the door and sat down on the side of the bed. I continued to stare at him, and
he reached out and pushed a strand of my dark–blonde hair back. My heart fluttered, despite my anger.
“Would you mind
telling what the hell you’re doing, Monsieur de Fohn?” I asked.
“Well, first, you
can start by telling me what you know about me,” he ordered.
“You don’t mean
to tell me that you can’t remember what you told me?”
“Oh, I do
remember,” he said, “but I want to know what you know.” He saw
that I was about to protest, and said, “Remember, I can always call the
guards back in, and we can do this less pleasantly…”
“Alright,” I said
quickly, knowing discretion had just become the better part of valor. I looked at him for a moment,
admiring his green eyes, then shook myself.
What was I thinking? This
man had had me accosted, drugged, and brought here at gunpoint. Still, his eyes hypnotized me…
“We were on a train
from Paris to Munich. We were
in the same compartment together, and so we started to talk. I told you I was going on to
Vienna to do a study on classical-period orchestral instruments,
especially the Viennese oboes and bassoons, and you told me that you were
going to see some friends in Munich.
You said that you were hopeful that they would agree to work with
you on a research project of yours, but you weren’t specific about what. You still haven’t told me,
either,” I added darkly.
I continued, “You
said that you were a scientist interested in researching cutting-edge
optics, and we got into a discussion of fiber-optics and the latest
telescopes developed, the ones with so-called ‘corrective optics’
technology. From that, it
went onto outer space, the various European aerospace programs, and the
creationism versus the big-bang theories.
That ran to theology, and then it was time for dinner, so that
ended that. After that, we
discussed various musical ideas--tonal columns, evolution of musical
instruments, composers, all that. You
asked me about my life as a child and how I became interested in such
diverse topics as music and aerospace.
Then I told you how it worked perfectly, because there is a music
to the spheres, and you were silent on that.”
“Yes,” he said. “You really surprised me with
that. I admire your insight
on the subject.” He gave a
tight little smile.
I ignored that. “Then yesterday in Paris I was
accosted by some Neanderthals who had broken into my apartment. They drugged me, and then three
hours ago they woke me up. I
suppose it was so that they didn’t have to look suspicious on the tram
for carrying an unconscious woman,” I commented dryly. “We took the tram to a little
village and then skied the rest of the way here. Now can you please tell me what is
“No,” he replied,
getting up off the bed. “Now
I advise you to go to sleep for a while.
Dinner will be served at eight.
Monsieur Lewis will get you.”
He walked out the
door, and I heard the distinctive sound of a key in the lock. “Dammit,” I swore, then kicked
at the space where he had stood. I
decided to take a shower, then climbed into the bed, figuring I would need
some sleep. I still had no
idea what was going on, but I did know that whatever it was, I would find
out soon enough.
I woke suddenly. I looked around the room and had
no idea where I was. Then I
remembered the past day and felt my anger flash hotly. I looked at my
watch—seven-thirty. I had
half an hour before dinner.
I got out of bed and
walked to the closet, figuring I could at least see what kind of clothes I
was going to wear. I looked
at the sizes, and wasn’t surprised to see that they would all fit me. Sweaters, Oxford shirts, blue
jeans, a pair of leather pants…? I
raised an eyebrow. What the
heck was a pair of leather pants doing in the Swiss Alps? Then I grinned. Hey, if it was in the closet, I
would wear it.
I pulled on the pants
and tossed a lilac lambswool sweater on. At least there wasn’t a lack of good clothes around…now
for makeup. I went to the
bathroom and looked at the cabinet behind the mirror. I wasn’t surprised this time,
either, to see that the makeup was perfect for me.
I knew that these
things were designed to put me at ease and buy me, but they weren’t
going to work, precisely because I knew what they were here for. But…it has always been my creed
to take advantage of anything that’s come my way, under any
circumstance. So, I donned
the clothes and makeup with pleasure.
Suddenly I heard the
lock of my door opening, and Lewis walked in. He had taken off the lab coat and
had on black pants and a cream-colored shirt that contrasted nicely with
his dark skin. “Come on,”
he said, and grabbed my wrist.
“Where are we
going?” I asked, although I
replied shortly. “You know
Damn, I thought,
I’m not going to get anything out of this one. I sighed, and walked hurriedly to
keep him from dragging me down the hallway.
We arrived in front
of yet another door, which opened to a small chamber. It resembled an English manor
dining room. A fire burned in
the fireplace, but something seemed wrong with it. I looked at it and realized it
made no sound, and looked wrong, somehow.
“It’s an advanced
holographic technology,” Arnaud spoke up. “It’s not a real fire.
Besides, how would we vent one?”
muttered, impressed in spite of myself.
“You really are interested in optics.”
That comment drew a
cold laugh from everyone around the table.
“Mademoiselle Kanovfara, that is not our real research,”
Thibaut spoke up. “For us,
it’s a little distraction, nothing more.”
I looked at them,
puzzled. “I thought that
you were researching cutting-edge optics…?”
“Oh, you make me
sick. Eat.” Bretagne gave me a look of
disdain. Arnaud shot a tense
look at her, then steered me to the table.
Everyone else already
had food on their plates. Arnaud
took my plate and served me. I
noted with relief that he stirred each dish before he put some of its
contents on my plate. I was
served pot roast, complete with mashed potatoes, carrots and broth, and
cranberry sauce. I realized
that I was famished, and at my food with zest. It was surprisingly good, and I
took seconds, although no one else did.
Suddenly, I felt my
limbs growing unnaturally heavy. Too
late I realized that I had been drugged by the food. The last thought I had was that
they must have drugged the food after they had served themselves, and that
stirring the dishes ensured I got a good dose…
Sound was restored
before sight was. I heard a
male voice commanding, “Wake up, Andrea,” and identified the accent as
Swiss. The voice continued,
“I know that you’re coming out of your long slumber. Open your eyes.”
I slowly slitted my
eyes open, and saw a man standing over me, his dark hair mussed. I realized that it was Arnaud and
quickly turned my head away from the sight of him…then I groaned in
pain. I realized that the
back of my skull was throbbing and tender.
I stiffened, which only made the pain worse. Tears sprang to my eyes, but I
refused to cry.
voice said. This one had a
German accent…it was von Waldenhaus.
“Give her some codeine. The
pain should have been gone by now, but…”
A needle pierced the
inside of my arm. I started
to feel detached from my body, which was, under the circumstances, a good
“Why isn’t the
pain gone yet? It’s been
three weeks,” a third voice said. It
had to be de Montpar.
Lewis chipped in,
“We did an exceptional job. Minimal
loss of blood, minimal rearrangement of tissue, superior grafting…”
“Would you all just
shut up?” I groaned. “And turn those lights off, please,” I beseeched them.
A heard a snort. “You look like death warmed
over,” a cold female voice said. Bretagne. “I see I did well.”
Silence. Then, “What?” Arnaud asked quietly, dangerously. “Do you mean to say that you intended that this happen to
Bretagne stiffened. “Yes,” she hissed. “Yes, Denise Bretagne did this. You must be more idiotic than I
thought not to expect it."
“Take her away,”
Arnaud said, fury tightly controlled.
“I’ll deal with her later.”
To Bretagne he said coldly, “It’s over, Denise. You have stepped over the line.”
The other four men
surrounded Bretagne and disappeared with her out a door. I had the feeling that she
wouldn’t survive for much longer. Arnaud
stared at the closed door, his fury evident on his face. Finally he gained control of
himself and sat on the edge of my bed.
“How do you
feel?” he asked me.
“Honestly?” I asked him. “Honestly, I rather wish I were dead. Every muscle of mine is stiff, and the back of my skull is
killing me. Are you happy?” I spat out the word.
“No,” he said
shortly. “This was not
supposed to happen. I wanted
the operation to be perfect, and I thought it was. Obviously Bretagne did some sort
of damage to you or the gland, and now I have to find out what she did.” He paused; continued, “And then
she will pay for tampering with the project.” He got up and strode out the door
the others had disappeared through.
I had the feeling
that I was missing something, something big, but I was still too drugged
to figure it out. My strength
had drained away, and I fell into a dreamless sleep.
“Wake up, Mademoiselle Kanovfara,” an unfamiliar male voice
said. I cracked an eye open
and saw Thibaut standing over me. “You need to eat, wash, get some exercise. Come.”
I groaned. “There is no way in hell that
I’m getting up. None.”
“Yes you are,”
Thibaut said, voice growing hard. “You’ll
do it yourself, or I will make you do it.
It won’t be pleasant.”
“Son of a bitch!” I said angrily. “I am so sick of you people playing God with
I felt two arms
beneath me roughly lifting me off the bed and standing me on the floor. Thibaut’s supporting arms let go
of me, and I collapsed to the floor.
I had no sense of balance, and my body was frighteningly weak. My head hit against the floor and
I gasped in pain. Rivers of
molten lava poured through my skull.
said. “Get up. Walk.”
I tried to lift
myself off the floor, but couldn’t.
My body refused to move and my head had turned into a fiery mass of
pain. All of the events since
my kidnapping weighed down on my spirit, and something inside of me
snapped, destroyed. I
suddenly lost my will to fight. “I
can’t,” I whispered, tears finally tracing their way down my cheeks. “Help me.”
looking down at me, letting me wallow in my pain and helplessness. Finally he bent down to me and
pulled me roughly upright. I
bit my lip in pain. He
propelled me across the room and out the door leading to the rest of the
complex. Even though he did
not let me fall again, every step jolted agony through me. Finally, we came to the door of my
bedroom. He pushed me though
and then closed the door.
I fell to the floor
and buried my face in the carpet, letting my tears flow freely, trying not
to sob. Any movement caused
claws to dig into my skull.
I heard footsteps
approach and look up. Arnaud
sat on his heels beside me, a look of concern on his face. “Don’t move,” he told me. I felt his arms around me, lifting
me up and then placing me gently on the bed. Then I felt a needle prick, and
something flowed into my veins.
Arnaud said quietly. “As
much as I can safely give you. It
will start to work quickly.”
I closed my eyes and
lay as still as possible. Soon
the pain started to dull, just enough that I was no longer incapacitated. “Thank you,” I whispered,
grateful beyond words.
“I’m going to
have to bathe and feed you,” Arnaud told me. “I know that anything will cause the pain to recur, so
don’t fight me. Once
you’ve eaten and been cleaned up, we’re going to anesthetize you again
and perform another surgery to correct the grafting flaws Bretagne
He moved away and
returned a minute later with a basin of water, a small bottle of liquid
soap, and a sponge. He gently
washed my arms, legs, and face, then cleared his throat. I opened my eyes to look at him. His strong face had an
unidentifiable look on it. “I’m
afraid I need to take off your gown.
I need to ensure that you’re totally clean before we perform
I closed my eyes
again, aware only of the pain. “Whatever,”
I said. “Fine.”
I heard a snipping
noise and dimly realized that Arnaud was cutting the ties of my surgical
gown. He gently lifted it off
of me, and I felt air on my skin. He
washed my back and torso, carefully avoiding my undergarments. He said softly, “Last thing. I’m sorry to do this to you, but
it’s imperative that your hair be clean.”
I tensed in
anticipation of the agony washing my hair would bring.
He carefully lifted
me up, pulling the bedspread up with me and wrapping it around me in one
quick motion. He carried me
to the bathroom where he wet my hair and lathered it as gently as
possible. Still, stars
exploded in front of my eyes. Then
he rinsed my hair out and combed it through. “You have such lovely hair,”
he said softly.
“Thank you,” I
said faintly, “but I’m about to pass out….”
Arnaud took me by
both arms and steered me back out to the bed, where he told me to sit. I did, and then he swung my legs
onto the bed. “Thank
you,” I said gratefully.
“Now to eat,” he
told me. He put two more
pillows beneath my head so that I was reclining, then brought a spoonful
of…baby food? to my mouth. I
looked at it quizzically.
nourishing, and you can’t chew anything in your present state.”
I opened my mouth,
and he fed me. After I’d
finished eating, he pulled a syringe from his jacket and said
apologetically, “I need to drug you now, Andrea. When you wake up again, I promise
you things will be better.”
I nodded, trusting
him, and he stuck me with the needle.
The last thing I saw was his handsome face looking down upon me.
Bretagne into a small, empty room, harshly illuminated with arc lights. She stood in the middle of the room, a hostile, determined
look on her face. Arnaud
closed the door angrily and stalked over to her. He circled around her like a hawk
“Why did you do
it?” Arnaud hissed angrily. “Why did you tamper with the
implantation of the gland?”
silent, defying his anger. Arnaud
stopped in front of her. “Answer
me!” he yelled.
Bretagne spat at his
feet. He looked at her, eyes
blazing with fury, then slapped her once violently across the face. She let her head hang, hair straggling across her face.
Arnaud whispered, fury barely controlled.
“I gave you one final chance at life, and you lost it. Tell me what I want to know, and
you’ll be eliminated relatively painlessly.”
looked up, crimson madness flaming in her eyes. “Yes! Oh, you offered me so much,
didn’t you, de Fohn? Such a
wonderful position. A lackey,
a nobody, working under you, fawning to every word you say. So you saved my life once, and now
you are going to take it away. You
know what? I don’t care. Do
you think that I care about pain anymore, de Fohn? About you? You bring in this girl, some cocky
Americaine, and expect me to perform everything perfectly for her? You’re a fool, de Fohn. I despise you.”
Arnaud stood silent
under the attack. Now he
grabbed Bretagne and kissed her, one hand going to her back. She struggled to break free from
him, then went limp. Arnaud
pulled away from her, disgust clear on his face. He pulled a now-empty syringe from
While she was
unconscious, an unidentifiable look came to rest on Arnaud’s features. Then he smiled slowly and
whispered, “Bretagne, you have, through your own jealousy, given me the
perfect way to make Andrea mine.”
and Arnaud composed his face into a look of concern. In a moment, her eyes opened and
he bent over her.
“Are you all
right?” he asked her kindly.
she asked groggily.
“You passed out for
a second; I think you had a small seizure.
I’m sure you’ll be fine in a minute.” He waited for a moment, then saw
her pupils dilate.
“Now,” he said
quietly. “I applaud your
work on the gland, Bretagne. Tell
me how you did it.”
disoriented face looked up at him. “It
was simple, really. J’ai
pris un peu de ma chair…” she continued to speak in French. Arnaud listened intently.
A surgical saw buzzed
and monitors beeped. The
scientists gathered around the prone form on the operating table. One reached up to move the
surgical lamp to illuminate the incision.
scientist muttered. “Would
you look at that.”
They all peered at
the brain tissue exposed. A
silver growth was implanted on it. Its
extensions spread throughout the surrounding tissues. The brain was healthy, as was the
growth, but where the two interfaced it was dark red and inflamed.
muttered. His dark hand
pointed. “The gland is
healthy, and the rest of the brain is doing fine, but look where the
grafts are. The brain is rejecting the tissue…how? The gland was grown using her cells.”
German said. “How did she
manage the delayed tissue rejection?”
another scientist said. “She
grafted a bit of her own flesh into the gland. As it grafted to the brain, the
body recognized her foreign tissue in the gland and started to attack
“I assume we will
just cut the tainted tissue away,” one said.
“Yes, then repeat
the grafting process….”
“She’s coming out
of it,” a voice said tensely.
“Andrea? Can you hear me?” a Swiss voice
asked. “Come on, come
on,” he muttered to himself.
I twisted my head to
get away from the voices. All
I wanted was to pass back out into unconsciousness.
Suddenly cold water
hit my face. I gasped in
shock and my eyes flew open.
“Good,” one of
“How do you
feel?” Arnaud asked me.
“I feel like a
shot-up Mafioso,” I said weakly.
girl,” de Montpar demanded. “Is
the pain gone?”
I slowly sat up and
looked around me. I was in
the huge white room, on a pallet. I
tentatively touched a hand to the back of my head and discovered a large
bandage there. “No pain,”
I said, smiling with wonder. “You
did it.” I held out my arms
to Arnaud, and he hugged me.
Arnaud withdrew from
the embrace and motioned the other four men out of my earshot. They conferred for a minute, and
then von Waldenhaus walked over to me.
“Can you stand?”
he asked me. I stretched my
legs out and felt how weak they were.
“No,” I said helplessly.
He nodded. “Didn’t expect it. Your body has been completely
inactive for four and a half weeks. I
have to wash and feed you. Come
on, back to the room.” He
picked me up and carried me through the side door, the waiting room
beyond, and down the hallway. We
came to the door of my room, which he opened. He placed me on the bed.
rather of lot of my being the helpless female recently,” I cracked
wanly. Von Waldenhaus turned
to look at me, surprised. Realizing
I meant no hostility, he smiled tentatively.
“Well, come on,”
I said. “Feed me…just
please, please, no baby food this time!”
His smile turned into
a full-fledged grin. “Actually,”
he told me, “They’ve graduated you from baby food to…veal Parmesan. Feast,” he smiled, and brought a
forkful to my mouth.
I sighed with
pleasure. It tasted
marvelous, and it felt so good to eat again. I smiled at von Waldenhaus, who
gave me a little grin. “Wonderful,”
I informed him.
“Yes, well, we just
went out back and killed the cow,” he said, then laughed. “Just kidding.”
I made quick work of
the meal. “I feel better
than I have in weeks,” I told him.
“Well, I have to
bathe you now, unless you feel like you can take care of yourself,” he
said to me. “Are you able
to stand now?”
“Help me up,” I
asked him. He grabbed my hand
and pulled me up. I stood, my
legs still weak. “I don’t
know…” I let go of his arm and tried to stand, then quickly grabbed it
“Not quite yet,”
I said ruefully. “If I have
something to hold onto I’ll be all right.”
“Just lean against
the shower wall,” he told me. “I’m
going to take these dishes away and be right back.”
I started my shower
and heard von Waldenhaus leave. Soon
I heard him come back in. I
called out, “Glad you’re back. Wash
my hair for me, please?”
voice said. It wasn’t von
Waldenhaus…it was Arnaud. His
hands buried themselves in my hair and he lathered it carefully, then
rinsed it out. He combed it
straight with his fingers. Then
he took up the soap and washed my back for me, slowly caressing my
shoulders and massaging my muscles. His
hands traced my old surgical scar down my back and along my hip. I closed my eyes in pleasure. I could feel the heat in his
hands, and smiled in satisfaction.
I turned the tap off
and said, “Towel, please.” Arnaud
handed me a fluffy white towel, which I wrapped around myself. He put his hand on my shoulder and
turned me around to face him. My
strength finally gave out and I collapsed forward. He caught me and guided me over to the bed.
“You need to
rest,” he told me. I lay
back on the bed, still wrapped in my towel.
“Wait, though—” he paused.
“You must dry your hair and get dressed. Here,” he said, walking over to
the closet and pulling out a pair of flannel pajamas. He turned back to me and saw that
I had already closed my eyes. He
sighed, and pulled the bedspread over me.
Then he turned out the light and left me to sleep.
I was in a white
space. Lying in front of me
was a slaughtered, mutilated cow, its blood spilled everywhere. Its ribs were exposed, its guts
torn out. And then I noticed the bugs.
Camel crickets jumping, crawling, seething everywhere. Roaches crawling inside the cow. Tiny, tiny spiders scurrying
everywhere—across the cow, the other bugs, and onto me in a cold wave. I screamed…
I sat bolt upright in
bed. I ran a hand through my
hair, then realized that I couldn’t see my arm, not even an outline. I waved my hand in front of my
eyes, but couldn’t see it. That
didn’t make sense, because light was coming in from under the door. I got up, feeling panicked. I walked to the bathroom, stood in
from of the mirror, and switched on the light.
I wasn’t there. I didn’t see myself. At all. It was like I was invisible.
I screamed, and then
there was a flaking noise. Something
silver shimmered to the floor and disappeared, and I could see myself
again. I realized that I
wasn’t wearing a thing, and since my scream was loud enough to wake the
dead, someone would be in my room very soon.
I hurriedly got
dressed and was just buttoning the last button of my shirt when Lewis
burst through my door. “What
is it?” he demanded.
“I had a
nightmare,” I said breathlessly. “I
woke up and realized I couldn’t see myself, and then I looked in the
mirror, and I wasn’t there. Something
silver fell off of me, and then I could see myself again.” I looked at him, frightened and bewildered. “What’s happening?”
“Come with me,”
Lewis said. “It’s time
you learned what’s happened.” He
pushed me forward and I stumbled, my legs still weak.
We walked down the
hallway to the dining room I’d been in once before. A fire was again burning in the
fireplace, and everyone was seated around the table. Thibaut, de Montpar, von
Waldenhaus, and Arnaud at the head. At
his left was an empty chair, which he motioned me to sit in. Lewis sat down next to de Montpar.
“So,” I said,
looking around at everyone. “Obviously
you knew that this was going to happen.”
I waited for a moment, but nobody spoke. “Would you mind telling me is
Silence. I turned to von Waldenhaus. “Can you tell me?” I asked him. “I
thought at least you were decent.”
He looked back at me,
a pained expression on his face. I
turned my head, disgusted.
“Anyone?” I said. I turned to Arnaud, hoping he
would tell me. “What is going on?”
I asked. “What did
you do to me?” I held a
hand out to him beseechingly.
He sighed. “To make a long story short, we
implanted a gland in your brain. That’s—
“What!” I yelped, jumping up from my
chair. “Excuse me, did I
just hear you correctly? Did
you just say you put a gland
into my brain?” I started
pacing, feeling a little nervous. Ever
since I’d had scoliosis surgery as a child, I’d been leery of anything
surgically put into my body.
“Yes, you did. We constructed a biosynthetic
gland using your cells for the tissue, and grafted it into the back of
By now I was feeling
panicked and frightened. Suddenly
I felt what seemed to be a wave of icy spiders crawl over my body and…I
Silence. Then, “Fantastique,” Thibaut
said quietly. De Montpar
murmured, “It works. It
actually works.” Lewis wore
a small, satisfied smile, and von Waldenhaus looked on, well pleased.
Arnaud spoke. “As you see, gentlemen, the
quicksilver gland is working beautifully, just as it did when I helped
implant it in Fawkes. You see
she is completely invisible to the naked eye. Andrea,” he spoke to the room at
large, “quicksilver will not harm you in any way at all. You’re completely safe. Now, I want you calm down, lower
your heartrate. I know you
can do that, you told me that you’ve practiced biofeedback since you
were twelve. Are you calm
I heaved a large sigh
and did as he commanded, willing my heart to slow. I started to feel calmer. “Yes,” I told him.
“Alright. Now I want you to give your arm a
flick. Go on. Do it,” he told me.
I shook my arm, and
suddenly it became visible as that same silvery stuff fell off of it. I flicked my other arm, then my
legs, and then my head. More
of that shimmery silver fell off of me, and I became completely visible. I realized that I felt
much…freer after I became visible.
tell me what you’ve done to me.”
I sat back down in my chair.
He drew in a deep
breath. “What you’ve just
experienced is the result of the gland we implanted in your brain. Stay calm,” he told me as I
tensed. He continued, “It
secretes a substance called quicksilver, which bends light and renders
anything covered in it invisible. When
your adrenaline levels are elevated, that tells the gland to secrete a
large level of quicksilver, which then comes out the pores of your skin,
covering you, and turning you invisible.”
“Oh, okay, thanks. I completely understand now. Can you put that into English,
please?” I stood back up
and glared at him.
“It might work
better if you ask the questions and we answer,” von Waldenhaus spoke up. Arnaud shot a warning glance at
him, but nodded.
“How does this
quicksilver do its thing?” I
demanded. “I mean, you said
it’s activated by increased adrenaline levels, so does that mean that
every time I become frightened I’m going to disappear?”
activated by increased adrenaline, but it can also be activated through
biofeedback. Once you learn
to control it, you can become invisible at will. The nightmare you had was evidence
of the adrenaline-trigger. Mutilated
cows make such a wonderful dream, hmm?”
“Whoa, wait a
second. How did you know that
my nightmare was about a mutilated cow?”
Thibaut spoke up. “We put a very, very small
amount of LSD into the veal you ate, just enough to cause nightmares. Von Waldenhaus made the comment
about killing the cow, and that ensured you would have a nightmare, which
would trigger the gland.”
“Oh, that was
nice,” I said. “Actually…”
I paused, thoughtful, “that was beautifully simple. Very nice,” I said appreciatively. “So. Let’s
start at the beginning. I
assume that the reason you accosted me in Paris was so that I could be
your test subject for this gland.”
Arnaud nodded. I
continued, “You drugged my food the first meal I ate. I’m assuming that in the time
between that and when I woke up with a splitting headache, you implanted
the gland in my brain. However,
there weren’t supposed to be any side effects to the surgery, but there
were. Now, first of all. How long was I unconscious, and what did you guys screw up so
that I had a hot poker stabbing through my skull?”
Arnaud said, “Well,
you’d been unconscious for three weeks when you first woke. By that time, your body should
have healed enough that so that you could, with a little care, act
normally. But Bretagne did
not intend for that to happen. She
implanted some of her own tissue into the gland’s outer extensions. After a week or two, once the
gland thoroughly grafted with your brain, your body recognized her foreign
proteins and started an autoimmune response against it. The pain caused in your head was
due to severe inflammation. We
preformed a second surgery to excise the tainted gland tissue from your
body and re-grafted the rest of the gland back onto your brain. A week and a half later, you woke
for the second time.”
“Why?” I asked, disgusted. “Why did she do that, and what
happened to her?”
Lewis spoke up. “Bretagne’s always been a bit
unstable. It seems that she
took and immediate dislike to you and decided to cause you some agony. We really don’t know why she did
so, considering that she knew she would be…eliminated from the team.”
“Ah,” I said. “I see.” I was silent for a second,
thinking about Bretagne’s betrayal.
And all the physical pain she had caused me. “Bitch,” I whispered. “I wish you could have let me
have at her.”
“Yes. Well, she has paid the ultimate
price for it,” Arnaud said softly, walking over to me and enfolding me
with his arms. I leaned
Then I pulled away
and from his comforting embrace and paced.
“So. Then what?”
quirked an eyebrow. “More
specific, please,” he said.
“This quicksilver. Explain it to me. Tell me how it works. I
want to know about this. Tell
me about the gland.”
Arnaud spoke up. “You will know all about it, I
promise you. But first, you
must eat, keep your strength up, and you’ve got to get a shot of
antibiotics, as preventative.”
I looked at him. “Sure, as long as you promise me
not to drug me again.” Then I grinned. “You know how useful this little gland could be?”
He nodded his head
slowly. “Exactly. I’m glad you can understand
that…Fawkes never did.”
“Food, please,” I
reminded him. “And let’s
get this shot over with, too.”
“Now I want you to
control yourself. Calm your
heart. Relax your hold on
your body,” Lewis coached me. “Now
shake off,” he said.
I shivered and shed
my second, invisible skin. Quicksilver
flaked off of me with a slight metallic sound and disappeared on the
said. “By now you should be
feeling comfortable in activating the gland and stopping the flow of
practiced enough,” he added under his breath.
“I want to move on
to a faster way to silver and desilver. Most of it is just going to be practice. Just remember that strong
emotions, especially those of guilt and anxiety, will interfere with
silvering. Anything with your
‘fight or flight’ response will cause you to silver unless you
“Okay,” I nodded. “I’ll remember that. You said there was a faster way to
“As I said, most of
it is just going to be practice in biofeedback, getting a handle on your
body faster and faster. You
may eventually learn to trigger and stop the gland mentally. You’re just going to have to
experiment to find what it is that works for you.”
“Alright. I can work with that. Thanks,” I told Lewis.
Arnaud walked into
the room. “Been working on
quicksilvering?” he asked me.
I nodded. “I’m getting better. Lewis has really helped,” I
said. “Come outside and
show me what you’ve learned.”
He and I walked
through the room, out the two steel doors, and down the long hallway
leading to the outside, the first view I’d had of the inside of the
compound. I reflected on my
reactions of then and now. I’d
Monsieur de Fohn,” I said, “When I was brought here, I was angry and
upset over being kidnapped, and in such a manner. And then I was shocked, horrified and enraged to find out
that you had implanted a gland into my brain without my knowledge or
consent.” I paused. “But, Arnaud, as time went on, I
realized that this gland was one hell of an opportunity and I should take
advantage of it. It didn’t make any sense to waste such a gift.”
“Very good,” he
said approvingly. “You
understand the gland.”
I continued, “My
initial impressions of the scientists, all of you, were wrong. You know, I really am thankful for
your kidnapping me, now. You
knew that I would never have gone along with the gland if I knew about it,
so you did me a favor and put it in for me.” Arnaud smiled at that.
We reached the
outside doors and walked through them.
It was about sixty degrees outside—nice weather to work in. The sun was shining, and an early
spring wind was blowing. We
stopped under a pine.
“So. Show me what you’ve learned with
quicksilver,” Arnaud prompted.
I obliged him by
quicksilvering from the head down in a slow wave. “That was warm-up,” I told
him, becoming visible from the feet up.
“Can you silver
faster?” he asked me.
“Sure,” I told
him, and immediately disappeared. I
walked silently to him and jumped to inches away from his face,
“Nice,” he said,
smiling, admiring the ‘view.’
I walked back away
and held out a hand, silvering first the tips of each finger, then working
my way up my arm as if I was pulling on a glove. I trailed my invisible hand down
my other arm, leaving 4 lines of quicksilver and then trailed it up to my
pointer finger, wrapping a line of quicksilver around it like a snake. Then I shivered my skin and it
fell off delicately.
Arnaud looked on
appreciatively. “You are an
artist,” he told me.
I flicked quicksilver
at him, which jeweled his hair like diamonds. He caught my hand and stared into
my eyes. My heart beat
faster, and I was about to quicksilver out of sight.
I got to my upper
arms, and then it stopped. I
was left as an armless visible woman.
“Damn,” I swore quietly.
Arnaud quirked an
eyebrow at me, silently laughing to himself. He regarded me frankly. I recovered the best I could—as
I shed the quicksilver I sprinkled it over him, working from the tips of
my fingers up my arms. He
gave me a look. “Well
done,” he said.
“Oh, I have to
stop. I don’t know if you
realize it, but it is work to go
see-through,” I sat down abruptly.
“Come on,” he
said, pulling me up. “I’ve
got to give you a shot. Unless
you receive certain trace elements, your body is going to develop
deficiencies. And you’re
still on anti-rejection drugs, just to make sure that the gland will graft
thoroughly to your cerebrum.”
“Ah. Marvelous,” I said dryly, and
strode beside Arnaud as we walked back to the lab.
We were in my
bedroom. Arnaud had walked me
there from dinner, where we had been discussing quicksilver and the gland.
“So why did you
pick me to be the lucky one given the gland?” I asked him.
“I’m glad to see
that you’re so enthusiastic about it,” Arnaud said, reaching out to
touch my hair. “Fawkes
wasn’t, ever. I made a
mistake about him—”
“Who is this Fawkes
I’ve heard you talk about?” I
“A long story, one
I will tell you eventually. But
as to why I chose you, I knew that you would accept the gland, use it. You’re intelligent and
beautiful…and our natures are the same,” he said softly.
“I thank you,” I
replied, placing a hand on his. “I
owe everything to you.”
And then I
quicksilvered his hand. He
looked, startled, then tumbled me onto the bed, grinning. We tussled, and his hand abruptly became visible again. Arnaud ended up flat on his back
and I leaned over him. Then I
held up a hand, silvering only my fingertips. I traced a finger slowly across
his ear, his jaw, his neck, leaving a thin, glistening line of
quicksilver. My other hand,
warm, followed. Arnaud’s
eyes locked with mine, darkening to the exact same shade as the Atlantic.
“You have my
eyes,” he whispered. I held
up a quicksilvered palm, reflecting his eyes, my eyes, back at him before
it went invisible. Then I
flicked it off casually.
He closed his eyes at
the sensations as my hands, warm and cold, continued to wander lightly
over his body. He brought up
his strong hands to bury them in my hair, then slid them down to my
shoulders, my back, and came to rest at my hips.
Suddenly he flipped,
and I landed on my back, Arnaud over me. He bowed his head to plant a line of feather kisses along my
collarbones, and then nipped lightly.
I closed my eyes and sighed in pleasure. It had been so long since I’d
been treated like this…
I placed a hand on
his chest and quicksilvered the front of his shirt to reveal his muscular
pecs beneath. Then I let thin
streamers of quicksilver flow over me.
I glittered in silver. Arnaud
looked on, a smile on his face. I
placed a warm hand on his shirt, playing with the invisible fabric. I could feel his heart beat faster
Slowly, oh so slowly
I unbuttoned his shirt, planting my lips on the hollow of his throat and
following my hands. I traced
an invisible fingertip on the cuts of his muscles, and he shivered. His hands cradled my back and drew
me nearer to him, and I flicked a bit of quicksilver over him. It landed on his hair, dappling silver. He kissed the skin of my throat, tongue darting out to tease
“You taste like
cloves,” he told me. I bit
his shoulder, and then kissed away the pain. He traced a finger down my side. I placed a finger to his,
quicksilvering each of his fingertips, and he traced them along my ear,
following it with his hot mouth.
Suddenly I pulled him
to me, wanting his mouth to be on mine, wanting to taste him, wanting to
feel him. He kissed me,
tongue thrusting searchingly to discover the secrets of my mouth. Our breath mingled as we melted
into each other, desire overwhelming us.
Arnaud’s hands were everywhere, and his touch burned like fire. I let my hands wander south to his
pants and started to tease with his belt.
Arnaud broke away
from me, chest heaving. He
drew in a deep breath and collected himself, struggling. He stood up and drew me with him
over to the mirror. We stood
in profile, him behind me, naked to the waist, passion on his face, and
me, fully dressed, hair tousled. His
hands, wrapped possessively around my waist, took the hem of my shirt and
pulled it up slowly off of me. Then
his hands caressed me, trailing up to my bra, teasing me.
I tried to turn to
face him, but he held me still. His
hands trailed down the inside of my arms to my hands. He caught my hands and then turned
me to face him. He brought
his mouth down to the pale skin of the inside of my wrist, and
oh-so-lightly licked me there. His
tongue traced my veins lingeringly, and I made a line of quicksilver
follow. Soon I was a latticework of silver and skin all the way to my
collarbones. I could feel the
heat of Arnaud’s body on mine. I
placed a hand on his thigh, moving my pressure upwards.
pushed me back onto the bed, landing between my legs. His mouth kissed my stomach, my
thighs. My quicksilver
followed his mouth. I was
turning into a crystal of silver and invisibility.
I could feel our
rising desire for each other pushing to new heights. We kissed desperately, hands
everywhere, quicksilver shimmering on our bodies…