Previous: Chapter Six
Michael lay across the middle of the bed, the soft pillows enveloped his head like the bosom of an immense goddess. Half asleep, he stretched out, luxuriating in the comfort and warmth. Subdued birdsong drifted through the window, as if the bird was concerned not to wake him. He hadn’t slept this well in years.
The memory of his abduction the night before slowly returned. He opened his eyes to find his hosts hadn’t bothered to undress him. He threw back the covers, frowned at the intricate pattern of roses on the sheets, and then looked around. For a moment he thought he was at a posh hotel. The plush bedroom had ivory coloured wood panelling and thick ornate curtains. From the cushion-loaded double bed he could see a wardrobe, a small table and chair, and a door leading to a gleaming en suite.
He slipped off the bed and padded across the thick carpet to the door. It was locked. Wherever he was, it was a five-star prison.
He checked the wardrobe and found a selection of clothes, then crossed to the window and pulled back the drapes. The hand-stitched embroidery was of too high a quality for these to be called mere curtains. He ran his fingers over the fabric and gazed out of the window. A long gravel drive stretched away from the building into an expanse of fields shrouded in mist. ARK had brought him into the middle of nowhere.
Michael returned to the bed and propped himself up on the pillows. He extended his mind beyond the locked door and discovered a labyrinth of stone corridors and spiral staircases. He wanted to explore further, but sensed someone approaching the room.
Keys fumbled at the lock and a man entered carrying a laptop. Michael’s laptop. The man was smart but dishevelled, and exuded an air of exhausted intensity. ‘Ah, you’re awake.’ He turned the chair and sat, and began to scrutinise Michael as if he were an animal in a zoo.
Michael returned his stare. ‘If you think I’m about to sprout wings and fly away, you’re going to be disappointed.’
The man smiled weakly. ‘I’m sorry, Michael, for the manner in which you were brought here last night, but we can’t be too careful.’
Michael smiled. ‘It wouldn’t do to treat people like human beings, would it?’
The man shifted awkwardly and stared at the laptop on his knees.
‘Where am I?’ said Michael.
‘Can’t tell you that, I’m afraid. Not with your abilities.’
‘Worried I might call the cavalry?’
‘Something like that.’
‘I might anyway,’ said Michael, sounding braver than he felt. ‘Who are you?’
‘Professor Lethe. Thomas. Head of Genetics for Phanes BioTech.’
‘Did you take my film down?’
The professor looked confused.
‘Someone took the video down off CogNet,’ explained Michael. ‘I just thought, maybe…’
‘No, that wasn’t…I wasn’t aware it was gone. We were lucky to see it when we did, then.’
‘Listen, Michael. I want you to understand, I didn’t want to lock you in. I’m as unhappy about this situation as you are, but my hands are tied.’
‘You’re forgetting something,’ said Michael. ‘I can read your mind.’
The blood drained from the professor’s face and his fingers gripped the laptop turning his knuckles white. Michael listened to the tumble of fear and confusion roiling around Lethe’s mind and plucked the essential details from the noise.
‘You believe I’m a charlatan,’ he said, ‘and that all I’ve done is memorise textbooks on genetics and used special effects in my films. Correct?’
Michael laughed. ‘You won’t believe it until you see it.’
‘Where did you get the information in your film?’
‘From the horse’s mouth, so to speak.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘The DNA told me.’
Thomas stood. ‘I have studied my subject for three decades. A kid who got a second in computer science and almost got thrown off the course, is not going to advise me on genetics.’
Michael smiled. ‘Gregori’s got you by the balls.’
Thomas sat. ‘What do you know about that?’
‘I told you,’ said Michael, tapping his head. ‘See, I know you’re thinking about locking that door and leaving me in here to rot. I don’t blame you. I’d feel the same in your situation. But then you’ll have to answer to this Gregori. Who is he, by the way?’
Michael nodded. ‘Figures.’
‘Gregori found the film,’ explained Thomas. ‘He suggested you be brought in to assist in our research.’
‘Putting you in this awkward position. I sympathise, professor, and I’m happy to help. I have no desire to step on your toes or undermine your work. I’m at your disposal. Well, I would be, if you were willing to believe me and I wasn’t stuck behind a locked door.’
‘The door is locked for our safety.’
‘What am I going to do?’ grinned Michael. ‘Run amok?’
Thomas opened the laptop, hit a few keys and turned the machine around. One of Michael’s videos was playing, showing his experiments with the light he had found pouring from his fingers. Two spheres of clear blue light hovered above his upturned palms. Sparks flew back and forth as he tried to form a third ball above the others to see if he could juggle, just for fun. But the sparks ignited the cuffs of his shirt and in a flash his arms were ablaze.
‘You think I’m a fire hazard?’ chuckled Michael.
On the screen, he grabbed a damp towel and swotted out the flames before turning to grin at the camera.
Thomas snapped the laptop shut. ‘I don’t know what to believe, Michael. Aside from a few lucky guesses as to what I might be thinking, you seem rather ordinary. I have no reason to believe your claims. I shall tell Gregori that you refused to cooperate.’
‘And then what?’
Thomas stood. ‘He would decide. But Gregori is not a man I would want to have control over my fate.’ The professor tucked the laptop under his arm and strode to the door.
Michael smiled to himself and concentrated. Two fizzing balls of light sprung to life in his hands. He let them hang there for a moment before conjuring a third.
‘Okay, professor,’ he said. ‘You win. I admit it. I’m a total faker.’
Thomas turned. Michael was juggling with three sparkling balls. He swung his legs off the bed and stood, the lights gyrating in the air around him.
Thomas froze, transfixed by what he was seeing.
‘You want to check I’m not faking it?’ said Michael, grinning.
Thomas shook his head slowly. The lights stopped dancing and morphed into one glowing ball that hung in the air between the two men. Thomas gazed at it like he was hypnotised.
‘Now I have your attention,’ said Michael, ‘perhaps we can come to an arrangement.’
Thomas nodded dumbly. Michael allowed the light to fade until it flickered into the void. Thomas blinked, his attention back on Michael.
‘You have my help if you want it, professor. Does it matter how I get my information?’
‘I am a scientist. I do not operate on hunches, guesswork or whatever it is you do.’ Thomas returned to the door and took out the keys.
Michael laughed. ‘You’re still going to lock me in?’
‘Someone will bring you down to the lab shortly,’ said Thomas, opening the door.
‘If you leave the door unlocked, I promise to behave.’
Thomas smiled sadly, ‘You have no idea where you are, Michael,’ and locked the door behind him.
Next: Chapter Eight
Copyright © All Rights Reserved