The crossover with Ruby Nation continues.

We now get to see what’s happening inside Beagle Labs, and the fates of Any and Karlita.

<< Part 1                                                                                                      >> Part 3

 The M9 State

2. A Frail Balance.

Frail Balance

“Doctor. May I?”

The lab technician is at the door at the lab. I acknowledge her and she steps in. On the back of my mind I can feel her anxiety. Her tone is, however, calm and professional, as expected.

“Doctor Carcharria would like a word with you”, she says.

“Please set-up a com-link at my office, and let her know I’ll be there shortly.”

“Sure, Doctor. Right away.” The tech woman closes the door and disappears from sight. The feeling of relief she experiences lingers on.

I shake my head and focus. I have no time to waste on petty feelings. Besides, there are enough reasons to be uneasy by my presence at the moment.

I remove the lock of hair from my face, turn off the equipment I’ve been using and walk briskly towards my office. The technician is already there. She signals towards the device on my desk and leaves me on my own. Her emotions again take a moment to fade. I stand by the desk and activate the holo-com.

Speaking to Dr. Carcharria has always felt strange to me. She always uses the holo-com, due to her undisclosed decease and, after all these years, it feels weird talking to a person without perceiving the usual undercurrent of emotions inside them. Not that I’m not grateful to not be able to perceive everybody’s feelings inside my mind every once in a while. However, that might have been a mistake on my part.

“Good afternoon, Anahí”, says the emotionless hologram of Dr. Carcharria. Not only can’t I read her mood inside my mind: her face is perfectly expressionless also. I greet the hologram and remain silent.

“As you know, Patricia and Claudia are still missing after this morning attack on the facilities”, says the projection, and a pang of anxiety crawls up my back. “I can inform you that they are not among the casualties.” I feel relieved, but I’m sure I’m not going to like what comes next.

“Frankly, it is highly unlikely that the rebels could have defeated them. We have made tactical analyses, and we must entertain the possibility that they have gone rogue. You understand this puts this facility under certain danger, do you, Anahí?”

“I can see that, Doctor”, I say, calmly.

“Good. I want you to take control of the situation until Claudia and Patricia are located and safely contained. Can you do that, Anahí?”

I curse Pato under my breath. I had the impression she was not herself during the last couple of weeks. I could have known for sure, of course, but then that was the time I had been taking the suppressors. Now I curse myself. Had I been aware of Pato’s feelings I could have talked to her, reminded her of all these years we have worked together, of our efforts to make the world a safer place. Of the frail balance we have fought so hard to maintain. She would have had to agree that our scientific work has been as valuable as our time using the costumes. We are scientists, Pato, how can you not see that?

I know what I have to do. I look straight into the eyes of Dr. Carcharria.

“It will be done”, I tell the hologram.

“I appreciate that, Anahí. I know it is a difficult task”, says Dr. Carcharria. “You know, it is understandable if you want to have all your wits with you while we are in a state of alert. Please ask García to get you a couple of the cortex suppressors.”

I stay silent for a second, contemplating the offer. Then I negate with my head.

“I’d rather not, Doctor. I’d rather retain my full powers until the girls are located.”

Because I’ll need my full powers if indeed they have gone rogue. But I don’t say that to Dr. Carcharria.

“Very well, then”, she says over the holo-com.

“I will also need Karla to be on alert. I’ll go talk to her now.”

“Agreed”, says the woman on the hologram.

I extend my hand to deactivate the holo-com, but then Dr. Carcharria speaks again.

“Oh, Anahí. Don’t worry about Karla. We already are helping her in coping with the stress of the girls’ disappearance.”

I stay silent. Then I firmly turn the holo-com off.

* * *

I find Karla at the main lab. She is checking readings on a big screen, while making notes on her pad. She is facing the screens when I enter and seems not to acknowledge my presence. I walk towards her.

“You know they are coming back”, she says in a monotone voice, still without facing me.

“Tactics say they might have gone rogue, Karla.” I hold my breath. “I’m afraid I concur with the analysis.”

Karla turns slowly towards me, still entering data on her pad. Her green eyes seem faded, but then that must be part of the effect of the stress medicine that Dr. Carcharria mentioned. I feel queasy for a second. It’s all for your own good, Karla. I cannot cope with losing you too.

“They are coming back, Any. That’s what we always do.”

“That’s why we should be ready, Karla.”

She lowers the pad and looks at me, not really looking. Then she resumes her data entering, and slowly turns her back on me, once again fixating on the big screen on the wall.

“Just tell me what to do”, she says. “It will be done.”

I am glad nobody can read my emotions.

 >> Continue to Part 3