Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5.9

Posted by harmony0stars on November 27, 2009

Finally after several seconds of disturbing rattling, the elevator came to a stop. The doors gave another half-hearted sh-tiiing as they opened on an entirely different scene. This level was brightly lit. A man in a lab coat looked up as the doors opened, giving Glory a sidelong glance and nodding at Professor Scott.

The professor rubbed his chin with a knuckle as if deciding what to show her first. With a nod, he said, “Come along then, Ms Lewin. Let me show you what we do here and perhaps what we can do for you, if you’d care to join us.” Glory couldn’t help but find it creepy the way he ping-ponged from stern to friendly without a moment’s notice. Was this what the secretary had been talking about?

This sub-sub-basement was as unlike the level above as day was from night. Well lit, well kept corridors extended in three directions, though there was little indication as to what would be found by following them. She supposed that anyone who made it to this level would already know where they intended to go. The man in the lab coat had already continued on his way down the left hand corridor. Professor Scott followed after him.

What, stairs? Glory thought incredulously as they turned a corner. How much lower can we go? But the professor opened a side door into what seemed to be a kind of video room. Half a dozen monitors lined the wall and flicked randomly between imagines, some clearly showing figures in rooms, some showing things much less recognizable. Clearly this was a monitoring station of some kind.

The two men watching the screens gave Glory a curious look before turning their attention to Professor Scott. He waved them back to their work, leading her over to one of the keyboards and a row of monitors. It made her wonder how far up in the hierarchy he was. Obviously pretty high if he could bring her down here without asking for permission, or maybe he’d already been given the go ahead if he thought she could be convinced they were on the side of the angels.

“These are currently all of the creatures in our custody,” he explained proudly, gesturing at the screens.

“Intelligent?” she asked, leaning forward to stare at the screens as they flickered from one cell to another.

“Some,” he replied, giving her a hard stare, probably for being a killjoy, “but none of them friendly, I assure you, and all of them dangerous. For instance…”

He typed something into the keyboard and one of the screens jumped to a dimly lit cell. There was something in the corner, curled up in a ball. She didn’t miss the fact that the professor tapped one final button before the creature erupted in a fury of thrashing. An electrical shock perhaps, just to get the ball rolling? She recognized the creature as it unfolded to its full height, slamming itself into the walls in rage, adding more claw marks to the already battered metal. With another tap of the keys, the professor brought the lights up so she could see it in all its demented ferocity. She doubted it was the same creature she’d seen months ago in the bowels of a facility so very similar to this one, but it could have been. It was certainly all malleable shifting flesh, large then small, furred then smooth. It swelled, doubling its body mass like a puffer fish before shriveling until it resembled a desiccated corpse.

“A ghoul?” she asked in some surprise as the thing loped back to its corner, letting out a mournful wail before curling back into its ball with much whimpering and muttering.

Professor Scott looked disappointed, as if she‘d unwrapped all her Christmas gifts early. But he brightened after a moment, eager to tell her what they knew about the creature. “Yes, very difficult to take alive. This one was an adolescent when we discovered its clan living in the desert necropolis of some forgotten city. Never did identify the city. It was a real blood bath,” he announced with obvious relish. “By the time it was over, all the ghouls but this one were dead or run off. He just suffered some minor wounds. Very resilient. We think they may be the missing link between man and so-called shapeshifters.”

“You don’t have any…”

“No, no,” he replied regretfully. “They tend to look like everyone else or like the animals whose forms they borrow. Very hard to detect in either situation, and they don’t react to the normal wards according to our records. Not mythos creatures, technically speaking. We’ve yet to verify a single sighting of any were-animal in this century. Some of my colleagues are content to consider them urban legends or unusually talented ghouls or extinct.”

Glory hid her relief well, giving no clue as to her real thoughts as she scanned the screens. So MU wasn’t responsible for the facility in Sybar City. Still she’d have to warn Officer Hart about the potential threat.

Her eyes widened as she caught sight of another cell. “That’s a…”

The professor glanced at another screen and smiled gleefully. He typed a command into the computers and the screen stopped its jump to the next cell, zooming in on the small figure sitting on a cot. “Ah yes, I believe young Robert’s police report included mention of a serpent-man. Very rare.”

“But, she’s just a child,” Glory protested. A scaly child with snakes for hair, but still, she had parents somewhere surely. Someone must miss her, be worried about her.

“Don’t let her size fool you, Ms Lewin. The serpent-people are very dangerous, vicious. They can paralyze with their spit or poison with a bite. The older ones can supposed control the weather, though we’ve yet to see any evidence of this. As I said, they are quite rare. This is only one of two we’ve ever had in custody, the other being her mother.”

Glory didn’t ask what had become of the child’s mother. If the professor didn’t see fit to explain her absence, then she could only assume he was in some way responsible for her death and possible dissection.

to Book 5, page 10

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